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When Startups Fail, Employees and Customers are often hit Hard



SAN JOSE, CALIF.—Silicon Valley has long lured ambitious entrepreneurs into shiny co-working spaces and startup accelerators, promising them the chance to create the next Google, Facebook or Uber.

But the reality is most startups fail, a risk that some say is growing as funding that once poured into the booming tech market begins to slow. For founders and employees, the results can be devastating.

“It sounds good on paper, but that’s not really how it is,” Dr. Michael Freeman said of the Silicon Valley dream. A psychiatrist at the University of California at San Francisco who studies and counsels entrepreneurs, Freeman likened the tech boom to the Gold Rush. “A lot of people in 1849 came to California looking for gold. And some people found it — and most didn’t.”

Lately, it’s the entrepreneurs in the “didn’t find gold” category who are making headlines. San Francisco-based smart motorcycle helmet maker Skully ran out of funds and shut down in August after its founders were accused of spending company money on luxury cars, vacations and strippers.

Weeks later, job platform WrkRiot went offline after a former employee claimed the founders forged wire transfers because they couldn’t pay workers.

Those failures can be crushing for employees — and not just because they find themselves out of a job. Carlos Rodriguez, Skully’s former vice president of sales and marketing, said the company’s demise was especially painful because he was personally invested in Skully’s mission to prevent motorcycle accidents.

He worked 80 or 90 hours a week, spending some nights in a hotel to be closer to work. His children had Skully stickers on their laptops. As the company fell apart, Rodriguez pulled himself away for a preplanned trip to France with his wife for their anniversary. On the plane, he was hit hard by what happened.

“I was looking out the window, and I just started bawling,” Rodriguez said. “I was saddened for customers … I was grieving for them. I was grieving for the work I put in for the development of this product. I was grieving for the time that I was away from my family.”

Now Rodriguez works as an adviser for a few other tech companies, but they compensate him mostly in equity, forcing him to live off his savings while he hunts for another job. Despite his experiences at Skully, he’s considering signing on with another small startup.

“You can have a greater impact,” he said, “whereas in corporate America you’re literally a name on a list.”

Zirtual founder and CEO Maren Kate Donovan felt a similar heartbreak when her startup went under last year.

“It was very much like several deaths,” she said. “It was the death of hopes and dreams. It was the death of a community that I and my co-founders had spent five years building … It was absolutely devastating, definitely one of the worst things I’ve ever been through.”

Zirtual, a San Francisco- and Las Vegas-based startup, matched small-business owners with remote online assistants. The company was ultimately resurrected after being acquired by, but Donovan didn’t stay.

Silicon Valley hadn’t prepared Donovan for failure. People rarely talk about startups that don’t make it, Donovan said. Now she offers one piece of advice to other entrepreneurs: Get a therapist — you’re going to need one.

Failures don’t just affect the founders and employees. A startup’s customers also pay the price when the company collapses.

Emilie Fairbanks, a lawyer who runs a small landlord-tenant law practice in Washington, D.C., used a Zirtual assistant for three years before waking up to an email that said the company was no more. Fairbanks panicked.

She changed the passwords her assistant used, got a new credit card and ran damage control with clients who were used to emailing her assistant directly and now were seeing their emails bounce back. It was disruptive, and Fairbanks worried it made her look unprofessional.

“It really has made me less willing to use other startup services,” she said.

Still, for entrepreneurs, failure is nearly a Silicon Valley rite of passage.

“The cost of failure has gone down pretty dramatically … and that’s a good thing in some respects, but that’s also a bad thing,” said Harvard Business School professor and startup expert Shikhar Ghosh. “It creates a certain recklessness.”

Digital publishing company Mode Media, which was valued at $1 billion and rumored to be on the verge of an initial public offering a few years ago, became another Silicon Valley casualty last month. Mode struck advertising deals between bloggers and third-party companies, posting ads on the blogs and doling out cash to the bloggers.

When Mode shut down, many of those bloggers claimed they were owed thousands of dollars.

“I’ll be honest, I cried,” parenting blogger Jeanine Macintosh of Toronto wrote in an email. She says Mode owes her almost $1,300 — a chunk of cash that could feed her large family for three weeks. “I just had baby number seven … and count on every cent I do make from my blog.”

Sometimes the money runs out for employees, too. In a scathing blog post in August about an anonymous startup later revealed as WrkRiot, former employee Penny Kim described waiting for paycheques that never came as the company’s funds dried up and the founder made empty promises.

