FintechTO Roundup: Swapping Unicorns for Cockroaches and Being Happy About It

While listening to Vahid Mirjalili, co-founder and COO of Owl speak at yesterday’s FintechTO event, I thought, “It would’ve been way easier to sell software to, like, Alexander the Great or Napoleon.” 

A little context’s required. 

Hello? Hi? ‘Scuse Me? Do You Have Any Power? Finding the Decision Maker in a Corporate Maze

Mirjalili, who runs a KYC company, was speaking to the audience of tech enthusiasts, founders, and entrepreneurs about the importance of knowing your customer. Not for AML purposes, but for sales purposes. People familiar with buyer personas or account-based marketing (ABM) tactics understand the benefits of identifying the right person.

But what if you’re selling to enterprises?

Anyone who’s tried to get anything done within a corporate environment can speak to the agonizing experiencing of finding the real decision-maker, so good luck to the outsiders trying to sell to them. Mirjalili, who correctly calculated that addressing “KYC” from a sales perspective rather than a compliance perspective would land better, provided guidance for navigating a corporate maze.

According to Mirjalili, it’s about identifying the sponsor and then building a relationship with your champion.

How do you know who the sponsor is?

It’s not an easy task given the various stakeholders, the overlapping remits, and the overall inaccessibility of people who actually hold any power. Mirjalili says you can tell you’ve got the right person if they’re solving a problem big enough to require an external vendor (small improvements are usually tackled internally).

Another good sign they’re the sponsor? They have exactly zero time to speak to you. 

Cue the champion. 

The champion is someone trusted by the sponsor, who has access to them, and who has likely been tasked with sourcing solutions. The champion’s job is defined by talking to all kinds of problem-solvers and presenting the most compelling answer. 

Once a company understands this, they can spend less time chasing the “un-chase-able” and more time building a relationship with the power behind the throne. 

Which brings us back to Alexander the Great and Napoleon. I don’t know what need Macedon or the French Empire would’ve had for a cloud-based expense tracker or e-commerce platform. But if they did need one, there’s nothing like a big shiny throne to tell you who calls the shots, vague org charts be damned.

And if I wanted to get to Alexander the Great or Napoleon, you better believe I would’ve made a few BD calls to my champions, Olympia and Talleyrand. 

“You’re Asking a Former Uber Guy About Profitability”: Properly Walks The Walk on Authenticity

Earlier in the night, co-founder and COO of Properly, Sheldon McCormick, talked about building trust with your customers. When you occupy a field characterized by commissions and closing cost horror stories, it’s hard to get people to warm up to you.

Properly understands this firsthand. To prove this, McCormick shared negative comments the company received on Facebook. When asked how Properly would build trust with its customers, McCormick referenced the company’s “starts from within” approach. They hire employees who value customers, conduct all-hands meetings where customer needs are discussed, and everyone within the company talks to customers regularly. 

Perhaps the best moment of the talk was when an audience member asked about Properly’s future prospects, citing the struggles of a similar company. While McCormick had an optimistic answer, he prefaced it with my favourite line of the night. I’ll have to wait for the video for the actual quote, but it was something along the lines of “First off, you’re asking a former Uber guy about profitability”.

Keeping it real is definitely one way to build trust.  

Kudos To Whoever Came Up With The Name: Knowtions Talks Innovation Battle Scars

Christina Cai, co-founder and COO of Knowtions, spent her chat talking about the battle scars of running innovation projects for large enterprises. 

Her big takeaways?

Understand who your stakeholders are, whose P&L you belong to, whose KPIs you affect, and where you can present the most value. 

If you don’t know whose P&L you affect, you’ll encounter resistance and struggle to find the source of it.

If you don’t know whose KPIs you affect, you’ll be talking to people with little incentive to listen.

Finally, Cai recommends understanding where you can make the most impact. When you’re energetic and innovative, it’s easy to fall for your own press. In the process, entrepreneurs forget that many enterprises have been chugging along with existing processes for quite some time. The key to making an impact is finding that 5 percent of the company where you can provide 10x value. 

From Unicorns to Cockroaches: Disrupting Buzzwords During a Fireside Chat with Wave’s Kirk Simpson

Wave co-founder and CEO, Kirk Simpson, joined TechTO co-founder Alex Norman for a fireside chat. Wave’s recent acquisition by H&R Block presented ample opportunity for reflection. Running a startup included both highs and lows, and by lows we don’t just mean having a difficult week. Simpson discussed laying off employees, being weeks away from insolvency, and even questioning the company’s product at one point.

