Organovo breaking new ground with 3D printing

We had a lecture on innovation and entrepreneurship last week, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The group activity was an entrepreneurship challenge, where each group chose a social problem we would like to solve.

My group chose to own a 3D printer – to solve the absence of vital organs (needed for transplants) and medicines unavailable in emergencies and times of crisis.

What we didn’t know, was that this idea was already a company. Organovo developed a bio-printer that will be able to make tissues such as skin, muscles and blood vessels (as a start). The technology was adapted from inkjet printing. There is much work to be done, and many clinical trials to be completed before they hit the market. But there is hope that the machines will be able to print vessels needed to sustain organs such as the heart and livers.

Biotechnology start-up Organovo is “developing a range of tissue and disease models for medical research and therapeutic applications” with the help of their NovoGen Bioprinter.

There is much interest in the development, and as of November 12th, their shares (ONVO – Organovo Holding Inc.) rose approximately 16%. People are intrigued and amazed by this new technology, it is innovative and possibly life-saving.

With each machine priced at $200,000,  it is not the cheapest device in the world. However, it introduces the question, ‘how much is someone’s life worth?’



Online learning is not a long-term alternative to university education (Response)

I read Darya‘s post on higher education online, and agree with her stance on it not being a suitable alternative to university education.

Distance learning or education allows people to take university credit courses from the comfort of their own homes with online and print-based formats.

Darya brought about the issue of the lack of networking involved with this format. This is a valid point – as distance education implies separation between between the learners, instructors and other peers. If the learner is a business student, they are missing out on valuable experiences gained through attending a post-secondary institution.

Even if communication is through a ‘virtual classroom,’ online learners are missing out on the physical interaction needed to build interpersonal skills and learn from others. The MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are a good solution that provides flexibility and convenience. However, that won’t change the fact that many employers look for more hands-on experience in prospective employees.

It is imperative that students considering the option take both sides into consideration. Yes, although you may be able to find work while continuing studies (not having to step foot on campus), will you be able to move up in a business with no hands-on learning?



Lululemon losing popularity… on a global level (Response)

I followed up on Annabelle‘s blog post, which detailed Lululemon Athletica’s (athletic apparel) lawsuit from consumers angered about the sheer fabric in their luon pants. It seems as if their reputation is not improving, after co-founder Chip Wilson made some choice comments during an interview with Bloomberg.

Their “Second Chance Pant” has an extra panel of fabric along the back and transparent mesh along the sides. The attached tag pokes humour at their mistake.

The controversial pants (pictured above) are being sold in stores: a ‘revamped’ version which notes the company’s failure. Marketing wise? I like the idea of addressing one’s mistake and attempting to regain consumers’ trust through humour. It’s a smart move to relinquish their falling reputation.

However, Wilson’s comments were not taken as positively. After saying, “quite frankly some women’s bodies just actually don’t work” for the brand’s popular pants, the statement quickly drew comparisons to Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries – who publicly stated in 2006 the brand only produced clothing for attractive individuals. It also drew backlash from social media users, who called his comments “sexist and clueless.”

Lululemon’s aim is ‘to create athletic gear that’s perfectly suited for each activity.’

Lululemon is a leader in quality, design, service and sustainability. They have been building their brand for many years and have many loyal customers. Although I do agree with Annabelle, that their strong brand image will aid them in their troubles, I do believe their reputation has been tainted. It doesn’t help that he issued a public apology, where he expressed regret towards the Lululemon staff who faced the repercussions.

Although Wilson does have supporters (who believe he was being honest rather than insensitive), the situation will create a negative impact on the company’s overall culture. My advice? Choose your words carefully.




Tom Dobrzanski finds balance between his interests and business

Tom Dobrzanski (left) and Zach Gray of Vancouver-based “piano prog-pop” group The Zolas.

Tom Dobrzanski graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce from UBC in 2005. At this time, he was owning his own basic production studio and a member of indie rock band Lotus Child. In fact, he opened up the production space when he was only in second year.

Starting off as just a part-time job while he continued his studies, the ‘job’ quickly turned into a full-time business. Seeing opportunity to seize “middle ground” in between the top studios and in-home recording, his studio was seen as an attractive alternative to local bands and musicians (and quite good ones, if I say so myself).

