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Episode 19 – Emergence Labs

May 13, 2019

This time around we’re in the studio with StartWell member company Emergence Labs – a business technology consulting form and Salesforce implementation partner focused on helping small to medium sized businesses adopt new technologies that can help them database and better use their information.

*Learn more about Emergence Labs on their website at https://emergencelabs.io/

Podcast Transcript

Qasim Virjee 0:31
All right back once again for this the 19th episode of the stairwell Podcast. I’m Qasim, the founder and CEO of start well here in the studio once again, on King Street in downtown Toronto. This time, I’m joined by a new member company here, whose name is emergence labs. I’ll let you guys introduce yourselves. And we’ll jump into what you do. And, and the magic word that’s become a drinking game. On the second floor of start will

Mack Allen 1:03
love it. So I’m Mack Allen, I’m the managing partner here at emergence labs. We are a Salesforce implementation partner. But really just a technology consulting and business process consulting firm. The visions that we’re going to help small businesses and small to mid sized firms find their way into technology in a more accessible fashion. Everybody’s finding that it’s 5060 100 grand to get your foot in the door. We believe otherwise. And technology’s really helped us a lot helped me a lot and where I’ve come from in my career, and putting emergence labs together to try and help companies navigate that tumultuous territory has been real fun and keeps me coming into the office every day.

Mitch McCabe 1:45
Yeah, my name is Mitch McCabe. And I’m also a partner here at mergence labs, and joined Mac probably around September, October 18. Last year, shortly after we started the company, and we actually went to university together. So we kind of go way back and Ghana asked me to join the team and I came from a background of financial operations. I worked at an accounting firm for four years, I had my Chartered Accountants license, so I started kind of helping with the books, and then it turned into something more and yeah, I’ve been learning the ropes of Salesforce, and me and Mac and our two other guys, Myles and Matt, been trying to, you know, make it happen out there.

Qasim Virjee 2:25
For listeners that might not have caught those two things. So the magic word is Salesforce. Yeah, that’s the magic word. We’ll talk more about that. But also that all of you, your name, start with him. That was something I picked up on right away when we first met. But that was just a coincidence. Or

Mack Allen 2:43
it matters. Coincidence. And it’s embarrassing.

Mitch McCabe 2:48
It is when you sometimes tell clients like yeah, you’re on the phone with Mac, Mitch and Matt. People are like, are you serious?

Mack Allen 2:57
Oh, seriously, we can’t have all four of us were to visit a client office, which doesn’t happen. But if we did, it would be a joke to introduce four people in a row with with M names like no one’s getting that. That’s good. We’re gonna hire another m soon, I hope. Five, five, just keep the keep the trend.

Qasim Virjee 3:16
What? Okay, so let’s talk about the company emergence labs. First off the name, what’s emerging with the idea,

Mack Allen 3:23
emerging properties or like properties that are that emerged from? You know, I guess I’ll back up the whole statement is the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Yeah. So you might have like, a human body, for example, has all these cells firing around atoms, whatever it might be. And out of all of those seemingly inanimate nonliving objects come consciousness and us being this living being and you see emerging properties, their properties that arise from the greater of its parts. So we like to think that with companies, we kind of help them make the most we make the sum greater than its parts.

Qasim Virjee 4:01
So your means we’ve said Salesforce couple times. What do you do with Salesforce? And also, what’s the background that you bring to creating this company from that world?

Mack Allen 4:14
Yeah, so I worked at Salesforce for three, four years before starting emergence labs. And then before that, just like analytics work at Bell Canada, just slogging around trying to figure out how to silently steal from unsuspecting Canadians. He said it. So anyway, I found my way around data, always been a hobby developer worked at Salesforce for a while and all that came together. And yes, I mean, anyone who doesn’t know what Salesforce is, it’s a technology that allows businesses to keep track of and optimize relationships with their clients. And if your business isn’t doing that, then I don’t know what you guys are up to out there. So it’s been real great for Salesforce and Good for us, too.

Qasim Virjee 5:01
So what led to you leaving Salesforce?

