BidSquid transaction system

Work on BidSquid has been going pretty steady. We’re aiming for a beta launch for next week. As of the time of writing this post, the first release of BidSquid  – the minimum viable product – is pretty much ready to be used by buyers and sellers. There is one major component that needs to be sorted out: the payment system. I’m in the process of setting up Stripe for payment.

Bottleneck

Using Stripe requires us to have a verified SSL certificate on our server, to ensure that our site is secure for our users. Having the SSL certificate we need requires that our business is a registered one. That’s something that we’re in the process of dealing with, but it’s kind of a bottleneck right now. Everything is relying on it in some way or another.

Complex

We’re going to be using Stripe Connect to connect payments between buyers and sellers. The only problem is that the sellers currently have to go through a complex signup form, requiring them to supply information that they might not even have, as an independent seller. This definitely doesn’t make sense for BidSquid’s model – We want to give our users the ability to place a listing within 30 seconds. Getting paid from our site shouldn’t be so tedious.

Compromise

Luckily, Stripe Connect has something called “Managed Accounts”. What this means is that basically Stripe gets out of the way and lets us do all the payment interaction with the buyers and sellers. The caveat being that BidSquid is liable for chargebacks and credit card disputes. Stripe also takes another 0.5% per transaction with Managed Accounts. It looks like that’s just how it’s going to have to be.

BidSquid should be efficient. That’s what we’re all about. I wouldn’t be happy with forcing our users to go through a tedious signup experience.

We sat down with Rory Andrews, George Johnston and Rob Myers to walk about what it’s been like getting into tech and the various experiences people have. We also cover some great strategies for finding a viable work-life balance in the world of freelancing and entrepreneurship. Rory is really fascinated by the power of doors.

Disclaimer: It wasn’t actually snowing when we recorded ths.

Intro music: Lewis and Dekalb Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Where we stand

  Before I bring up the tech community in cape breton i’d like to mention a few things;

  • Nova Scotians pay the highest taxes
  • Halifax has the biggest population in all of Atlantic Canada
  • over 60% of Nova Scotia lives in the greater Halifax area
  • In Atlantic Canada, by the year 2020, 1/3 Canadians will be a senior citizen
  • The total number of people in Cape Breton is as of the 2016 census was 132,010(making 15% of NS) people and has a 2.9 % decrease in population since 2011.
  • Cape Breton is also moderately a conservative business market, historically, fishing ,forestry, coal and steel, the two former, being almost non existent since the 80’s.

You may ask why I bring these points up. Does that mean I believe there is no hope for the tech sector in Cape Breton. Absolutely not. It just means we need more programs to grow our base, to stay competitive. Everyone in Nova Scotia has a friend, family member, or know one of our young people that has gone out west. We’ve seen what’s happened when we lose our younger work force. We’ve seen that oil is not a dependable source for our market, nationally or globally.  We need something viable stable and keeps us growing in today’s market, the more green the better.

 

What’s next?

Many communities globally are shifting from industrialization (like Cape Breton) ,replacing coal with code.  We should start introducing code to high school students (more abundantly) if not younger grades.  Movies and media has portrayed the lone coder as some rock super star, but i believe while it is great to have an entrepreneurial spirit. There’s nothing wrong with having a RRSP or savings to fall back on, with a stable 9-5 job making over 60k a year  and can be just as rewarding. Technology is only going forward not backwards in today’s society. The more education we bring to Cape Breton, the better our community, and province will be because of it.

 

Trade coal for code.
We need to invest in the base of our community. Show that we will not be left behind. Gone is the middle class of factory workers. Developers are the way of the future.I know when some think of developers they think the Mark Zuckerberg, the Social network movie but studies show that Silicon valley only employs 8% of the nation’s coders.The rest are freelancing or in steady stable employment. We are in an age where we see a shift, gone is the pillar of car plants  lumber yards and other factory blue collar jobs. Coding is an up and coming employment,that can provide stability with 40 hours a week, good salary, and be intellectually challenging. More people are realizing that instead of a 4 year computer science degree, time and money could be better spent at community college, long months in dev bootcamps, or better yet here at UIT. Maybe we won’t live out the romantic idea of the social network. But working at a local bank, or call centre slinging Javascript 40 hours a week, isn’t a bad gig either. The great thing is thanks to tech education institutions like UIT, if one of us starts a business and succeeds we will be growing the tech sector as well as the community in Cape Breton.  

The global market is becoming more and more competitive. We are feeling the shocks even here in atlantic canada. We need to stay ahead, and current. We need moree pivoting away from industrialization. We need to be less conservative in our approach, and bring tech education into public schools as much if not more as trades are. I’m glad I learned how to make a shelf in shop….. but I think if I learned HTML, and CSS would be just as gratifying and probably  more relevant. Better late than never I guess!

 

I had the privilege to actually mention a lot of these things in our school. We had a conference that discussed tech education in Cape Breton. Check it out!!