It’s not an uncommon complaint in Silicon Valley. Founders frequently put off paying employees as they wait out their next round of funding, even though the practice is illegal, said employment attorney Sebastian Miller.

And if that funding falls through, often there’s no money left to pay back those wages.

Ghosh estimates that between 70 and 75 per cent of venture-backed startups don’t return the money investors put in — and of those, more than half return nothing. Venture capital database CB Insights tracked more than 1,000 startups that raised seed rounds in 2009 and 2010, and found that by the end of 2015, less than half secured a second round of funding. Just 22 per cent achieved a sale or IPO, and 1 percent reached a value of $1 billion.

Startups may fail because there’s no market for their service or product, their technology doesn’t work or because they grow too quickly or too slowly.

But personality also comes into play — entrepreneurs tend to have an appetite for risk, an elevated level of self-confidence and a tendency toward aggression, Freeman said. Those qualities can be effective in business, but they also can make a founder unwilling to compromise or listen to his or her board, factors that can lead to a company’s implosion.

Those personality traits may also be what keeps some bruised and battered entrepreneurs coming back for more. After Zirtual crashed, Donovan considered jobs at large corporations. But in the end, she signed on as chief operating officer at Roam, a startup that rents international co-living spaces.

“At the end of the day,” she said, “I’d much rather do something that’s a little high risk and really, really love what I’m doing.”

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Beauty Week is back at Hudson’s Bay in Toronto and it’s time to get glam



Beauty enthusiasts rejoice! Beauty Week at Hudson’s Bay is back in Toronto for another year. It’s time to stock up on all of your fall essentials and, maybe discover some new ones. 

From Friday, August 18 to Sunday, August 27, you can expect a truly elevated beauty experience in-store with incredible special offers, limited-time gifts, and exciting activations. 

If you’re a diehard beauty lover, you’ll already know that Hudson’s Bay is the place to shop thanks to its extensive range of over 195 skin and makeup brands from both luxury labels and masstige brands — including Tata Harper, Estée Lauder, YSL, Nars Cosmetics, Bobbi Brown, and so much more.

Throughout The Bay’s Beauty Week, visitors can take in some at-counter activations and interactive expert-led tutorials, where there will be chances to get makeup touch-ups from top-tier brands, try a spritz of the most alluring fragrances, and sample tons of new products.

This year’s Beauty Week highlight is the ‘Best in Beauty’ tote, a meticulously-curated selection of 30 deluxe samples from an array of top-tier brands like Dr. Barbara Sturm and Shiseido spanning skincare, fragrance, and makeup — all in a super sleek bag.

The tote, which is valued at over $300, is retailing for just $39 and is a fantastic way to explore new products (without breaking the bank). However, there is a limited quantity, so if you want to get your hands on one, you’ll need to be fast.

Wondering exactly what Beauty Week’s free gifts with purchases entail? If you spend over $95 at Lancôme, you will receive a six-piece set valued at $130. Or, you can get an Estée Lauder gift valued at $170 with purchases over $80. (And that’s just to name a few.)

If you’re a Hudson’s Bay Rewards member, you’ll also get $20 in Hudson’s Bay rewards when you spend over $100 on beauty.

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The Canadian Armed Forces are hiring for several non-combat military jobs



The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have several non-combat jobs, some of which do not require a college degree or past work experience.

Life in the forces has several benefits, such as paid education plans (college, university and graduate-level programs), 20 paid vacation days, health and dental coverage for you and your family, maternity and paternal leave, and pension plans. You can learn more about the benefits in detail here.

And to make it easier to gauge if you qualify, the listings also include related civilian jobs to see if it’s your ideal role.

Financial services administrator

Related civilian jobs: Financial records entry clerk, financial manager, accounting technician, bookkeeper, budget officer, cashier clerk, business planner technician, and verification manager.

Description: You’ll help budget resources for all military activities besides providing financial assistance.

Education: You need to have completed Grade 10.

Duties: As a financial services administrator, you’ll be responsible for bookkeeping and managing budgets. You’ll also provide support in accounts payable and accounts receivable.

Work environment: Those in this role work at CAF bases, on ships or overseas. You might also be expected to help special operation units, recruiting offices, schools, and medical organizations.

Postal clerk

Related civilian jobs: Mail clerk, mail sorter.