Mack Allen 5:05
It was just selling the software. So I was on the sales side, not the technical side at the time, right? I come from the technical background already and wanted to try my hand at that learned and got exposed to what Salesforce was and kept selling Salesforce to small businesses, because I could, I could produce the vision and they loved it, and they buy the vision. Yeah. But it was difficult to then put the pieces together. So Max sold me this thing. Now I’m off floundering on my own, and I can’t quite figure out how to make it work. Right. What Max said would work isn’t really coming to fruition. snake oil salesman? Yeah. I was like, I’m done with the snake oil. I’m going on the other side. And I’m going to turn the snake oil into wine. Yeah. And that’s what we’ve been doing. So that’s

Qasim Virjee 5:48
so for my limited familiarity with Salesforce these days, I’ve used it in the past this but a few years, I use what I have. Yeah, I won’t go into like our stack, or I’ll go into a second. But it’s it’s tools that I feel are a bit more agile, and also our organizations very small. So we don’t need to, you know, stitch 500 legacy software’s together through our CRM, which from what my understanding is, Salesforce is powerful to be able to allow you to do so in your client work as emergency labs, that uses Salesforce, what kind of things are you doing for people?

Mitch McCabe 6:28
Yeah, I think we’re, we’re kind of trying to create a bit of a framework that like Max said, is going to be really accessible for the small business market with Salesforce, because like you said, it’s harder for small businesses to kind of get that insight in. It’s a lot of money generally for the implementation of it. So that’s what we’re trying to assess. But, yeah, we have this framework that we like to use, and we set it up. Basically, we talk with the client and understand exactly what they want. We have a bunch of standard procedures that we use on every project. Yep, kind of layouts, homepage layouts. We have, it’s kind of weird to talk about, like specific things that we do. But essentially, we set it up in a way that is going to work the best for them everyday so that they’re logging in every day to Salesforce in their feed is populating for them in a closed loop system. And it’s spitting out accurate and useful data on a sales dashboard and cycle.

Qasim Virjee 7:22
Yeah, because I mean, this is my experience, you know, as of again, a couple of years ago, and lightning was just kind of starting to be rolled out. Maybe it’s 2017 18 or 16 2015,

Mack Allen 7:36
it started, okay, and it took him four years to get it passable. Right. And now I love it, but it’s taken

Qasim Virjee 7:42
a while. So that’s the application framework for building on Salesforce, correct.

Mack Allen 7:47
lightnings more a UI, but it has come with its own framework as well. So you’re bang on. But for most people, it’s just going to be an friendlier UI than what they had back in 1999. When they started, yeah, kept for like, 20 years, like Windows three point was, yeah, yeah. Horrible.

Qasim Virjee 8:02
Yeah, cuz I remember the confusion and the, you know, deep anxiety. Our firm at the time felt when we paid $10,000 to Salesforce, and then we’re like, What the hell is this? Because it can’t do anything out of the box that we need it to do. Yeah. And at the time, that was like simple stuff, just like filter my emails as they come in and out of my inbox for my leads, fill out profiles for those customers or leads and and then keep track of like, what we’re actually talking to them about, as stuff that’s flowing through your software as text, you should be able to automatically parse that out and tag things. And it was just to get to that level required another kind of like, $30,000 of customizations. And we before we knew it, we were like 50,000 bucks in the hole. And we weren’t even using it. So it was, yeah, it was kind of a very frustrating time. But since then, yeah, I mean, I use a whole different kind of

Mack Allen 9:02
method. Now, what do you do for an hour? Like you get an email in there today? So you want to create leads and things?

Qasim Virjee 9:07
Well, okay, so let’s start well, we use our own team that runs the company uses streak as our CRM, because it’s embedded into G Suite. And that’s what we use for kind of like, I guess documents and in general information exchange between us. So it’s nice because our emails, it’s just it feels very fluid. For anyone that’s listening that’s interested in CRMs streak for me was revolutionary, because it all it feels like as a CRM UI embedded into your G Suite or your Google interface for for email, which feels natural for me. Example being, we get a form submitted from our website, you know, it gets sent into one of our inboxes or a couple of our inboxes and automatically will now get to kind of put into a pipeline as well. lead. So, although we’re using, you know, WordPress on the front end for our website, it’s not stopping us from automatically qualifying a lead from submission. And we don’t need to use like Mercado and you know, like, and and Salesforce at the same time and figure out it’s we use a lot of scrappier tools. So yeah. So st for CRM, and then yeah, and then we do stuff with Zapier a lot. So we connect kind of workflows between our different software from its from the website to our member management, portal and billing software. It’s all kind of stitched together. But it’s really conditional logic around actions. So I guess you could do a lot of that in Salesforce itself, right? If that’s what you were using, but it takes customization.

