The Pulse: April 21, 2022

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

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  • 6°C: Sunny. Becoming a mix of sun and cloud near noon. Wind southeast 20 km/h gusting to 40. High 6. Wind chill minus 10 in the morning. UV index 4 or moderate. (forecast)
  • 5-2: The Oilers (45-26-6) defeated the Dallas Stars (43-29-5) at Rogers Place. (details)
  • 368: Alberta's fifth area code comes into effect on Saturday, April 23. The new 368 will be reserved for when the supply of existing numbers runs out. (details)
  • 1,126: There are 1,126 people in hospital with COVID-19 in Alberta, including 43 in intensive care. Health Minister Jason Copping suggested that BA.2 infections "may be at a plateau" in Alberta. (details)

Ken Bautista speaks into a microphone in front of signs for TEDxEdmonton

From bytes to bites: The Public applies Startup Edmonton playbook to food

By Karen Unland

Startup Edmonton co-founder Ken Bautista finds himself in "founder-entrepreneur mode" again with The Public Food Hub, a startup that connects food lovers to food makers.

"I've always been really interested in place and community and entrepreneurship and technology," he told Faaiza Ramji on Episode 12 of Bloom, Taproot's podcast about innovation in Edmonton.

Tech-focused startups work in bits and bytes, however, which are a lot more scalable and transmissible than the kind of bites he's working in now. "You can't beam food over the internet," he said. "You need to be able to experience it."

When Bautista started The Public in 2020 with Kirsta Franke of the 124 Street Grand Market and Tim Hengel, formerly of Booster Juice, the idea was to create "Startup Edmonton but for food brands," Bautista said. They soon realized there are already a lot of physical spaces in which makers can get started, whether it be food incubators, food halls, or ghost kitchens.

The opportunity for The Public was to develop a customer base for those food brands. And that involves bringing the food to the people, whether it be through neighbourhood drops, culinary experiences, subscription boxes, or markets.

Being part of the first cohort of 500 Global's Alberta Accelerator helped The Public's co-founders sharpen their focus on the customer side of the equation, Bautista said.

"We really leaned into 'How do we focus on the food lover side?' because if we open that up, that's going to immediately create even more value for all of the food makers that we work with."

Other kinds of creators can find their customers through Twitch or Patreon or Etsy. "In food, it can be a really complicated path to reach that customer wherever they are," Bautista said. "But if you think of it as a stack of technology — here's all the tools I need to be able to get to create what I do and then sell it to that customer who may or may not be in my own backyard — what does that start to look like?"

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By Kevin Holowack

  • Edmonton Public Schools said high enrolment rates are outpacing provincial funding. Despite the district getting more funding than in previous years, the school board estimates that 1,692 full-time students will be without funding as a result of Alberta Education's weighted moving average formula, a method for allocating funds introduced by Education Minister Adriana LaGrange in 2020 that has attracted criticism for neglecting growing metro school boards. "This will be a tight budget for Edmonton Public Schools," said board chair Trisha Estabrooks, who also lamented the lack of capital funding during a recent episode of Speaking Municipally. EPSB's operating budget for 2022-2023 is $1.226 billion with student enrolment of 102,702 full-time equivalents.
  • City council has approved one-time funding of $880,000 for local women's shelters — which are generally funded by the provincial and federal governments — using money freed up from the decision in December to approve a smaller increase to the police budget. The investment will go toward mental and cultural supports, nursing resources, and assistance for people with precarious immigration status. Coun. Jo-Anne Wright said she hopes increasing the shelters' capacity will reduce the number of police calls, including cases where police are called repeatedly to the same situation.
  • City council passed a motion directing administration to further investigate sustainable funding for Edmonton transit. Last week, an interim report outlined ten ways to ensure consistent funding, such as adjusting property taxes and increasing parking fees. Coun. Anne Stevenson also recommended charging people more for sporting and entertainment events to offset transit costs, while Mayor Amarjeet Sohi maintained that long-term solutions to transit costs involves accessing provincial and federal support. Coun. Michael Janz, the sole opponent to the motion, argued that solutions involving "nickel-and-diming drivers" will come across as "very adversarial" to Edmontonians.
  • Edmonton's housing market is the third most affordable in the world, tied with St. Louis, according to new findings from the Urban Reform Institute's Demographia International Housing Affordability Study for 2021, which compared housing costs in 92 markets in eight countries. Vancouver, meanwhile, has the third least affordable housing market in the world.
  • Police have identified several youth suspects in the case of Karanveer Sahota, a 16-year-old who passed away in hospital after being attacked outside McNally High School earlier this month. An autopsy determined that Sahota's death was a homicide. Edmonton Police Association president Staff Sgt. Michael Elliott told CTV News the incident "does beg the question of should the (school resource office) program be looked at again."
Screen capture of a smiling Lana Cuthbertson

New $10M ScaleGood Fund puts first investment into Areto Labs

By Karen Unland

The TELUS Community Safety and Wellness Accelerator has given birth to the ScaleGood Fund, a $10-million social impact fund that aims to bring venture capital to companies solving complex social issues with the promise of a strong financial return.

The fund's first investment is in Areto Labs, which used AI to make digital communities more positive and inclusive. The Edmonton-based company, led by Lana Cuthbertson, Kasey Machin, and Jacqueline Comer, was part of the accelerator's first cohort, which held its demo day on April 19.

Areto Labs has developed tools to track the sentiment of social media messages sent to public figures on social media. It then reacts by posting supportive messages and filtering or muting the toxic ones. "We're focusing on the sports and media industries as our first wedge because of our backgrounds and connections to those industries and because we've proved that they're willing to pay to solve this problem," Cuthbertson said during her pitch. She said the company has $12,000 in monthly recurring revenue, and it expects to be profitable in about a year and a half.

ScaleGood's investment makes up a significant chunk of the money Areto has raised so far towards a $1.5 million seed round, Cuthbertson told CBC.

"Our first investment is a testament to our mission, and we strongly believe that Areto Labs will make a meaningful impact in the lives of all citizens and help reduce online hatred and cyberbullying, in addition to scaling and generating strong financial outcomes," Ashif Mawji said in a news release. He is managing director of ScaleGood Fund LP, chair of the community safety and wellness accelerator, and chair of the Edmonton Police Foundation, a sponsor of the accelerator.

Photo: CEO Lana Cuthbertson delivered a pitch for Areto Labs at the demo day for the Community Safety and Wellness Accelerator on April 19. (TELUS CSW Accelerator/YouTube)