While he definitely thinks there’s a fine line between “never giving up” and “putting a second mortgage on your house”, Simpson encouraged entrepreneurs to focus on surviving another day, another week, another month when the going gets tough. In his case, sticking it out led to a successful $537 million exit

This “I refuse to die” attitude prompted Norman to compare Simpson and his company to cockroaches, marking perhaps the only time in history the word “cockroach” has been used as a compliment.

Norman was unfazed. As he put it, unicorns can die, but cockroaches stay kicking through it all.

Fair enough. Fair. Enough.

Featured image via Unsplash

 

Networking in the City: It’s About Who You Are, Not Who You Know

Every post-secondary program is served with a side of advice to network aggressively.

“It’s about who you know, not what you know,” we’re told, “so you’d better start marathon shaking hands”.

Well, not so fast. Sure, people with an extensive network boast a unique advantage when it comes to landing jobs. They can save time by sending resumes to people they know will look at them. But for the most part, if a hiring manager or executive doesn’t believe you’ll vibe with their company, chances are you’re not getting the job.

Don’t believe me? Consider this: according to 67 percent of consultants surveyed by Workopolis, the top reason people don’t get the jobs they want is because they fail to set themselves apart from the competition. 

Let that sink in for a moment. The top reason isn’t lack of experience or a company insider’s referral: it’s a compatibility problem.

The Importance of Values in the Startup Scene

But what exactly does this mean? Differentiating yourself isn’t about standing out by any means necessary. If this were the case, we’d all be showing up to interviews drunk, toting a karaoke machine with every intention of using it in the name of making an impression. Clearly, companies are looking for something specific. And that something specific is:

Whether your values are aligned with theirs.

Nowhere is the urgency about values stronger than in the startup scene, particularly in Toronto’s flourishing tech ecosystem. Ninety percent of startups are expected to fail. With a fun statistic like that, startup founders are more interested in working towards their vision than convincing new recruits that their vision is great. Teaching you company policy takes the work of a week. Teaching you to share a company’s convictions, while not impossible, can take forever and even after that investment there’s no guarantee you’ll care. Consequently, who you are and what you value is very important to companies.

Companies Are On the Lookout for People Who “Get It”

The recent TechToronto Meetup powerfully drove this point home. The beauty of this monthly meetup hosted by TechToronto is the mini-presentations given by members of the tech community – just enough variety to leave you satisfied, but short enough to keep you engaged. The most recent event was a veritable smorgasbord of speakers ranging from a marketing manager in a biotech company to the married co-founders of a beauty review site to the hilariously straight-talking, potty mouthed CEO of a healthcare tech startup. While on the surface they could not be more different, what they all shared in common was a strong belief in the importance of people with shared values for the success of an organization. In each presentation, the speakers emphasized the importance of company culture and building solid teams.

Of course, a shared passion for eating is not going to overcome the fact that you don’t know how to code if you are applying for a developer position at a food delivery startup. On the other hand, if you have the necessary hard skills and demonstrate a commitment to creativity, user experience, and healthy eating, it’s clear to the person doing the hiring that you get what the organization is trying to accomplish.

At the end of the day, everyone’s just looking for people who “get it”. It’s why couples with seemingly opposite interests can work so well: they likely share core values about communication and personal growth. And it’s why an organization with teammates who fill different roles – technical, public relations, sales – can come together to make something greater than the sum of its parts.

The TechToronto Meetup and afterparty takes place every month for those looking for a job, those looking to hire, and those who just love learning about tech. The next event takes place December 5. Early bird tickets are $12, regular tickets are $20, and you can buy them at the door for $25.

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Featured image via Pexels

Why I Can’t Love These Raptors

By: Nikolas Theodorakidis | @nikolastheo

It’s not a secret that I love Toronto sports. In fact, talking about them is one of the only ways my family connects with me. I have an opinion on every team–except the freakin’ Argos–and I’m usually willing to share them with you.

But I do have a secret. One that I don’t like to talk about. That secret being that I don’t really like the Raptors in their current form.

I know, I know, blasphemy. Believe me, it hurts me to say it. Some of my earliest sporting memories include the 2000-01 Raptors run and my first taste of Toronto heartbreak was Vince Carter’s missed shot in Game Seven against the Sixers. The team holds a special place in my heart, so when last year’s squad set a franchise record for wins in a season and I could only think of their flaws, it was disheartening.

My biggest complaint is that as the play of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry goes, as does the team. They have the ball in their hands on almost every possession, and often the possessions end late in the shot clock with a contested mid-range jumper. If you look around the NBA, this isn’t a style that the most successful teams use.