Mack Allen 10:49
Yeah, yeah. Salesforce is the it’s the database. That’s that right? A big, like differentiator versus the current stack that you have. So it’s almost database first. And a lot of companies kind of miss that, or Salesforce represents themselves poorly on that front there, right? Yes, small business CRM just for you. And it’s great, like we believe in Salesforce, because we think that you should have a database, and you should put yourself in a position where, if your goal is to scale, yeah, that database is gonna hold you back. But it’s not for everyone. And it’s not always something you should do from the get go. It’s something you should kind of like, hope to do, like, get to Salesforce, put the right process in place, get your company to a place where it’s ready for Salesforce. And then people like us can come in, and we can really make the business hum. So So what

Qasim Virjee 11:39
are some examples of what you guys do that enable that kind of the you like, I guess it’s nice to keep track of all your data? Yeah. But at what point does the sales flow data out of a database inform better process? Yeah.

Mack Allen 11:57
So it’s diagnosing what character what leads the business to its ideal outcome? I? Often that’s revenue, right. So right, let’s get more people in the door. Let’s get more people choosing to buy and let’s get people to buy more stuff. Those three questions are what we can answer in Salesforce on a day to day basis. And so great. Now management answers those questions, they can make business decisions off of it. And the better case, and that’s where true red butter, I think what we do well versus other partners is take that goal and say, Well, I’m a rep, I’m sitting down at my desk in the morning, I’ve only got eight hours here. What should I do next? Invest pursuing those three aspects, getting more people in the door, having them buy or having them buy more stuff. And if you can tell a rep Hey, this is the call you should make or just plug in play put up small, a university kid and a chair and have them sell just as effectively as a five year vet. That’s a game changer. Absolutely. So you can get there. You know, that’s that’s the the vision but a lot of people can’t get there with Salesforce. That’s what we’re trying to help them out with.

Mitch McCabe 13:00
Yeah, I think something, the biggest thing that we found is been the biggest hold back is adoption is like, like you said, you kind of buy it out of the box, and you have this great powerful tool at your side, but no real direction or use on how to get there. And so that’s what we’re trying to tackle the best and it takes it takes work. It takes like a lot of training calls. That’s why you hear instead of your drinking game is when you hear us say Salesforce, because we’re in there on conference calls with our clients yelling at them, yelling with them, helping them but being loud about it. So apologies for that for the noise. But no, it’s fun. Yeah, it’s it’s sitting with them and adopting with them. And sometimes that’s working with you know, a rep, that’s just not understanding what we’ve built or just can’t quite grasp it. And we spend that extra hour with them until they feel comfortable in the system. And it is an easy system for everyone. Like, once you have good direction. Everyone can use it and use it effectively. So that’s what we’ve been trying to do.

Qasim Virjee 13:59
So aside from kind of like Salesforce customization, it sounds like what else do you do is you’ve created your flavor of Salesforce for people to get running with, right? And then customize that depending on the organization.

Mitch McCabe 14:12
Exactly, yeah, we’ve created like a base template that we start every new implementation with and then from there, we kind of branch off and we keep adding to this template and changing it and you know, moving it as we go along, but

Mack Allen 14:25
you could tell an emergence lab Salesforce instance from 50 feet away. Like we’ve

Qasim Virjee 14:29
got to take a look at that at some point. I can’t believe I’ve not seen it. Yeah.

Mitch McCabe 14:34
Yeah, he does hear about it. He

Qasim Virjee 14:37
will do it as another session. That’s a video session. Yeah, yeah, actually, if any listeners are interested in in Salesforce specifically and in CRM customization stuff, maybe we could do it as a as kind of like a not a webinar, but we’ll do it as a live video thing that people can kind of like absolute into. Definitely wicked. So then give me a picture of the type of customers you guys work for or work with. I should say,

Mack Allen 15:01
Yeah, we have two main niches that just align with CRM the best. And that’s going to be like your manufacturing distributor logistics types companies where they have massive deal size, right. And they really need to have their pipeline honed and forecasting super important for them, because they spend a ton of money on facilitating their product every year. And then the other side is the SAS company. So I had this guy a few years ago made me laugh, say, like, SAS software’s just a bunch of software companies all selling to each other, he used some funny or words at the time, but it’s just like, basically software company buying from software companies and this endless thing. And there’s actually no value provided to anyone other than software companies. So the most common customer actually is software companies buying software from us. Because for them, like retention and lifetime value for clients is critical. And if you don’t know what’s going on with your customer base, that lifetime value is going to disappear, you’re going to be churning a ton of customers not knowing about it, not knowing how to fix it.