Description: You’ll provide postal services to members and their families at bases and establishments.

Education: Grade 10. No previous work experience or related career skills are required.

Duties: As the postal clerk, you’ll handle mail duties.

Work environment: Besides a postal office, you may work on a ship or a mobile postal van. You might be expected to serve with Royal Canadian Navy, the Army, and the Royal Canadian Air Force in Canada and abroad.

Dental technician

Related civilian jobs: Dental assistant, dental hygienist.

Description: You’ll be helping dental officers provide dental services to CAF members, their families, and dependents.

Education: Level II dental assisting diploma from an accredited college or a National Dental Assisting Examining Board (NDAEB) certificate.

Duties: Those in this role will be responsible for various responsibilities, including disinfection and sterilization of dental equipment, applying rubber dams, placing cavity liners, and controlling bleeding. In addition, you’ll assist in laboratory procedures like creating casts, custom trays, and mouthguards.

Work environment: This role will require you to work in a military dental clinic, a Mobile Dental Clinic, an Air Transportable Dental System, or onboard a ship. You might be expected to work on a base in Canada or other operations in other parts of the world.

Human resources administrator

Related civilian jobs: Records administrator, data entry supervisor, receptionist, office manager, executive assistant, payroll clerk, and information management technician.

Description: Provide administrative and general human resources support.

Education: Grade 10. No previous work experience or related career skills are required.

Duties: In addition to human resources administration and services, you’ll be handling pay and allowances, managing automated pay systems, and maintaining personnel records.

Work environment: HR administrators work at all CAF bases in Canada. They also work on ships and overseas to support the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy, or Royal Canadian Air Force operations.

Medical assistant

Related civilian jobs: Emergency medical responder, ambulance and first aid attendant, registered nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse, and hospital orderly.

Description: Successful candidates will help treat the sick and injured in CAF units. You’ll be assisting and supporting nursing and medical officers.

Education: Minimum of Grade 11 biology, Grade 10 physics or chemistry, and Grade 10 math.

Duties: You’ll provide initial care and essential life support treatments in trauma cases. You’ll help with health assessments (hearing and vision tests, perform basic lab procedures, etc.) and initiate and manage medical records and reports. You’ll also be expected to provide support and first aid during training exercises.

Work environment: Medical assistants may serve with the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force or the Canadian Army as part of the Canadian Forces Health Services Group. Those in this role are exposed to the same risks as the forces they support.

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Porter’s new loyalty program promises to match Air Canada’s Aeroplan status



Porter Airlines is once again stirring the pot among Canadian airline rivals, now going after Air Canada’s Aeroplan members by offering to match their loyalty status to an equivalent of their own.

The beloved airline, which recently ranked as having the best cabin service in North America, challenged the competition for the second time this year, after previously deploying a similar tactic against WestJet in the spring. 

Earlier in April, Porter presented customers with a limited-time offer to match the loyalty status of WestJet’s patrons with VIPorter levels.

Now, they’re offering Aeroplan members to seamlessly transition to an equivalent VIPorter Avid Traveller status based on their existing membership tier.

Members can then take advantage of an array of travel perks that come with flying Porter, including seat selection, baggage, and flight changes.

For those currently holding an Aeroplan membership, there are two ways to acquire the Avid Traveller status for the rest of 2023:

Status-Based Match:
  • Aeroplan 25K members = VIPorter Venture
  • Aeroplan 35K members = VIPorter Ascent
  • Aeroplan 50K, 75K, and Super Elite = VIPorter First
Flight Segments-Based Match:
  • 5 flight segments = VIPorter Passport
  • 8 segments = VIPorter Venture
  • 17 segments = VIPorter Ascent
  • 28 or more segments = VIPorter First

Members will have to first submit their applications on Porter’s website. Registration will remain open until September 6, 2023.

In order to maintain their membership level through 2024, customers will have until the end of 2023 to reach the following reduced qualifying spend (QS) targets:

  • Passport = $500 in QS
  • Venture = $750 in QS
  • Ascent = $1500 in QS
  • First = $2500 in QS

Over the past year, Porter has launched an aggressive expansion strategy, including everything from introducing longer flights on newly-purchased jet planes flying out of Toronto Pearson, free WiFi, and a new all-inclusive economy experience.

With Canadians losing both Swoop and Sunwing as WestJet incorporates both into their mainline business, Porter’s direct competition is welcome to keep prices competitive.

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