To see how this style of play might not work, you have to look at last year’s playoffs. Yes, I know, they made the Eastern Conference Finals, but in how many of their games were the Raptors actually enjoyable to watch? I remember pulling my hair out watching the playoffs and seeing possession after possession of missed shots and broken down plays. Yes, they made the Eastern Conference Finals, but it all could’ve gone much worse. The Raptors struggled to put away the Pacers in the first round, and got through the Heat after they had lost their two top big men.

The team was very close to another playoff disaster and could’ve been a very different looking team this year. We know that head coach Dwane Casey would’ve been fired if the team had lost to the Pacers, and who knows if DeMar DeRozan would’ve left in free agency or if the Raptors would have let him. And this year has come, and the Raptors are playing the same way.

However, there is a possibility that I’m wrong and that’s mostly due to the play of DeRozan. Through seven games of the regular season, DeRozan is scoring 34.1 points per game, enough to lead the league in scoring. Inspired by a less than flattering ranking from Sports Illustrated that saw him listed as the 46th best player in the NBA, DeRozan has put up 30 or more points in six of the first seven games, something that only Michael Jordan and Bernard King have done before.

But I have to wonder if DeRozan playing this well can last forever. There are still so many shots that he takes where I find myself grimacing, only to relax when he makes them. If he slows down, the Raptors could be in trouble. That happened in the Raptors’ game against Sacramento this past Sunday, where DeRozan went 7-for-20 from the field and resulted in a five-point home loss to a team that is not expected to do much this season.

I won’t go as far as to say the Raptors are a bad team. That’s simply not true. They have the seventh best Net Rating in the NBA this season and look poised to fight for the division title again this year. But my point is that they might not be good enough and don’t show enough growth in their playing style to warrant belief that they will be able to make it to the Finals or even a repeat appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals.

So while the season is off to a great start, I can’t shake the feeling that it will have a disappointing ending like it has the past three years. I can’t shake the feeling that when it comes down to it, my head will be in my hands lamenting bad possession after bad possession.

For my sanity and the sanity of Raptors’ fans everywhere, I hope I’m wrong about these Raptors.

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Featured image via Sportsnet

What You Need To Know About Toronto FC’s Playoff Run

By: Nikolas Theodorakidis | @Nikolastheo

It hasn’t always been easy to love Toronto FC.

Since the franchise was born in 2007, the team has put together season after season of disappointment. And not only were the results bad, they were often heartbreaking, with points being dropped in the dying minutes. TFC had become synonymous with failure in Toronto, but now it appears that might be changing.

TFC are in the playoffs for the second straight year after not making it at all in their first eight seasons. The Reds followed up a 3-1 victory against the Philadelphia Union in the knockout round with a 2-0 win at home against New York City FC this past Sunday in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Things are finally starting to look up for TFC. And if you weren’t a fan before, you should start right now. Here’s what you need to know.

The Matchup

As mentioned, TFC won the first leg in their matchup against New York City FC this past weekend with the second leg taking place in New York on Sunday. Late goals from forwards Jozy Altidore and Tosaint Ricketts gave the team a 2-0 victory and put all the pressure on New York going into Sunday.

For those unfamiliar with how the MLS playoffs work, the Conference Semifinals and Conference Finals are two-leg matchups with the team scoring more goals on aggregate going through, with away goals serving as a tiebreaker. TFC’s 2-0 win means that they are through if they win, draw, lose by one goal, or lose by two goals (a 2-0 defeat would however send the matchup to extra time). There are a lot of ways TFC could progress and it’s highly likely that they will, but there are still reasons to watch.

The first leg was a tense one with multiple scuffles breaking out throughout the match, 31 combined fouls, and 6 combined yellow cards.

One of the biggest incidents was New York forward David Villa kicking out and hitting Toronto’s Armando Cooper in the back of the knees. What should have been a red card for Villa went unseen by the refs and Villa went undisciplined. This week, it was announced that Villa would not be suspended for the kick, which could lead to even more tension between the two teams this week.

Key Players

It’s no secret that the key to Toronto’s success over the past two years has been the play of Sebastian Giovinco. The Italian forward came to Toronto from Juventus before the beginning of the 2015 season and has cemented himself as the best player in the team’s history.

Giovinco still led the league in goals plus assists this year while missing time due to injury. That’s a repeat of what he did last year when he won the MLS MVP award. However, he will not repeat as MLS MVP this year.

The list of finalists for the award was released on Tuesday, and Giovinco’s name was not on it. The three players that made the cut were New York Red Bull’s Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan along with New York City FC’s David Villa.

Now Giovinco will take the field on Sunday going up against Villa with a chip on his shoulder. The best player on Toronto FC and debatably the best player in the league, now with something to prove, seems like a recipe for Toronto’s success.