Qasim Virjee 16:10
And how are you guys doing your own sales process? Our people? Is it natural inbound? I mean, we walked into the studio talking about content a little bit, and you’re want to kind of jump in here and record some of your own stuff soon. But until that point, how are you guys driving your own sales.

Mitch McCabe 16:29
So yeah, we we work with a EES and reps at Salesforce that Mac has created relationships with over the years and that we’ve started to meet and start working on deals with so essentially, they’ll bring us in to kind of help sell the instance in the first place, we can provide, you know, that customization flavor and tell them, you know, more specifically what we can do for them. And sometimes it ends up being the convincing reason why they buy Salesforce in the first place. So the reps are happy with with us. And we’re happy with the reps when they find deals that you know, are in our niche markets and are looking for suitable things that we that they know we can we can knock out of the park. It’s

Qasim Virjee 17:09
interesting, because it’s one of the few I think software’s that Salesforce has actually gotten a lot better in last years of this approach, right of saying that, it is like you said Mac, it is the database for your company, realistically, and a lot of power under the hood, and it will require some work to get it to the way that you want it. But here, these are the guys that are gonna help you that’s that’s actually kind of cool. Yeah. But yeah, it’s a rare type of software in the world of software, I think for that to be able to be palatable by customers, right?

Mack Allen 17:42
Yeah, absolutely. And like, that’s our, what our methodologies come in, I think differentiates this a lot as much as Salesforce has this big network of partners, like we’re one of 1000s and 1000s, of companies that are doing the same kind of thing. But there’s still a lot of failure, like a lot of partners, can’t get companies to where they need to go right and partly on the company’s not buying into the process, partly on the partners for not creating a good conduit for success. But that’s what we’re trying to tap into is say like, whoa, our clients are successful. And like, we’re, we’re committed to that there’s no way that we’re walking away from this project without the client saying, You know what, I’m tapping out, I’m not interested. But you guys did a good job. That’s the only case where we really have a client being successful.

Qasim Virjee 18:26
Yeah, no, it’s I mean, you’re, you’re in a very interesting kind of service thing. We’re essentially you are hand holding your clients along their success directory in this hopefully, limitless kind of potential, if they’re large enough scale. And if they’re SaaS, I don’t know. Can you cite any examples of your customers? Like, who do you work with? Are there any particular ones of note that you want to call out as kind of case study double?

Mack Allen 18:51
Ah, yeah, so we work with a few few software companies that people might recognize and 460 is like an Instagram shoppable Instagram app. So you might find yourself on like, Mvmt watches one of those popular Instagram sellers. Sure, on their website, and you can like hover over a watch for them. And it’s gonna be like, This is what this watch looks like on Instagram and it kind of like aggregates photos, okay, of that watch in real life. So that’s cool software company, customer of ours, got a few software companies out in Waterloo, being Athena Athena software, kind of mainly just writing a case study on them now, what do they do like case management software, so they more cater like municipalities. So not as exciting and flashy. But they’re definitely a more mature software company and like, a real big name in the Waterloo area. Okay. Although consumers wouldn’t necessarily know as much about Sure. And that’s, you know, just the tip of the iceberg. We have over 50 successful clients so far and county Zoo. Yeah, exciting stuff.

Qasim Virjee 20:00
So as a team, how did you come together? How did the company I guess, Mac, this is like, you were like, Okay, I need to do my own thing I want to like, you know, build on what I know at Salesforce and you set about to create the company. What happened then? In terms of

Mack Allen 20:17
Yeah, story? Yeah, we, it was just me like slogging out on my own and figuring out what could happen if I was even capable of, of making a difference in the partner space. So many partners exist. Yeah. And started to get some early success with like, oh, wow, I guess we’re validating the solution, it’s working. And then I like reached out to a buddy of mine. And his brother was just like, working at a hotel at the time and knew from university and I was like, I believe in the fact that Salesforce is supposed to be something that my customers can put a university kid in the chair of, and sell the crap out of whatever they have. Yeah. So I was like, Oh, I’m gonna buy into that. So I’m gonna get a university kid, never use Salesforce and train them up. One, it’s cheaper, so cheap on our front, but to kind of validate the whole idea that with the right kind of methodology, anyone can do it. Sure. And so that was Matt,

Mitch McCabe 21:14
by the way. Yeah, that wasn’t me.

