The Pulse: Sept. 13, 2022

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  • 24°C: Sunny. Becoming a mix of sun and cloud in the afternoon. Hazy in the morning. High 24. UV index 5 or moderate. (forecast)
  • 24: On Sept. 11, Edmonton reached 28°C for the twenty-fourth time this year, giving 2022 the fourth-highest number of hot days after 1981, 1961, and 1932. (details)
  • Royal Purple: Until Sept. 18, the High Level Bridge will be lit royal purple in memory of Queen Elizabeth II. (details)

A woman in a farmers market kiosk beneath a banner reading "The Public," talking to a customer

The Public Food Hub gets ready to hit the road

By Brett McKay

The Public Food Hub is embarking on a tour of the Prairies to connect regional food cultures and expand the reach of its platform.

From its inception, The Public was meant to be like Startup Edmonton but for food, said Ken Bautista, co-founder of both organizations. Having learned the importance of connecting communities in the tech world, Bautista wants The Public Roadshow to create opportunities for similar cross-city channels to be formed in the food startup world.

"I think one of the things is helping these local food brands not only connect within that local community and customer base but also with what's going on in other places," Bautista said.

Each of the Public Roadshow dates will take participants on a bus tour of the local food ecosystem, dropping in on farmers' markets, shared kitchen spaces, and culinary schools. During the tour, makers will have a chance to pitch their startup and show off their food at a tasting and meetup.

The tour kicks off in Edmonton on Oct. 19, coinciding with the city's Startup Week.

"One of my favourite startup weeks that I went to was in Minneapolis, where they had their tech startup week at the same time as their food startup week," Bautista explained. "I always thought it would be really interesting to bring food and tech together."

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Headlines: Sept. 13, 2022

By Kevin Holowack

  • City council voted 10-3 to support the Edmonton Metropolitan Transit Service Commission phase one service plan that will see 11 routes across the region launch in the spring. Coun. Aaron Paquette, who voted against the plan as proposed, argued that improving local transit should be a priority over regional transit. The plan is expected to cost the city about $7.2 million, but a more specific budget will be considered later this fall. Councillors Michael Janz and Jo-Anne Wright also voted against the plan.
  • Several residents of the government-funded affordable housing provider Civida, which was rebranded from Capital City Housing in 2021, have spoken up about unresponsiveness on behalf of the organization. An occupant of a townhouse complex in Mill Woods contacted MLA Christina Gray after Civida, which manages more than 4,500 subsidized units in the Edmonton region, ignored requests to address a black mould problem for years, while another occupant in northeast Edmonton has resorted to working with Voices of Albertans with Disabilities to push through an accessibility request.
  • The city is considering updates to its fireworks bylaws to allow only certified professionals to use them in public, which Fire Chief Joe Zatylny said would fix issues with the current permit system. Members of the public who spoke before council expressed assorted views, including concern that professional certification would burden community and cultural organizers with expenses and paperwork. Coun. Jo-Anne Wright said she was interested the Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition's suggestion that Edmonton, like Banff, should only allow silent fireworks to avoid causing stress to wildlife.
  • Numbers from the city's open data portal suggest city councillors have formed informal voting alliances since the start of their term in October. After removing the 78% of votes that were unanimous, Postmedia's analysis of available data shows that seven members — Mayor Amarjeet Sohi and councillors Aaron Paquette, Keren Tang, Tim Cartmell, Jo-Anne Wright, Andrew Knack, and Sarah Hamilton — have voted together at least 75% of the time and won more than 83% of votes. Sohi, Paquette, Tang, and Knack were aligned in 82% of votes. Coun. Jennifer Rice had the lowest agreement rate with the rest of council, and she and Coun. Karen Principe have been most likely to vote against the majority.
  • Former mayor Stephen Mandel reflected on Queen Elizabeth II's last visit to Edmonton in 2005 to mark Alberta's centennial, calling it a high point of his time as mayor. "I've had a chance to meet some other leaders that are well known, but she was by far the biggest thrill," he said.
A smiling Terry Song and Sheldon Zhang stand smiling with their arms crossed

Exit leaves Yardly co-founder eager to start again

By Karen Unland

As Sheldon Zhang reflects on selling Yardly after seven years of grinding, bittersweet is the word that comes to mind.

He and Terry Song started building what they saw as "Uber for snow removal" in 2015 with visions of something that could go big. "We had high expectations," Zhang said. "We both quit our jobs fairly early on, and started both working on this full-time, quickly hired a couple of employees, and put a lot of personal savings into it."

It soon became clear, however, that Yardly was not going to be a $100-million company that revolutionized the way yard work and snow removal were done. "There was a little bit of sadness that we couldn't really accomplish our original goals," Zhang said.

After pivoting and restructuring a few times, they stopped trying to build a world-changing startup and focused on making a successful business. That allowed them to sell the company, which they left in July.

Zhang would not reveal the owner's identity or disclose the selling price, but he said Yardly is profitable, and the new owner has the resources to make it grow.

"Even though we didn't get a 20x exit, we still were able to sell it, and it was still life-changing for us."

Zhang is still adjusting to his new-found freedom from the day-to-day cares of keeping his business going. Getting used to his new identity has also been a challenge, he wrote in a post about his future plans.

"Everyone we knew really knew us as the Yardly guys," he told Taproot. "As I started to change my email or change my LinkedIn description, I started to think, 'Hmm, what am I? Am I just like a startup enthusiast now? How do I define myself?'"

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