Atmosphere

It’s not guaranteed that there will be another game at BMO Field this year, but if TFC advances to the Conference Finals, you won’t want to miss that home game.

The atmosphere at BMO is unlike anything else in this city. Being outdoors with thousands of fans that sing loud and jump around so much that the building starts shaking is something that needs to be experienced by any Toronto sports fan. Especially since a matchup against the rival Montreal Impact is on the horizon.

Yes, it will be cold. But if you put on a TFC scarf and wear some gloves, you’ll be fine. Don’t let a little chilly weather stop you from seeing Toronto’s best chance at a championship this year.

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Featured image via The Globe and Mail

What to Watch Now That the Jays are Gone

By: Nikolas Theodorakidis | @nikolastheo

It’s official: the long cold baseball-less winter is upon us.

Despite any amount of hope fans may have had, the Blue Jays were unable to rally back from a 3-0 deficit in the American League Championship Series last week.

But the end of the baseball season means we can now turn our collective attention to the other teams in this city. And, for what it’s worth, this is turning out to be as good a winter in Toronto as we’ve had in a few years.

Raptors

Let’s start with Toronto’s most successful team as of late. The Raptors ended last year on a high having made it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. Although the team was outmatched by the Cleveland Cavaliers, there was some joy found in taking two games from the eventual champs in between four blowout losses. Winning a playoff series was the main goal last year, and, though they struggled to do so, they won two of them.

This year, gauging the team’s success might be a bit more difficult.

A repeat trip to the Eastern Conference Finals would be appreciated but can hardly be expected. Multiple teams in the East have improved in the offseason, including division rivals Boston and New York, so the Raptors shouldn’t be considered a lock for anything like last year.  But a first round elimination would feel like a step backwards for a team that overcame so much in terms of shaking the franchise’s monkeys off their backs.

Perhaps the team’s success will be determined by the actual product on court, rather than the mile markers the team passes on their way to being eliminated. The team, and particularly newly minted Olympic Gold Medallists Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, have been criticized for playing “hero ball” in the past that has been a detriment to the team. If the team can play in a more effective way – one that doesn’t leave fans burying their face in their free giveaway t-shirt – elimination won’t feel as bad and might provide more hope for the future.

Leafs

The Leafs have not been must-see TV for a few years now. If you opened up the fridge of Toronto sports and all you saw was the Leafs, you’d complain that there was nothing to eat. But this year’s version of the Buds is already way more appetizing.

The only thing the Leafs have won in recent memory was the draft lottery at the end of last season. With that came the arrival of Auston Matthews. The 18-year-old American centre has been anointed the saviour of the Leafs and so far, he’s lived up to the high praise. In his first NHL game, Matthews scored four goals, a feat that had never been accomplished before by anyone in their first game.

And he’s not the only youngster getting in on the action. Mitch Marner has also been turning heads, notching three points through five games, including a great goal against Boston in the Leafs home opener. And William Nylander has nine points through six games, including a two-goal night against Chicago this past Saturday.

Unfortunately, the goal scoring has not led to success for the Leafs as of yet. They have just one win this season and have blown third period games in four of their six games so far this season. But at least they are starting to look relevant again, right? A team that scores goals but can’t prevent them is more enjoyable than the opposite any day of the week.

Toronto FC

And finally, we have TFC. The butt of many jokes in Toronto sports, TFC have actually put together their most successful season to date. Gaining a franchise high 53 points, the Reds have secured a home playoff match for the first time in the team’s history. They will take on the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night at BMO Field in a win-or-go-home match with a spot on the Eastern Conference semi-finals on the line.

Once again, it has been a spectacular season for Sebastian Giovinco. If it wasn’t clear after his first season with the club, we can say for sure that he is the best player in team history after his second. He scored 17 goals and racked 15 assists without even playing a game in September.

A win on Wednesday and a somewhat deep playoff run could finally give TFC their fair share of the media attention. It’s hard to think that a team sitting near the top of their conference for most of their season and an MVP candidate on their roster – kind of like the Blue Jays of the last two years – would be relegated to the middle of the sports section or to the latter part of a Sportscentre broadcast, but that’s where TFC often find themselves. TFC have the best chance to bring the city a championship and deserve to be treated that way.

Featured image via Toronto Star

Why You Shouldn’t Jump Off the Jays’ Bandwagon Yet

By: Nikolas Theodorakidis | @nikolastheo

This weekend was not great for the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Jays scored one run in 18 innings in the two games in Cleveland, going 0-5 with runners in scoring position in Game One and going hitless after the third inning in Game Two. They squandered solid starts from Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ along the way. Both pitchers gave up two earned runs, falling victim to timely hits from Cleveland second baseman Francisco Lindor.

