WHO THEY ARE: Two women from Kitchener are the duo behind a subscription-based app designed to make communication easier for construction workers. Bridgit connects contractors and skilled labourers to a single platform to keep everyone updated on each step — and every hiccup — in a construction project. The app integrates text communications, images and other tools.WHERE THEY’LL GO: Bridgit is already being used on condo projects in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. A beta launch in New York is leading up to a broader U.S. expansion in the new year.WHY THEY’LL GROW: The construction industry can be a complex beast and communication has been one of its greatest challenges. Earlier this month, the founders won the top prize at Google’s Entrepreneurs Demo Day for Women in San Francisco, a competition of 11 startups from around the globe, creating more buzz for what could an industry-wide solution.THE HURDLES: Developers pay Bridgit a flat rate on a project-by-project basis, which means the founders will have to ensure there aren’t any snags in its rollout that sour customers.———HootsuiteHO-Hootsuite/The Canadian Press TORONTO — Canada’s technology sector was a hotbed of activity this year as investors circled a new generation of startups in hopes of getting in early for the next rising star. The steep decline in crude oil prices has offered extra incentive to get behind a different sector in 2016 in the hunt for the next Shopify success story.Here are four growing Canadian tech companies that have the potential to grab plenty of attention next year, from both investors and consumers:ZootlyScreenshot/Zootly.com WHO THEY ARE: With a Canadian at the helm of this New York-based company, and half of its 22 employees in Kitchener, Ont., Zootly is making noise on both sides of the border. The startup wants to deliver a shot in the arm to the moving industry with an on-demand app much like Uber. Zootly works as a logistics operator, connecting reputable moving companies — which generally lack a strong online presence — with people looking to use their services.WHERE THEY’LL GO: Zootly works in New York and the company plans to roll out across the United States and Canada starting in 2016.WHY THEY’LL GROW: Unlike Airbnb and Uber, Zootly partners with movers rather than working against the existing industry, which means pushback should be minimal. So far, they have about 25 moving companies on their side in New York representing about 250 moving trucks.THE HURDLES: Zootly planned to launch as a public company this year but hit a snag when its reverse takeover of Ethos Gold, a gold miner listed on the TSX Venture Exchange, fell apart in the final hours. The move would have sped up Zootly’s IPO process and given the company an ability to use Ethos’ former tax losses to its advantage. At this point, Zootly is looking at alternatives and still aims to go public next year.Canadian startup Shoes.com eyes fall IPO after raising $45 million in funding roundCanada’s tech sector is so hot investors are going to boot camp to get a piece of it———BridgitHandout/Bridgit WHO THEY ARE: Founder Roger Hardy shifted his attention from heads to toes, selling off successful eye-care web business ClearlyContacts.ca and shovelling some of the money into shoes. He paired with a number of financiers to merge two e-commerce shoe retailers — ShoeMe.ca in Vancouver and OnlineShoes.com in Seattle — into a larger business that could trample the competition.WHERE THEY’LL GO: Shoes.com is taking a page from traditional retail by opening physical stores in major cities across Canada. The company wants to mimic pop-up stores by stocking only one brand of shoes each month. Shoes.com is also expanding into new product lines through its acquisition of socks and underwear company Richer Poorer.WHY THEY’LL GROW: Shoes are big business and Shoes.com prides itself in offering 450 brands, about double the selection of its major competitors.THE HURDLES: Retailers who have expanded product lines too quickly often end up overwhelmed by complications. If Shoes.com strays too far from its business model, it might learn that lesson the hard way. WHO THEY ARE: The Vancouver-based social media management developer has built a business on its computer “dashboard” software that links outlets like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn under one profile, making it easier to manage posts across various platforms. Consumers can use a free version of the dashboard while more serious users can upgrade to a premium account for a monthly subscription fee.WHERE THEY’LL GO: Hootsuite is forging more partnerships, most recently with Microsoft’s suite of business tools like SharePoint, Yammer and Dynamics CRM to enhance marketing on social media, offering new insights into consumer activity.WHY THEY’LL GROW: The company is chasing business clients willing to fork out big bucks for the support of account managers and analytics data.THE HURDLES: In early December, Hootsuite laid off about 20 employees in Vancouver, part of its international staff of about 1,000 people, sparking questions about whether the company was tweaking its business to look more attractive for an expected IPO. The company has 1,000 employees across North America. Chief executive Ryan Holmes has spoken about speeding up plans to go public, but so far that hasn’t come to fruition, and representatives for HootSuite declined to talk about its future.———Shoes.comBen Nelms for National Post read more