Dobrzanski’s ‘Monarch Studios’ has had a hand in producing many new releases, including We Are The City’s (pictured above) “Violent” and Said The Whale’s “Hawaiii.”

Dobrzanski says his business degree gave him the “confidence to take some risks and know they were going to work out,” which benefited his studio expansion in 2012. Local music enthusiasts were eager to help him do the labour work, and in return, quiz him about sound engineering. There was also support from social media platforms, which gained new clients along the way.

I love reading about Tom and his success with Monarch, and not just because I’m familiar with The Zolas and the local music scene. He was able to use his degree (financial knowledge for investments and saving on construction materials for the studio) and turn it into something he was passionate about. Comparing success with “the artist [being] really happy at the end of it,” demonstrates his passion towards what he does. And it doesn’t hurt that his studio continues to bring in steady revenue with all his new and returning clients.

I spy a Sauder success story and if you’re reading this, definitely check out The Zolas’ song ‘Knot In My Heart.’ I’m guessing it was recorded at Monarch!


Neurio campaign proves successful with help from crowdfunding

A project emerging from U.B.C., Energy Aware Technology Inc. was founded in 2005 as means to “connect people to resource conservation.” The award-winning company’s newest product, Neurio: Home Intelligence, aims to increase energy efficiency in regular households – and turned to crowd funding source Kickstarter for help.

Using Kickstarter has proven to be a success for the company, and the new device. As of November 11th, the project has reached over $200,000 CAD worth of funding, surpassing their initial goal of $95,000. There are still a few days left in the funding period.

To maximize their chances of their success, the four-person team reached out to the community for support. “The timing of these outreach activities was meticulously planned to achieve maximum impact for our launch,” says Janice Cheam, CEO of Energy Aware.

“Neurio” will monitor your home’s electricity, appliance by appliance. The device will include the energy saving Wattson app, giving people real-time access to their power consumption.

I read Neurio’s Kickstarter campaign and was thoroughly impressed. Energy Aware is a team of skilled graduates who are putting their specializations to good use – with goals of promoting sustainable values while making humans’ lives easier (and cheaper).

By using Kickstarter, Energy Aware becomes further aware of the market interest. They are building relationships with future customers and testing out their product – what better way to launch Neurio?

I also read that Cheam is a recipient of Vancouver’s Top 40 Under Forty and holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing. That’s impressive.



Potluck Cafe and Catering Leading Social Enterprise

We had a lecture on social enterprise and CSP (corporate social responsibility) recently. This was one of my favourite lectures to date. Although social enterprises are for profit, they are primarily driven by social objectives. I especially love to read about local start-ups. Cue Potluck Café and Catering.

Potluck Café Society (who operates the café and catering) has a mission “to transform lives by creating jobs and providing healthy food for people living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.”

They use the triple bottom line with sustainability in mind, during everyday operations – most of their supplies are 100% biodegradable, they compost all organic wastes and source food locally. Not only are they sustainable, but they ensure that residents in the Downtown Eastside are taken care of, by creating jobs and donating revenue to its community programs (including Community Kitchen and Jobs).

A few of their values include innovation, sustainability and acceptance. Their Café and Catering section was former in 2003, and provides all of their employees with life skills support, mentorship and additional connections to housing and mental health services. By having a commitment to build the economic growth of the community, they are creating shared value for themselves.

I applaud what Potluck is doing for the community. By reducing their ecological footprint, they are taking a step towards a healthier DTES. More than that, they are choosing to only hire the area’s residents, giving support and hope to those who may have had harder pasts. I sincerely hope more successful social enterprises appear in B.C. in the future.



World’s first Bitcoin ATM opens in Vancouver

The world’s first Bitcoin ATM will go live tomorrow morning in Vancouver – in a Waves coffee shop downtown. For those unfamiliar with the cybercurrency, bitcoin trading involves the exchange of cash for bitcoins. Bitcoins will be entered into customers’ virtual wallets, where they can then use the ‘currency of the Internet’ to purchase products at participating retailers; including certain Waves coffee shops and independent businesses.

This Bitcoin ATM will be open for business tomorrow morning. Vancouver-based Bitcoiniacs hopes to implement the machines in four other Canadian cities this fall.