The team now faces the same scenario they faced in the American League Championship Series last year: coming home down two games to none. As Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet points out, 27 teams have fallen behind 0-2 in a League Championship Series and only three have advanced.

So, yeah, not great.

But, let’s not give up on the boys of summer just yet. There are more than enough reasons to believe that this season is not over.

Pitching

When it comes to the pitching matchups, you’d have to think the Jays have the advantage for the next two games.

Game Three has Marcus Stroman pitching for the Jays against Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer. Bauer and his 4.26 ERA were supposed to pitch in Game Two but he injured his finger—and this is true—fixing his drone. On paper, it would seem Stroman, coming off a good start in the Wild Card game, would be better than someone with an ERA higher than four and has stitches in his finger.

And Aaron Sanchez will take to the mound for the Jays in Game Four against Mike Clevinger, who is starting because of injury to two other Cleveland pitchers. Sanchez did not look great in his last start but should still be favoured over a pitcher that only started 10 games during the regular season.

Home Sweet Home

A return home might give the Jays offence a much needed boost.

As a team, the Jays have hit .260/.341/.444 at the Rogers Centre this year, but only .236/.318/.408 on the road. The team who has suddenly seen their offensive production suddenly disappear will be happy to return to their notoriously hitter friendly ballpark.

None will be happier than Jose Bautista. He struck out five times in eight plate appearances in the last two games and has voiced his displeasure with the strike zone so far in the series. While still uncharacteristically high for him, Bautista has struck out less at home this year than on the road and will be looking to have some of his power return.

Well, If It Happened Last Year…

While it may not mean much, the Jays were in this position last year.

In the third game of the ALCS last year, the Jays returned home after only scoring two runs in Kansas City. The Jays scored 11 runs and Marcus Stroman picked up the win. Who’s to say a similar result isn’t in order this time around?

And this year, the Jays don’t have to rely on R.A. Dickey in Game Four. Dickey gave up five runs in that game last year, but this year the Jays will have Sanchez, their ace, to carry them into a Game Five. A Game Five that will feature Marco Estrada starting for the Jays…just like last year. If you ask me, things are lining up too perfectly.

While things aren’t great for the Jays, it’s not all doom and gloom. So don’t despair, Toronto, the boys of summer still have a shot this fall.

Featured image via CBC News

Jays Look to Seize the Moment One Year After Bat Flip

By: Nikolas Theodorakidis | @nikolastheo

October 14, 2015 holds a special place in the hearts of Toronto sports fans. It was on this day that Jose Bautista took a 1-1 pitch from Texas Rangers reliever Sam Dyson deep into the left field seats, lifting the Blue Jays to a series win in the American League Divisional Series. He paused and watched it leave the park for a moment before throwing his bat in the air and rounding the bases. When speaking to anyone about it, you just have to say “the Bat Flip” and they know what you’re talking about.

That moment meant a lot to a franchise that had not seen the postseason or much of any important baseball since the back to back World Series wins in 1992 and 1993. Fans who were in diapers or had yet to be born—like myself—finally had a memory to tell future generations about.

What was even better about that game was that it numbed the pain of Toronto’s eventual elimination to Kansas City in the following round. Toronto blew a lead in Game Two of that series and got shellacked in Game Four at home. But who cared? That could not take the Bat Flip away from us.

And here we are, a year later, with the Jays in a similar position. Having eliminated the Texas Rangers once again, they kick off the American League Championship Series tonight against Cleveland. Already this year, we have new stories to tell. Edwin Encarnacion’s walk off home run in the American League Wildcard game and Josh Donaldson’s dash for home plate in Game Three of the Divisional Series were incredible finishes to incredible games. However, one would have to imagine that they will not be enough to get the fan base through the long, hard winter this time around.

There is too much uncertainty surrounding the team to have fans react the same way they did last year.

At least eight members of the Blue Jays will be entering free agency this offseason, including Bautista and Encarnacion, two players that have been mainstays in the Jays offence for years and are regarded as two of the franchise’s all-time greats.

There is a very real chance that all eight of those players will be gone next year, leaving this team looking a lot different and quite possibly a whole lot less competitive. If that happens, and this team fails to play at the level they did this year, those great moments and warm feelings might not be enough to escape the feeling that this was a wasted opportunity.

With that said, there are enough positives with this team to think that they won’t squander this.

For one, the troubles the team ran into in the playoffs last year have come and gone already. The team went 13-16 in September and lost their lead in the American League East, but have bounced back and gone undefeated in six October games. The starting pitching has fewer questions than it did this time last year, and the offence looks as potent as ever.

