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  1. Daniel “Just Build” Burka

    I went to a SproutUp event last night hosted by the lovely team at Sprouter. The main speaker for the night was Daniel Burka - co-founder of Milk Inc., PEI-er who now lives in San Francisco Bay Area.

    Initially, my plan was to write notes from his talk, which stemmed around the “talk less, do more” principal. But someone beat me to it. Very comprehensive notes of his talk can be found here.

    I got to talk to him at the end of the evening. He was very polite and answered questions despite the fact that he was completely exhausted. He was also very honest. Like ridiculously so. Not gonna lie, I was kind of taken aback by it. It was refreshing. He also has a cartilage piercing. Much like yours truly, so of course he gets extra points for that.

    Daniel is a product designer at heart, and never figured to call himself a “founder”, which is another thing about him that’s refreshing. But what’s even more refreshing, is how much he “gets” the people he’s designing for. During our little discussion, he mentioned how you need to be careful what to implement. It’s great to listen to feedback and to work on it, but don’t let the users dictate what you do. “They will ask you for feature X, but they’re doing so because they have desire Y. Your role is to figure out that desire Y and work to implement that”. That is pretty much the basis of crafting user experiences.

    My question for him was the growth of startup communities in new cities and how Toronto can get on the fast track for that given that we keep losing talented Canadians like himself to the Valley (another example is the acquisition of Vancouver-based Summify by Twitter). He was very sincere in telling me he didn’t have a good answer for it. That if I were to look at how things were in the Bay Area and how one could have great wines, lunches, and conversations with the “guys who run the Internet” every day that I would feel the same way. It’s a high saturation point of talent, he said. And he apologized.

    I don’t blame him. I’m sure the West Coast is great! And I believe Daniel when he says people there are far less sceptical and willing to take a lot more risks than in the GTA. I would move there for the weather alone, but if we all do that - what’s to become of Toronto? When does Toronto get to bask in the glory of being an “active hub of startups”? Surely not if we keep losing players. It’s not that we lack talent, it’s that we lack appreciation for said talent. This is true for everything Canadian. We don’t appreciate our television as much, or our movies, or our actors. So they move to places where they are appreciated (read: Hollywood). And it’s sad. And I’d like to help fix it. And I’d like for all Torontonians/Canadians to believe in that. Sprouter is a great movement because it’s building the Toronto tech community and for that, but when do we all start pitching in?