Mack Allen 21:17
Mitch was Mitch was a more impactful addition to the team. So he, I brought him on as a partner, because he’s got all this financial experience. And the big equation is great. We’re talking about CRM and customers, but if we can’t say how profitable as this customer, right, right, and rank them in real time, like I walk in your front door, you know, I’m one of your top 10 most profitable customers. You probably know that already. But a lot of companies can’t quite answer that that well. The financial side is big. So Mitch has been huge on on that side. So shortly after brought him in, had another university friend miles. So it’s, we’re pretty much all like friends in a network.

Qasim Virjee 21:51
And yeah, you guys play basketball together, right?

Mack Allen 21:55
Play basketball together, drank together.

Mitch McCabe 21:59
Actually, though, yeah. The first time I met Mac was in first year university in residence. Like, he just happened to be in my hall. So like, I had a random roommate and him and his friend, Brandon from high school. Were down the hall for me and I, we just became friends just from being in stock on the same floor and then ended up like living together and university and here in Toronto for a bit as well. And then well, we connect here. And yeah, so for from my side, I think Maxim did upgrade there. But like I said, I was working at an accounting firm for over four years, I quit at the, at the start of last summer of June. And I was like, oh, you know, I’ll take a month off and figure out what I want to do next. And one month turned into two months in three months, and really break it out. Yeah, I was like, you know,

Mack Allen 22:43
like, I wasn’t even looking for jobs. Yeah, just enjoying not working. I don’t want to go,

Mitch McCabe 22:51
I made enough money already. retiree had a bit of a bit of a crisis there because I didn’t want but then didn’t know what I wanted to do. Basically, I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. Right. I wanted to make the next decision, you know, the right one. And it’s tough sometimes when you’re lost in today’s world, and in Toronto, with all these things happening and everyone she coming

Qasim Virjee 23:13
out of a professional, you know, I would assume a professional kind of track where Yeah, school, you start working. And then okay, you’re doing it. And exactly what is this

Mitch McCabe 23:24
everything and it was that for me as well, like, I don’t want to go too far into my past here, but kind of started right at like, the, like the week after we graduated. We were here me and Mack basically just picked a spot on the map. I didn’t even know anything about Toronto, any villages nothing. We just like, picked a spa got an apartment because I had to start work the next week and, you know, head down for four years since then. So this is kind of my four years

Qasim Virjee 23:47
to get a job.

Mitch McCabe 23:51
Yeah, so it’s kind of like the first head out moment. And then yeah, I started kind of helping Mack out with just some of the financial stuff like some bookkeeping, you know, incorporation stuff that I picked up over my time at my accounting firm. And then he asked me to, to kind of come on full time and start seeing what we can do and it’s been awesome ever since we’ve been having a lot of fun and been learning a ton about the world of Salesforce and CRMs and using my financial knowledge to try to tie the knot we use. I can’t I can’t ever tell if it’s Zapier or Zapier, as I heard you say sounds

Mack Allen 24:26
like zap so Zapier, I don’t know that I can do the thing itself need to

Mitch McCabe 24:31
let us know Zapier Zapier to and I always say that it’s like

Qasim Virjee 24:35
a it’s like a sword. rapier Right. Right. Is it is

Mack Allen 24:39
it maybe it’s it? Yeah, I think you’re right though, cuz I was thinking the same thing. Oh, yeah, no idea.

Mitch McCabe 24:45
Anyways, we’ve been we’ve been toying around with trying to connect useful accounting data from Salesforce as well and using Zapier or Zapier. Yep, to do so. And we do it in our instance for like our internal stuff as well. Just basically like you said, any action on Salesforce could trigger in an equal action in QuickBooks and back and forth and talking to them or whatever software.