Coupled with that, their opponent is hurting. Cleveland will be without Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, two starting pitchers that would have made the Jays road to a championship a lot more difficult.

A lot of things are going the Jays way at this point, even more than when they were setting the baseball world on fire last year. And for the sake of the fans and a franchise that does not know what coming years might look like, hopefully the moments we have been given in the past will not be the final ones.

Featured image via SB Nation

How to Cheer for Toronto Teams on a Budget

If there’s one thing the last year has shown us, it’s that Toronto teams are working hard to make their fans proud.

But team pride and coming together means a lot of bars and, you guessed it, high bar tabs. And when you have an entire city getting hammered with you in the name of team spirit, blowing money on drinks somehow seems justified.

But it really isn’t, and your bank does not offer city pride rebates. Being smart with your money while supporting Toronto teams doesn’t mean you have to sit at home with a meal of bread and water while you wait for updates on the radio. You can definitely feel the team spirit without forcing your wallet to feel it, too.

Read the Drink Specials and Spend Accordingly

Even if you are not a big sports fan, any bar when a Toronto team is in the playoffs is infectious. Some might say this is being a bandwagoner. I call it having a good time. But that doesn’t mean you have to order the most expensive items. Take a moment to read over the drink specials. Hell, you might find you like something different (and cheap!) And even if you insist on getting your usual, you can search for drink specials based on day and drink online. 

Sip Slowly – Your Drink Isn’t Going Anywhere

If you are somebody who feels anxious about the server coming over and asking you if you want another drink, sip slowly. They are busy, and they are about their tips. So long as your glass isn’t empty they have nothing to say to you aside from a routine quality check to “see how everything’s going”. Nurse your drink. That way you won’t feel tempted to order multiple rounds just to have something in front of you throughout the evening.

Order Appetizers and See If Anyone Else Just Wants Something To Nibble On

Do a quick survey of your friends to see if people are actually hungry. Most of the time people just want something to nibble on, but convince themselves they should order a full meal. If your appetite is not feeling up to a $15 burger, ask if anyone wants to split an appetizer. Apps are less expensive, and if you are splitting it with someone it will be even cheaper.

Pick a Few Evenings to Be a Teetotaler

You are a hard core “Toronto til the death of me” sports fan who needs to watch virtually every game in a bar surrounded by your people. It’s cool. So choose a few nights to be a temporary teetotaler. Pick a few games where you just don’t drink. Even if you grab some food, your bill will still be significantly lower than a bill that includes several rounds. Your liver thanks you.

Find That Friend With Cable and Parents Who Don’t Give a Damn

I don’t think anyone with their own apartment who is under the age of 25 has cable, but this is Toronto, people. That means a large number of your friends or classmates are from the city or the suburbs and are commuters. You know what this means: houses owned by old people (love you, parents!) with cable. Now, most of those people will have parents who do not want a bunch of rowdy sports fans tearing up their living room, but there is always one with parents cool about it – or at least a friend who is willing to risk a cussing from their parents.

Buy some stuff from the grocery store, make an LCBO run, and watch the game without paying restaurant premiums. Thank their mom on the way out. Don’t spill anything.

Order a Pitcher

Go out with people who like the same drinks as you, and then order a pitcher. If you’re gonna spend money drinking, might as well be in bulk.

AND REMEMBER: Don’t drive drunk. Better passed out on the TTC than dead or a murderer. Cheers xo

7 Famous Canadians Who Went To Your University

Photo credit: George Pimentel/WireImage

Nina Dobrev – Ryerson University

o-NINA-DOBREV-CAPTAIN-CANADA-facebook

 “I read the ‘Twilight’ books before the movie and the whole craze happened…I was in love with Edward before every other girl that says she’s in love with him was.”

It’s safe to say that we’ve gotten over our collective obsession with vampires at least until the next craze. The vampire frenzy in pop culture was not limited to movies (Twilight, anyone?) but was also present in hastily published books and TV shows trying to capitalize on the success of Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling series. One of those shows was The Vampire Diaries starring Ian Somerhalder and Toronto’s own Nina Dobrev. Those of you who attended Wexford Collegiate Institute may know a teacher who taught Dobrev while she went to high school there. After finishing at the performing arts school, Dobrev went on to study Sociology at Ryerson University before leaving to pursue her acting career.

Elon Musk – Queen’s University

Elon Musk

“I would like to die on Mars, just not on impact.”

