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Canada needs more billion-dollar companies to compete in the digital economy: report – National




Canada needs more billion-dollar companies.

According to 15 industry leaders, the lack of such companies is an impediment to growing the Canadian information economy, as stated in a new report produced on behalf of the Liberal government.

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“We need to grow companies. We don’t have a lot of big businesses and with that comes so much economic growth,” said Melissa Sariffodeen, founder of the national non-profit, Canada Learning Code.

Scaling businesses past the start-up stage is a key point of the Digital Industries report, which was compiled by some of the biggest names in Canadian tech, including Shopify founder Tobi Lütke, Canada Learning Code founder Melissa Sariffodeen and Wattpad founder Allen Lau.

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The only problem is that Canadian start-ups often get bought out or sold before they reach that point.

“We don’t have conditions that make it straightforward, given the very difficult journey that any small company takes to become a large company,” said Bryon Holland, CEO of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA).

It comes down to the gaps in Canada’s current infrastructure — talent, funding and internet access.

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Too many jobs, not enough talent

In a conversation that’s become the background music to Canada’s tech space, jobs in tech are opening up faster than both Canadian universities and overseas hires combined can fill them.

Holland notes that while we’ve begun to address the problem, technology jobs in particular require years of training — and they may become obsolete once graduates enter the workforce.

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“There’s a long lead time into developing talent domestically…given the pace of change in our industry, educational institutions re always playing catch-up.” Co-op programs and other ways students can gain on-the job experience can be a useful tool in solving this problem, he explained.

Sean Mullin, executive director of the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, agrees that while the Canadian government and universities have been responding to the shortage, the demand keeps changing and growing.

“What might have been a demand for skills five or 10 years ago, those demands have changed,” he said, emphasizing that we cant rely exclusively on foreign hires. “We want an increasingly larger share of our population to be able to participate in the tech sector.”

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Essentially, developing these skills takes time — something that high-growth tech startups do not have. This is where our immigration policies can help fill in the gaps, the report states.

Furthermore, Sariffodeen adds that Canada’s difficulty with scaling businesses means we don’t possess enough people who know how to build the high-valued companies the report describes.

“Because we don’t have many billion dollar businesses, we don’t have many people who can scale or have scaled successfully to be billion dollar businesses,” she said.

A shortage of “cold hard cash”

Access to venture capital and other forms of venture funding were also highlighted as a key obstacle to building billion-dollar companies in Canada.

“It’s one thing to build the engine, or the company, but you need the fuel to make it go,” Holland explained. “And the fuel is cold, hard cash.”

Often, he said, Canadian companies don’t have a choice but to be financed by American equity firms because these resources are so hard to come by in Canada.

“One of the reasons all of these companies get sold out to American interests is because the American investment community or private equity and venture are so much stronger and willing to take the risk,” he said.

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Lau, founder of the Canadian digital entertainment company Wattpad, adds that Canada runs the risk of losing control of its own economic growth if Canadian firms continue to be financed primarily by American interests.

“Canada as a country doesn’t have a lot of control if the jobs are majorly created by foreign companies,” he explained. “Having more capital for Canadian companies is mission critical.”

Holland explained that this begins at the government level when it comes to tax policy.

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“It’s asking, what kinds of tax policies are in place that not just enable but promote sensible risk taking in terms of investing in new businesses?” Holland said. A current example of these kinds of policies is the Science Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive Program (SRED), which offers tax breaks to Canadian companies conducting research and development.

“Secure and competitive internet is key”

The final piece of the puzzle is Canada’s internet infrastructure, which has frequently been lauded as one of the world’s most robust and efficient telecom systems.

However, the report offered several critiques of the steep prices Canadians pay for internet access — some of the highest in the world — and the lack of competition in the space which keeps prices high.

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“We all know mobile is king in terms of accessing the internet. In terms of the price point, it discourages usage,” Lau said. “It’s a policy failure of Canada that we cannot create a more competitive environment, in the way that it’s monopolized by the three big telcos.”

Furthermore, Sariffodeen pointed out that while access to internet services is relatively easy to come by in major cities like Toronto, the same is not true for rural regions.

“There are parts of the country — let’s say in rural Manitoba — where they actually can’t access cloud-based software for their businesses,” Sariffodeen said. “They don’t have the internet speeds that they need to be able to run a proper business.”

Reliable internet access that doesn’t break the bank is something growing digital companies will undoubtedly require to scale in Canada. Rural Canadian communities are still 25 per cent behind urban cities in terms of internet speed, according to a report by CIRA.

The time is now

Despite the challenges, the report echoes the sentiments of those working in the innovation economy: Canada is on the verge of greatness, but leaders need to act.

“We have to own the podium, rather than getting comfortable being the second-place player,” Lau insists.

“We need to fuel those fires, declare those winners in those categories and help them grow,” Sariffodeen echoes.

“It is our time now.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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