Qasim Virjee 25:08
So how much you can do with that stuff,

Mack Allen 25:09
right? Coolest, coolest middleware tool that’s been built by far. And those guys are all in a distributed workforce. They don’t even have an

Qasim Virjee 25:16
office. I know. It’s amazing. Yeah, they’re cool. I’ve done some crazy stuff with it. Like in the past, I created. The world’s first that I think that I know of no ideas is definitely automated deployment architecture for a cloud hosted version of this open source software called Rocket chat. Rocket chat is like, is the biggest, it’s supposed to be like single instance. So not really like a cloud. Sack. It’s not really a SAS architecture for creating alternatives to slack. But it’s essentially like an open source slack that anyone can install on their own server. Okay, but the big posit I had when I discovered I was like, Holy shit, this is free slack. Right? And we’re slacks eight bucks a user. Yeah, that seems like an amazing kind of scale business for medium to large sized companies that want to have a chat tool. This is like four years ago or something. Yeah. So I used like Zapier, in literally two days to create this system that kind of like deploys an instance of the software on a cloud hosting platform, based on like, a stripe signup form on a website, so someone just pays for a subscription. And then Zapier pushes it off off to the cloud says deploy this based on these fields that someone enters in in terms of their preferred URL and stuff, right, which is just stripe data. Yeah. So it enters into the customer record, builds them deploys the server, and then you know, that connected it to like MailChimp or something to sell, send a welcome email. And it was just all literally a couple days, you know, and a couple cloud services and I had a whole business. Yeah. And it’s cool, because actually linked up with it, the core team in Brazil for that open source product, and consulted with them on their whole SAS architecture, and then handed off whatever I had saying, you know, I didn’t actually want to do it as a business right around the time I was starting start well, so I handed it off. But yeah, all Zapier So yeah, that’s really cool. Instant business, you know,

Mack Allen 27:22
yeah, if anybody’s not checking it out, like you could be, you could create a software business like that, like, That’s a great story and become

Qasim Virjee 27:28
a customer of emergency clubs. So

Mitch McCabe 27:34
I have a question for you. You mentioned those around the time you started start, well, like what? What kind of drove you to, you know, create this awesome. shared office space on King West?

Qasim Virjee 27:44
Oh, yeah, man. It’s a long and sordid tale. Actually, it’s not really it. There’s a couple ways that I answer that right. Typically, the long one is, is is really just everything in my career history. Since I was a teenager hustling Internet access in the 90s in Africa. Yeah. I was one of the first people online in Kenya when the internet came, and the Internet came circa adventurously by way of the United Nations Environment Program. So the UNDP headquarters for the world is in Nairobi. And I used to do Model United Nations at the UN. So I kind of knew as a high school student, I knew the campus and I knew some people that worked there. And when they got a leased line, which was actually sorry, it wasn’t even leased. I mean, what they got it was essentially a SAT line to the internet. So super expensive at the time, like God knows how much they cost. They and it was super slow. They had the satellite connection that was giving the United Nations their internet connection. I linked up with this nonprofit that was founded by a guy who then became a minister in the government. And he created this nonprofit, that somehow because it was a nonprofit, I guess, right? He convinced the United Nations to do a leased line from their campus to this little house that he owned. And, and he was like, will lease like, I don’t know, it was like 10k baht or something from you run it over copper wire. I hope no one steals the copper wire because that was a big problem in Nairobi at the time people would like cut down lines for the copper, solid copper in the market. Your telephone, I could disappear it anyway.

Mitch McCabe 29:25
And they got it again. Yeah.

Qasim Virjee 29:27
So I don’t know some some son of another minister in the government gave me access credentials to log into this guy’s ISP, which really no one knew about there’s like five of us or 10 of us that used it. It wasn’t realized he was just this house with a couple of people that were using these modems plugged into this line that was stolen off of a satellite connection from United Nations. So that’s where my crazy career with internet stuff began. Yeah, but it was revolutionary because the way I discovered the internet was as a Canadian who at age 11, moved to Nairobi. Living in this, you know, dictatorship. And it was like set apart from the world that I knew. So I immediately connected with the ability for the Internet to open up multilateral communication and facilitate new relationship formation. So ever since then, like in last 20 plus years, I’ve been thinking about this idea of kind of insider outsider perspective, how people need to come together the early Internet, and then what happened in the last 10 years of its rapid commercialization, how that kind of, I think broke apart the shared experience, or has stratify the shared experience online little bit. So in the last decade of doing all sorts of other internet stuff. And starting a few startups, you know, I’ve had teams that flexed in size work remotely, worked across the world. So I had companies like at a Bollywood distribution company that was like a Netflix for India, I’ll get filmy. And I used to fly to India to license films. We had an audience there, we had an audience in like the UAE, we had all sorts of people that would subscribe to watch Bollywood films on my platform that I built myself without going crazy. The business didn’t work, it was far too expensive to license films and get catalog refresh quick enough. And then there’s so many other things that happened. We worked with this group to license the Virgin brand for India. So we’re going to wrap my company with the Virgin brand, and acquire $40 million of assets that were film production studio and film distribution studios in India. And we went shopping all around the world for the money we got back in 20. But we couldn’t get the front 20 million. And that was the point where I kind of threw in the towel. But in all that kind of experience of doing lots of different companies in the last couple of decades around the world, this idea of kind of like people coming together to do something together has only increased in the or the importance on that I’ve only seen increase. And yeah, I don’t know, I’ve been in Toronto since night. 2004 or five,