Faced with high demand for their services coupled with scarce resources, many programs designed for children who require accommodations rely heavily on volunteer support.How to efficiently and effectively train those volunteers is at the heart of research conducted by Brock Applied Disability Studies master’s student Sarah Davis.Even before Davis’ thesis project evolved, her supervisor, Associate Professor of Applied Disability Studies Kendra Thomson, had discussed a potential cross-Faculty collaboration with Maureen Connolly, Professor of Kinesiology and founder of Supporting Neurodiversity through Adaptive Programming (SNAP).“Our department really values collaborations and multi-disciplinary approaches to problems,” says Thomson. “I thought it would be very interesting to see what we could learn from each other.”The resulting collaboration allowed Davis to connect with volunteers in the SNAP program to test the efficacy of the Behavioural Skills Training (BST) model within the context of the physical education program for children with special needs.SNAP offers weekly activity programs for school-aged children and youth experiencing disability. The program relies on volunteers from among the Brock University student population.Davis’ research included both a quantitative and qualitative aspect. With her quantitative research, she wanted to know whether the BST model, which has been empirically validated, could be improved.Based on applied behaviour analysis (ABA), the BST model is comprised of four components: instructions, modelling, rehearsal and feedback. While the model has been proven to be effective as a package, Davis wanted to know if the individual steps could be effective on their own.Davis knows first-hand the challenges faced by clinicians on the frontlines of the health system working and volunteering in a number of community organizations serving individuals with developmental disabilities.“Resources are always very limited, especially in volunteer-based programs,” says Davis. “We wanted to see if we could save valuable time and resources by using just instructions or just modelling.”Davis found that with only individual components of BST instead of the whole four-step package, individuals do acquire the skills being taught, but they don’t maintain those skills for long. That’s an important consideration for clinicians when they’re put in the position of training volunteers and want to do that effectively and efficiently, she says.“In a pinch, I know I can get away with just giving instructions, but I also know that I’ll have to go back and continue to provide instructions intermittently,” she says. “Or, I can just go with the full BST approach from the beginning because we saw that maintenance was not affected when they had the whole BST framework.”The qualitative component of Davis’ thesis explored how learning BST might inform how the SNAP volunteers approached teaching new skills to individuals with developmental disabilities. Davis interviewed SNAP volunteers to find out about their training and about their experiences with the program.“That was really rich information,” says Thomson.The qualitative data provided a “solid rationale to provide training,” says Davis, and especially feedback.That is particularly important for supervisors or managers to understand, says Thomson.“They typically struggle with delivering feedback — tough feedback sometimes — but the volunteers were telling us that it was what they really wanted.”The results of this research could apply across a range of fields.“The framework is general,” says Thomson. “Evaluating it in different contexts gives us more confidence that the framework is causing the improved outcomes.”Working across disciplines was challenging and rewarding for both Davis and Thomson.“We ended up learning a lot from each other in terms of methodology,” Thomson says. “I’ve never been a qualitative researcher and Sarah got thrown right into learning how to conduct a qualitative study.”She says thesis committee members Maureen Connolly and Priscilla Burnham Riosa were instrumental in that learning.“One of the take-home messages for us was that fields that seem divergent and speak different languages, when you really break things down, share the same sort of core values or core approaches,” says Thomson.Davis agrees.“I think that was the most interesting part of the research. I got to look at this intersection point between quantitative and qualitative analysis, and that’s where the most novel information was coming out.“We’re describing things completely differently but we’re talking about the same thing. Sometimes people just get lost in the labels.” read more