 

Andrew MacDonald and I have been toiling away over the last few weeks at the business and product of BidSquid and have been making great progress. I posted a blog over there giving an overview of our idea. Head on over and let us know what you think!

Roughly 1/3 of the companies going through PropelICT this year are from Cape Breton — and most of those are students or alumni of UIT Startup Immersion!

Co-founded by Gerry Pond, Propel is Atlantic Canada’s startup accelerator. Its mandate is to:

educate and mentor entrepreneurs with the goal of launching Atlantic Canada’s first billion dollar tech company

Same! — though we tend to be a little upstream in the pipeline (to mix metaphors). We train students to build apps and test business models. Many of our students and alumni then go on to pitch their ideas to Propel (and others) in pursuit of their entrepreneurial goals.

So we’re very encouraged by the fact that all but one of this year’s Propel Launch cohort are UIT students, alumni, or staff:

  • BidSquid (a stock-market-like platform for rural commodities) — cofounders David Hachey and Andrew MacDonald are UIT students.
  • MySong (an SMS/mobile app that connects DJ’s and partygoers) — cofounders Riley Boudreau and Freddie Willett are UIT students.
  • EspresSos (a rolodex for your friends/coworkers’ coffee preferences) — cofounders Rachael MacKeigan and George Johnston are UIT alumni.
  • Player Pack (a digital hockey card and social network for little leaguers) — founder Steven Rolls is a UIT alumni.
  • Click2Order (branded online ordering for restaurants) — cofounders Matt Stewart and Rob Myers are UIT staff.

(The sixth Sydney-based company is Perata, a retail analytics startup that won Innovacorp’s Spark funding in 2016… and keeps trying to hire UIT students before they’ve even completed our 10-month program! Hi Glenn 🙂 )

Why is UIT so well represented in Propel’s first Cape Breton cohort? Because — as per the ‘upstream-pipeline’ — we prepare students for exactly this kind of opportunity in an aspiring entrepreneur’s journey. But hey, don’t take our word for it: hear from some of the students themselves: uitstartup.org/at-uit-episode-2

***

Propel’s 12-week Launch cohort in Sydney is hosted at Navigate Startup House, down the hall from UIT, in the New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation. For other details, see Entrevestor’s article: http://entrevestor.com/ac/blog/sydney-prominent-in-propel-cohort

Let’s talk about funding startups and let’s focus on all the opportunities available to us here in Cape Breton. There’s a lot going on and a lot of options available.

We sit down with BidSquid founder David Hachey, Click 2 Order CTO Rob Myers and UIT Startup Immersion Operations Manager Heather Deveaux to find out more.

Intro music: Lewis and Dekalb Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

 

I realized recently that I had never actually gone into depth about ‘The Merchants Guild’ in a blog post. Moving forward I’m starting with customer validation and sharing information. Because of this a post like this would be a good resource to have.

 

All About The Merchants Guild

For those that don’t know: The Merchants Guild is my current idea for the business I have been working on in my time at UIT. A summer of Live Action Role Playing (LARP) inspired The Merchants Guild. LARPing requires all sorts of gear and equipment: from swords and shields to clothes and camping gear. Most people create unique characters to play and want to have their character fit a certain image or ascetic which makes finding the right gear very important.

(Photos of LARP from on of our last Games)Cool Dudes Posing For LARP. Some of them are Merchants

The LARP online community loves to make and sell things to special order or to try and make things themselves. However; the current methods of finding and buying from online sellers are weak. There are weaknesses in some websites like Etsy that have LARP gear on them, but since the website isn’t designed for it there are weaknesses in the system. The other common solution is to use Facebook groups for buying and selling which is almost always a nightmare.

I experienced all of these pains myself. I had tried to buy things and been unable to find what I wanted. Commercial solutions were too generic and seemed really expensive when you were only compromising. I also tried to make and sell my own gear but customers locally were few and far between. So I sought out to try and making a website that would fill the gap for a marketplace that fits the needs of LARPers and LARP crafters.

To that extent I created The Merchants Guild. Although it is still in development it has been improving steadily. The website allows people who produce their own goods to share their creations and also allows buyers to post requests which anyone can use to contact them about fulfilling orders.

Recent developments include the creation of an API which is not only improving the current Merchants Guild website but also paving the way for future integrations into other LARP sites and programs.

 

Me and the Merchants Guild

The Merchants Guild keeps me excited all the time. Normally anything that starts as a school project gets dry for me. Even if I like the idea and want to keep going with it. Maybe it is because I’m always working on it, or maybe because I’m always working on LARP.

When I started UIT I liked the idea of learning business but I was completely uninterested in starting a start-up. We talked a lot about having ideas that you know you have to do, and you have to be the person to do them. Thats what The Merchants Guild is for me. It is the idea I know that I have to be working on.

 

It is very exciting to have a project you can be passionate about and that those around you are also excited for. I’m very happy to be able to move forward and develop this with the hopes of helping LARPers globally who have experienced the same pains as me.