Mack Allen 32:08
from like, Where were you living before? That I

Qasim Virjee 32:10
was in New York before that for a while? Okay. Um, but yeah, moving to here was the scene and it’s been on previous, you know, listeners of our podcast will recall some nostalgia and previous episodes where I’ve talked to a couple people about, like, the tech scene here in, you know, 2005 678, like a decade ago, right around the time that Facebook was just about to come about, you know, and all the social networking stuff was new. It was like a meetup in the tech scene here was like 50 people Max, right, you know, and now we have these, like, tech to type of ads that are like, what, five 600? People bonkers. Yeah. And it’s like, they don’t even have to tell people events happening. And they’re already there. Yeah, and so lots happened. And so in with that, you know, I’ve been looking at, I guess, where people work together in specifically, it’s like for startups. And in the last few years, especially with running software, and then IBM’s startup program across Canada, was one of the positions I held in the last little while, I looked at all the incubator accelerators, and you know, co working spaces across Canada. And I saw something lacking, especially in Toronto, which is this merger of kind of like space for innovative, or innovators, which could be technologists or other people, and creatives. And I see these two worlds kind of being pulled in different directions, especially with real estate becoming so expensive in Toronto. So, I found a start well, with the posit of creating a kind of a space for the interconnection of the arts, creativity, and technology, a place where really, people could kind of like come together. And particularly, I don’t know if you guys have found this already, but like, I really wanted it to be a place where people were professional about whatever they were undertaking as their as their business. So it’s not really like kind of people looking for validation. You know, you have a lot of these startup spaces where people are like building on an idea. They’re ideation, they’re precede they get some money from someone, and they don’t know if they should have they feel kind of like thieves. They stole that money. And they’re, you know, they’re just like, they’re just hustling and they don’t know what the hell’s going on kind of thing. Yeah. Whereas here, I think everyone’s kind of doing their thing the second third time founders if they’re startups, otherwise the services companies that have like founded for an actual mission. And so the energy is totally different. Anyway, yeah. That’s a long winded kind of right now We by no means exhaustive answer. Yeah.

Mack Allen 34:42
I mean, like, funny because we worked in my apartment around a table we had like a plastic table and then my like, little kitchen table in Toronto apartment here, right? Like no one has tables, table, table, and we’re all like sitting around it, and just kind of working, grinding growing the business to the point where we just had our eyes set, we started looking around, like the different work co working spaces, January and then moved in here in March or whatever. But yeah, this has been awesome for us. We love the space that you’ve put together. So a lot better than mine. Yeah, that’s

Mitch McCabe 35:20
yeah. And I think it’s, it’s cool for sure. Kind of your vision there of keeping the arts and technology people together. And you can see that here for sure you have been we have a bunch of musicians here I’ve met and right. It’s a bunch of people doing really interesting stuff. And even just striking up conversation with anyone you see. And, you know, in the event space or in downstairs, it’s it’s been very interesting. And there’s a lot of cool people here. So really enjoying it.

Qasim Virjee 35:46
That’s great feedback. Thanks. You know, and that’s, that’s what I hear from everyone. It’s, it’s cool, because it’s like, it’s not, you know, meant to be a pat on the back. It’s just that we all I think, share that love of kind of social interaction and the feeling of opportunity every day around us. And that’s, that’s what it’s about.

Mitch McCabe 36:04
Yeah. And you see people, people grinding it out and inspires you to work a little harder as well. And you hear people next door doing cool stuff. You’re like, all right.

Mack Allen 36:12
There’s such a diverse group of businesses in here to totally like, there’s like, game developers downstairs and stuff like we Yeah, you catch the whole spectrum here. Nice. It’s nice. If there’s any creatives that are willing to do some like murals and stuff for us. I want to get like an emergence labs like posters something big done. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Put up in her office so we can hook you up. It’s a lot to chat with.