Technically, this one may not count since it’s a little unclear what the current status of Musk’s Canadian citizenship is (but he’s staying on the list). Musk is a South African-born U.S. citizen, but before becoming an American he enjoyed Canadian citizenship through his mother. In fact, he capitalized on that when he came to Canada to study at Queen’s University before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania. He would go on to start the software company that would eventually become PayPal, make headlines as the CEO of Tesla Motors, and start a company with the ambitious goal of colonizing Mars by 2024.

Rachel McAdams – York University

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“I’m not an amazing cook, but I can follow a recipe!”

Most famous for her turn as Regina George in Mean Girls and the other half of Ryan Gosling in the widely adored film The Notebook, Rachel McAdams has definitely made an impression south of the border. Worried about her job prospects as an actress, McAdams originally intended to pursue a social science degree until an influential teacher encouraged her to pursue her dreams. She graduated from York with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2001.

Donald Sutherland – University of Toronto

Donald Sutherland

“At my age, you sort of fart your way into a role.”

Donald Sutherland has enjoyed a long and successful career playing a number of interesting parts, but you may know him best for his role as villain President Snow in The Hunger Games movies. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1978 and received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2000. Sutherland attended the University of Toronto where he earned degrees in engineering and drama. His family is also made up of notable Canadians. His son Kiefer Sutherland played Jack Bauer on the hit TV series 24 and his second wife, Shirley Douglas, is the daughter of Tommy Douglas, the “father” of Canada’s treasured universal healthcare system. The country chose Tommy Douglas as “The Greatest Canadian” in 2004.

Ruth B – MacEwan University

Ruth B

“I thought it was a prank. There is no way six different major labels are trying to reach out to me. But it was actually happening.”

Ruth Berhe, known by her stage name Ruth B, is a star on the rise who got her start singing songs on Vine. Last year, she signed a record deal with Columbia Records and recently released her first EP fittingly titled The Intro. Her song “Lost Boy” has been steadily rising the charts both for her talent and the track’s unusualness. The track was born from a single verse she posted on YouTube that quickly went viral. The singer explains that she was inspired to write the song by the popular ABC show “Once Upon A Time”. Berhe spent a year at MacEwan University in Alberta before leaving to focus on her burgeoning music career.

Ryan Reynolds – Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU)

2014 Canada's Walk Of Fame Awards

“I just love bikes. It’s not the safest passion to have, but I guess it’s better than Russian roulette.”

Hailing from that place Torontonians like to call “the part of Canada that’s more expensive to travel to than New York” Ryan Reynolds is a Vancouver boy who got his start on Canadian soap operas before making a name for himself in films like Just Friends, The Proposal, and Deadpool. Reynolds was voted “Sexiest Dad Alive” by People Magazine earlier this year. He attended Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia before dropping out to move to Los Angeles.

k-os – University of Ottawa & York University

K-OS

“I’m a fan of respecting where you’re from. Respecting your roots. I’m a fan of Canadian hip hop.”

Known for his thought-provoking lyrics and self-awareness, k-os is one of Canada’s most eclectic hip-hop artists. His music incorporates various styles and influences, and the star has made it clear that he isn’t afraid to experiment with his sound. Even those who are not familiar with k-os’ work are sure to recognize his 2004 hit “Crabbuckit”. k-os attended the University of Ottawa and York University.

Raptors Fans Shine: Reflections on an Incredible Season

Photo credit: Bernard Weil/Toronto Star

By: Sebastian Parodi | @sebastianparodi

“The Raptors are going to get swept.”

That is what the “NBA experts” were saying. That’s what everyone outside of Toronto was thinking. Yet here I am, watching replays of the Raptors’ last game – Game 6, not Game 4.

The Raptors managed to win two games against the strong Cleveland Cavaliers in their first ever Eastern Conference Finals. Just saying that really puts a smile on my face.

Game 6 started off well, much better than games 1, 2 and 5. The Raptors did not let the Cavs get out to an early 20-point lead in the first two quarters. As the game went on though, Cleveland’s talent, poise, and championship caliber appeared. They took hold of the lead and never looked back.

Yet with the whole stadium and those outside in Jurassic Park behind him and his team, Kyle Lowry was not going to let the Raptors go down without one last push. He scored multiple threes and had some drives to the basket that kept the Raptors relatively close in the late third quarter and early fourth. Unfortunately, #lowrytime was not enough to stop the Cavs, but it was reminiscent of multiple occasions during the regular season, when both he and the Raptors refused to quit.

Toronto Raptors Have Come A Long Way

People tend to forget that half a decade ago the Raptors used to get blown out in several games a season. I can’t remember one instance of that this year. Additionally, they were within striking distance of the reigning champions, the Golden State Warriors, when they played a game here in Toronto.