The digital currency will charge customers a 3% fee on each transaction.

In my opinion, I don’t see a point in using bitcoins as payment. I can see the stores’ perspective though, as they are paying less costs to accept the payment (as opposted to credit cards). However, to consumers, even with the increased privacy (no middle men and the currency is not controlled by a bank), why adopt a complicated new system?

Bitcoiniacs co-founder Mitchell Demeter says to skeptics, “Everyone’s free to make up their own mind. We don’t really try to convince anybody, or sell it on anybody. But when people do their own research, they really quickly see the virtues.”

Not to mention the high media scrutiny surrounding the currency. The Silk Road shutdown, anyone? Bitcoins were used as payment in the internet marketplace, which was uncovered for drug trafficking and money laundering.

Why exchange your money for bitcoins (plus the additional fee), when you can just purchase a cup of coffee with the cash in your wallet?


Superb Marketing Pays Off for ‘The Juice Truck’

Vancouver’s mobile juice company, ‘The Juice Truck,’ is prepping to open their first retail location and production plant on Fifth Ave. within the next few months.

Vancouver’s Zach Berman and Ryan Slater didn’t have business backgrounds before starting up their cold-pressed juice business. But they reaped the benefits and opportunities given to them by the Canadian Youth Business Foundation and Small Business BC, and are now getting ready to open their first retail location.

“One thing so many businesses fail at doing is [having] conversations,” says Slater, who then emphasizes the importance of connecting with individuals. The pair did exactly that, building relationships with local food bloggers, partnerships with yoga studios, and even a collaboration with foodie-entrepreneur Erin Ireland’s ‘to die for’ banana bread. The positive feedback led to the truck creating their line of juice cleanses – multi-day (healthy) liquid diets whose aim is to focus one’s energy towards rejuvenating processes rather than digestion (of solid foods).

According to their website, The Juice Cleanse’s goal is to help consumers feel better mentally and physically.

I love reading stories on small businesses and the long-term impact of good marketing. With their new storefront, they hope to expand their business by adding soups and sandwiches to their menu; which could bring about many new customers interested in a bite to eat to accompany their juices. Also on the list? Using their space to hold movie nights, yoga and nutritionist lectures. “We want to push our brand to be this health and wellness business rather than just juice-centric,” notes Slater.

Good branding? Check.

For more information, check out:


Pirate (Irate) Joe’s Wins Legal Battle

Grocery store chain Trader Joe’s has had their case against Kitsilano retailer Pirate Joe’s dismissed by a Washington state judge.

Michael Hallatt, owner of Pirate (also known as ‘Irate’) Joe’s, called the lawsuit “frivolous,” one which sent Hallatt to court over alleged trademark infringement and false advertising. Hallatt opened the storefront in 2012 to satisfy British Columbians who were unable to purchase their favourite Trader Joe’s products across the border – the closest location is in Bellingham, WA. To compensate for travel expenses and taxes, he does mark-up the prices.

Now that he is banned from various locations in WA, he hires others to purchase the products for him.

I do not see the standpoint of Trader Joe’s in this case. Hallat, who spends close to $5000 on TJ’s goods every week, is paying retails costs for the products – and has no problem assuring customers whose products they are actually purchasing. Is what Hallat doing ethical? Not entirely, he is not affiliated with the brand, and it is reasonable to say he is affecting their brand name. However, Hallat is an advocate for the idea of free enterprise, and is a smart entrepreneur. He would have no problem shutting down his store when the brand decides to open a location in Vancouver.



Accounting isn’t Boring!

We had a lecture on financial accounting today, which was one of my favourite ones to date – although I may be biased because I took accounting in high school…

There’s a funny stereotypical accounting video to watch. Anywho, I find accounting interesting (no sarcasm here). Not only are accountants dealing with numbers and reports, but it is their job to give people beneficial financial advice. Like in any job, it is imperative to have good ethics and integrity. People are relying on the accountant to give accurate reports, and handle their money! It’s a huge responsibility.

Our instructor talked briefly about the CPA Recruitment Program, which is of definite interest, but apparently very competitive. In which case, I’m looking forward to further applying my knowledge, participating, and networking!