Mitch McCabe 36:36
So I see your dartboard over in your office castle. Yeah, I never played darts. We gotta we gotta hit this. I want to come over. I want smoke on it.

Qasim Virjee 36:45
Let’s do it. Absolutely. Yeah, that’s a fun treats in our office. We’ve got a little bar that’s growing in our office. We never drink because we have an actual bar.

Mitch McCabe 36:54
Yeah. And with the socials, we’ve just been so busy. It seemingly like Thursday’s around that time become just a super busy time for us. But we’ve been wanting to come every week. We’re like, we gotta go this week. We want to get up there. And they’re talking to people. But we had, like, we haven’t came to as many as we like, but we’ll be we’ll be coming this summer will be.

Qasim Virjee 37:13
No, the summer ones are fun, too. You know, because we, for anyone that’s listening, feel free to drop by. Typically we Thursday from four to 6pm. And then in summer, they run a bit longer. But we do these socials where it’s our community can invite their clients, you know, friends, family, whoever, and just come by for an open bar and hang out. But in the summertime, we’ll have guest DJs and it gets kind of fun. Nice opens up. You know, we have the windows open and people come in from the street. It’s fun.

Mack Allen 37:41
Yeah, that’s awesome. So let’s face up there.

Qasim Virjee 37:43
Yeah. And otherwise, so murals. But anything else before we before we end, this conversation will continue with with many more sessions, I’m sure. I definitely want to take a look at what you guys have built and share that with with our audience over the internet. But yeah, emergence labs, what’s happening next few months, anything that you need? Are you guys hiring? Are you looking for particular collaborators or partners that you want to just shout out on the mic?

Mack Allen 38:10
Yeah, I mean, the shout out would surely be that we’re always looking at collaborate with other businesses that are trying to take small midsize businesses to the next level, we often will rack make recommendations to our clients of other partners that are adjacent to our services. And yeah, we need talent, big talent, visionary talent, and talent that’s willing to take pride in their work for sure. So we’re, we’re hoping hire a couple buddies this year. And in rolling capacity

Qasim Virjee 38:42
space, any particular capacity, like in sales, the type

Mack Allen 38:45
of Yeah, the type of person that’s going to do well, in our space is kind of like a, there’s this concept of full stack developers, right? I want to put out a concept of like, full stack consultants. So you’re well versed in business, you’re also well versed in technology and finding that intersection is very difficult. It’s

Qasim Virjee 39:03
funny, it’s weird how people are like, Yeah, you’re either on the front end of business, or you’re in the back end, grinding it out. Yeah, there should be that harmony between the two roles, right?

Mack Allen 39:12
Yeah. You’re either good at putting PowerPoints on and doing presentations strategy, are you good with with code and a laptop and don’t want to talk to anybody? We’re all not that we’re right in the middle of them. So we’re always looking for people that have those kinds of skills.

Qasim Virjee 39:25
Nice. Well, I Yeah, it’s funny, because I can already think of a couple people that bounce your way. That’s fine. It’s rare, you know, like, whenever you have a conversation in passing with someone and they say, oh, you know, HTML. Oh, my God, was it difficult to learn? Like, well, you just teach yourself in two hours, man, go online, you know, so the people who asked me that I won’t send your way but the ones who are like yeah, of course, man. I do a little bit of CSS and I build my site from scratch. Why would I use this you know, CMS thing awesome. Nearly 100% Abi cool, wicked. pretty sure it was a pleasure taking some time to chat. Yeah, thanks for having us on. And lastly, I guess if people are looking for you online, where should they find you?

Mack Allen 40:08
Emergence labs.io. And its emergence, which you see at the end people often get that one wrong when it said out loud, so emergency M E, R G, E, N c, e labs.io, and then emergency underscore labs on Twitter.

Qasim Virjee 40:25
Okay, and of course, anyone listening to this can go to the Show page on START well.co/community It’ll be in there. And then of course, the description with some of these links will be on iTunes as well if that’s where you’re listening to this podcast. So feel free to join us at our website or on iTunes to bounce over these guys directly.

Mitch McCabe 40:47
Awesome. Wicked. Thanks, guys. Lots, sir.

Qasim Virjee 40:50
It was a pleasure. Cheers.

Unknown Speaker 40:51
Likewise,