The Pulse: March 29, 2022

Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

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  • 5°C: Mainly sunny. Fog patches dissipating in the morning. Wind up to 15 km/h. High plus 5. Wind chill minus 11 in the morning. UV index 4 or moderate. (forecast)
  • 13,012 : There were 13,012 distracted driving convictions in Alberta between April 2020 and March 2021, almost all of which involved using cellphones or electronic devices while driving. (details)
  • 6-1: The Oilers (37-25-5) defeated the Arizona Coyotes (20-41-5) at Rogers Place. (details)

Founders of companies participating in the Alberta Accelerator by 500 sit at desks and face a projector screen as they take part in training

'Focus on growth': Local startups boosted by 500 Global accelerator

By Emily Rendell-Watson

Air Trail, Cash 2 Crypto, The Public Food Hub Co., and Umay are wrapping up their final days with the Alberta Accelerator by 500, as they prepare for the program's demo day on March 31.

The Edmonton startups, which were announced by Alberta Innovates and 500 Global as part of the 11-company cohort last week, have been immersed in the accelerator since January. They have taken part in programming about areas such as growth marketing and developing ideal customer profiles, and they have worked with mentors from 500 Global's network.

"This program does a really good job at that coaching element. It's about giving (us) a tool set more than it's about doing it for (us)," said Bradley Poulette of Air Trail, which is working on building compliance automation software for regional airlines.

Poulette said Air Trail has tripled its monthly revenue during the accelerator, and he has developed his individual skills as an entrepreneur.

"This (program) is something that's really important for Edmonton to have ... because it's going to produce entrepreneurs who know how to build and run effective, scalable businesses — cut out the cruft and focus on growth," Poulette explained. "Which means that we're going to see ... a significant improvement in the quality of startups in this province over the next couple of years."

Poulette also appreciated the opportunity to commiserate with other seed-stage companies. He said that building relationships with the participating founders forced him to "strip away any sort of pretense" about the story he wants to share publicly, and focus on what he's building.

Andre Diaz of Cash 2 Crypto has also experienced significant growth over the past few months in the program. His company has had its first $1-million revenue month, and he said it is on track to hit its goal of $20 million gross revenue in 2022.

"We have learned skills in development of customer segments to gain a better insight in who customers are ... (plus) how to run different experiments within our business and to track them with the proper metrics to see what was most impactful on the business," Diaz said, adding that guidance in setting up the legal, financial, and fundraising portions of the business has also been crucial for growth.

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By Karen Unland and Kevin Holowack

  • Dozens of displaced Ukrainians arrived in Edmonton on a flight from Poland arranged by former MLA Thomas Lukaszuk and former premier Ed Stelmach. The flight will head back to Warsaw with humanitarian aid supplies that will be trucked into Ukraine. Meanwhile, Firefighter Aid Ukraine organized the delivery of 14 tons of rescue equipment, continuing a decade of donations for the organization but the first under a full-scale invasion.
  • The City of Edmonton is inviting residents to provide input on three alley renewal projects. The Hairsine renewal is gathering information in part by inviting residents to participate in a self-guided "treasure quest," while the projects in Crawford Plains, Daly Grove, and Pollard Meadows and Rideau Park and Royal Gardens invite residents to share their feedback through an online form. The city is also asking residents to participate in a survey about the design of the proposed Edmonton-Strathcona County Footbridge and its surrounding areas.
  • Alberta Avenue-area business owners, including Aminata Fofana of Aminata's Hair Braiding and Beauty Supply, are working with the Alberta Avenue Business Association to raise public awareness of construction projects hurting business in the neighbourhood, Edify reports. Businesses have invited Ward Métis Coun. Ashley Salvador and Mayor Amarjeet Sohi to meet with them in coming weeks. Current bylaws don't allow for compensation for lost business, EPCOR told Edify.
  • Water bills from EPCOR will go up slightly as of April 1, increasing by about 4% for residential customers and about 8% for commercial ones. The hike would have been higher if not for a one-time discount to keep rates low as customers recover from the pandemic. "We can't do that forever, I'll be honest," spokesman Martin Kennedy told Postmedia.
  • Alyssa Miller, co-founder of the outreach group Boots on Ground, is among several advocates critical of the city's decision to close public washrooms in 16 of 18 transit centres and LRT stations, a decision advised by the council-approved Transit Safety and Security plan in response to drug overdoses in those spaces. "It's not addressing the core need," she told Postmedia, "the core needs (being) more safe consumption spaces, including for inhalation because we have nothing for inhalation. We need more shelter spots, and we have a dire lack of inclusive supportive accessible housing." The city is currently determining the locations for 10 mobile washrooms, which will be set up for six months starting May 1.
  • Wonder Harbour Comics at 105 Street and 105 Avenue has closed after it was targeted twice by arsonists within eight days, suffering damages worth around $450,000. Owner Vincent Joyall has created a GoFundMe campaign.
  • The Government of Alberta is introducing a motion to call on the federal government to cancel the carbon tax increase scheduled to take effect April 1. According to Bank of Canada numbers cited by the province, the scheduled increase to $50/tonne will increase inflation by about 0.5% at a time when inflation is at its highest in 30 years. In 2021, the Alberta government lost a legal battle against federal carbon tax law and the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional. If the new motion passes, Premier Jason Kenney says the aim is only to send a "clear message" to the federal government about the threat of inflation, Postmedia reports.
Cover art for Becoming Less Podcast, featuring the title in a circle around a simple drawing of a leaf

Podcast pick: Becoming Less Podcast

By Karen Unland

Looking for less waste, less consumption, less impact, less clutter, and less stress? The Becoming Less Podcast from Waste Free Edmonton is here to help.

The podcast was started in 2019 by Bizz McKilligan, a sewing machine technician and quilter who wanted to chronicle her journey towards a low-waste lifestyle. The personal journal soon acquired more voices, and now features chats among friends on topics such as home renos, buy nothing groups or books.

Becoming Less also conducts interviews with people involved in various aspects of waste reduction, such as a psychologist specializing in eco-grief or the founder of Blenderz Garment Recyclers. A particularly handy interview to check out these days is McKilligan's discussion with Sean Stepchuk of Waste Free Edmonton on the proposed single-use items bylaw, which was approved by city council's utility committee and is slated to come before city council on April 4.

Another reason to check out Becoming Less? It's been shortlisted for an Alberta Emerald Award in the public engagement and outreach category. The awards, which recognize those who address environmental and climate issues, will be presented in Calgary on June 1.

You can find this and the rest of Taproot's podcast picks in our Listen Notes list.