That is what I love about this team. They keep proving people wrong. They may not be as talented as some of the other teams in the league, but no one can deny their level of effort and tenacity. When you witness a team or player doing everything possible to make winning plays and beat the odds, it’s both admirable and contagious.

This is the team that wasn’t supposed to make it as far as they did. They weren’t supposed to win a single game in this series. Not only did they avoid getting swept, but they surprised everyone in the league and put up a fight.

After getting swept by the Washington Wizards in the first round last year, many outside of the Six thought this season would end in disappointment. The Raptors’ goal was simple: win a playoff series. Many doubted them and expected failure. Instead, the team won more than 50 games, which put them in the playoffs as the second seed – a first in franchise history.

Many players had break out seasons. The Raptors beat two strong teams in the playoffs en route to the ECF where they would play a team they beat twice during the regular season. The Raptors not only achieved their goals, but surpassed all expectations. If that doesn’t earn respect and praise for this team, I don’t know what does.

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Raptors mascot pumps up fans outside the ACC before last season’s playoffs. Photo credit: blogTO

The Best Fans in the League Are in Toronto

I strongly believe in supporting the home team no matter what, and that is exactly what “The North” did. I’ve stood out on Jurassic Park and have seen fans from so many different age groups and cultural backgrounds that genuinely love and support the team. Through rain or shine – or even a mix of light flurries – people came out from all corners of the city to support the Raptors whether they lost the game badly or it was freezing cold outside.

No one can doubt the fan base’s loyalty and dedication. Just ask anyone who was at the arena or watching Game 6 against the Cavs on TV. The chant “Let’s Go Raptors” echoed throughout the building with three minutes left in the game, despite the fact that the end of the season was inevitable. People don’t understand how important it is to the players knowing they have support. You could see from their facial expressions, even though they were eliminated, that they were thankful knowing that their efforts did not go unappreciated.

Even Lebron James in a post-game interview expressed amazement at the atmosphere in the ACC. As the crowd continued to chant while the Raptors players were leaving the court, he praised Toronto saying, “Do you hear this? Unbelievable respect and much respect to these fans, to this country – this is unbelievable.”

We really do have amazing fans here.

We The North, Indeed

The “We the North” marketing campaign was a huge catalyst for the fanaticism that gripped the city. For years, the Raptors have been labeled as the other team, Canada’s team, the underdog, or as outsiders, but never as contenders. Needless to say, this bothers a lot of people, including myself. It only seemed fitting that the “We the North” slogan really put that feeling of alienation from the league into perspective. Throughout the Raptors franchise history, they have been completely forgotten and pushed to the side by the NBA universe. You see this easily when you visit NBA.com and notice the lack of news or coverage of the team.

This season, many NBA analysts predicted a first round exit even after the Raptors’ record setting regular season. They barely get any airtime on U.S. national television, and if they do it is most likely due to the fact that Drake is walking up and down the sidelines. The alienation from the league is evident during games through lack of calls going the Raptors way, especially when playing against the other elite teams. This playoff series hopefully gave the league a wake up call.

Raptors’ Terrific Season Means Great Things For Basketball in Canada

As someone who grew up playing basketball, my dream was not only to one day play in the NBA, but to play in front of my city at the ACC. Unfortunately, this didn’t come true. I’ve always felt like if there were more opportunities for young kids to develop, that more people from Toronto and all across Canada would have a better shot of making it to the professional level, whether that be in North America or overseas.

That to me is one of the most important effects of the Raptors success in the playoffs: the development of basketball in Canada. The end of this series marks the beginning of steady growth for the Raptors and more opportunities to bring in high-level talent because players want to play for a contending team. And that means another shot at the Eastern Conference Finals.

Additionally, the attention and respect they have gained not only benefits them, but basketball players across the country. Clearly there is a demand for basketball in Canada and the success of the Raptors as well as the reaction by the fans, should help introduce the necessary foundation to start developmental opportunities for young players.

In just the past five years I have seen improvement in this aspect in the city, and it should continue to grow. The Raptors have a development team that is linked to the NBA, the Raptors 905, which is a tremendous leap forward because that gives players an opportunity to be recruited and scouted by the highest quality organizations in the world. More leagues, clinics, clubs, training sessions, coaches, trainers, will hopefully become more accessible. One model this growth can follow is that of Canadian hockey, where there are multiple leagues and many different ways for players to make it pro.

The Raptors being eliminated was tough to witness, but there are many positives that can be taken from their playoff push and as a fan, they gave me so much more to look forward to both in the ACC and for basketball in Canada.

LET’S GO RAPTORS!