Friday Headlines

Macklem's Warning: Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem (we're going to try to make T-Mack happen, btw) is warning that the next few months will be critical to the future of the Canadian economy, and said the Bank is not "actively discussing" negative interest rates. 

Alberta Geothermal: In a bid to diversify from oil and gas, Alberta's government is looking to develop its geothermal energy (using heat from below the surface of the Earth to generate electricity) sector.

Going Electric: The Federal and Ontario governments are investing $500m+ to retrofit Ford's Oakville plant to manufacture electric vehicles.

TikTok Saga, Vol. 819: First the U.S. tried to ban TikTok. Then a judge ruled that wasn't allowed. Now the U.S. Justice Department is appealing that ruling. That means the ultimate decision will get pushed to a higher court sometime in the future.

WayMo Goes Public: WayMo has launched a driverless car service to the public in Phoenix, Arizona. Who knows how this will go, but the promo video looks pretty futuristic.

Debating the Debate: The U.S. Presidential candidates can't even agree on disagreeing. The Commission in charge of the debates said they would make the next debate on October 15th virtual because, you know Trump has COVID. But now Trump has refused to do a virtual debate and wants it delayed, which Biden has said he won't do.

Prepping for The Worst: PM Trudeau told reporters that the government is preparing for how a disrupted or disputed Presidential election could impact Canada. Not something I want to think about, to be honest!

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Friday Q&A with Ben Feferman, CEO of Amuka Esports

It's Friday, and that means it's Peak Q&A time.

Every Friday we feature someone in the Canadia tech, finance, or startup space doing something cool and pick their brain to get practical and actionable tips and advice for the rest of us. 

This week we are featuring Ben Feferman, CEO of Amuka Esports, a Canadian leader in Esports tournaments, venues, and leagues.

Tell us a bit about who you are, your background, and what you do now.

Ben Feferman: I am the CEO of Amuka Esports, which is Canada's leader in esports venues, tournaments and leagues.  We operate two gaming arenas where people come to play and compete in different video games like Fortnite, League of Legends and Call of Duty. 
My background consists of 5 years as a film producer, specializing in documentary production and another 5 years in venture capital and investment banking.

What's one book that has taught you a lesson that you apply to your daily business life? What's that lesson?

BF: This one is a little out of left field, but Into the Wild by Jack Krakauer.  That was the book that really broke me out of my shell, inspired me to travel the world and live for the moment.  Sometimes when I'm stressed out to the max, I think about the book's subject Chris McCandless, his views on the world and ultimately his (SPOILER ALERT)  fatal travels to Alaska.
What evening and/or morning routines do you have that set you up for success?

BF: I have a natural alarm clock, my kids, so I typically get up around 6:30-7:00am.  I make them breakfast, get them dressed, and allot some time for myself for praying (a daily requirement for Orthodox Jews).  I actually try to avoid any work until they are out the door at 8:30 but its often hard not to check the news or social media in between.

Once at the office, I try to address all social media in the first 30 minutes and avoid using it until the evening.  I'll put out my daily LinkedIn content, answer all messages, see what's the latest scandal in esports and then move on.  I then race through emails, slack messages, WhatsApp threads and then focus on the daily schedule of calls, meetings and ongoing projects.

Every evening I almost do the reverse.  I go through all of the weekends to send out follow-ups or address necessary action items.  I go through all the emails, messages, etc for the day and then usually end up watching some esports content creators and finally fall asleep to an episode of Family Guy.

What are you involved in outside of your company? As in mentoring, boards, volunteering or other activities? How do you recommend others engage in activities outside of work and how do you give and get the most out of them?

BF: Outside of Amuka Esports my priority is spending as much time with family and my kids as possible.  I have 4 kids under 6, so it's a really busy house and I love doing anything and everything with them.  My oldest kids are starting to play video games so everyday Sunday night is Xbox night and we play some Minecraft, Roblox or the LEGO games.

Health and wellness is a huge part of my life and specifically running has been a transformational activity for me.  A couple of years ago I ran my first marathon, which was a huge accomplishment and at some point in my life, I want to qualify for Boston.

Finally, I'm very involved with numerous charities and love to be involved in creating new and innovative fundraising events and campaigns with a focus on esports and gaming.  Charity streams, events, tournaments etc. are an amazing ways for charities to engage their base especially during COVID.

What advice do you have for students or young professionals who are trying to position themselves in a competitive job market. What can they do to make themselves stand out?

BF: During a pandemic, it's not as easy to get out there, go to events, network, etc.  You have to be a little more creative.  In the esports industry, I also suggest the following

1) Be a thought leader:  Get our there on social media and post, comment and educate people about the industry.
2) Participate: Try streaming.  Enter a tournament.  Be in active in Discord servers
3) Volunteer:  Help with tournament organizing or amateur teams who are always looking for grassroots help.

Everything is online now, so it's actually a huge opportunity!

What's one app or another piece of technology that improves your productivity and you couldn't live without?

BF: As a content creator, I would definitely say StreamLabs.  Basically let's anyone easily run a live broadcast or stream.  As an extension of that, tools like restream.io and Discord which really help out as well.

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VEEP-OFF

Last night US Vice Presidential candidates Mike Pence and Kamala Harris faced off in their one and only debate. While the showdown was nothing like the first presidential debate, it was still fierce.

Debate Jabs:

  • Kamala Harris called the Trump admin’s handling of the coronavirus the “greatest failure of any presidential administration in our history.” 
  • Mike Pence took a shot at Joe Biden’s history of plagiarism, suggesting Biden’s campaign ripped off the Trump covid plan.
  • Both VP Candidates avoided a question about the transitioning of power if either of their running mates were to become incapacitated while President.
  • Kamala Harris brought up Trump’s $400 million of debt, asking who the president owes money to.
  • VP Pence vowed to hold China responsible for the coronavirus.

Road to the White House: We now have 26 days until Americans choose a new president, and as we all know anything can happen, but Biden continues to be the odds on favourite. The next presidential debate is scheduled for October 15th, but with Trump’s covid diagnosis it’s unclear if it will go ahead.

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Augmented Automakers

Big automakers are pouring cash into Envisics Inc., the UK augmented reality startup they see as a key piece in the transition to autonomous vehicles. The investment arms of GM and SAIC (the largest chinese automaker), Hyundai Mobis and other investors drove $50 million into the company’s Series B.

The Road Ahead is literally what Envisics technology helps the driver see by inserting a chip near the car’s instrument cluster and projecting a hologram of graphics and information on the windshield.

The tool is already being used in certain Land Rover and Range Rover models, and will be implemented in GM’s soon to be released Cadillac Lyriq SUV.  SAIC will also begin to implement the technology in some of its cars.

Driving Change

This augmented reality technology will be important in the transition to autonomous vehicles. Helping drivers understand how the autonomous system operates allows drivers to better take over in the event of a pedestrian or road feature the car is not properly attuned to. The hybrid approach also eases comfort of car owners and regulators making the transition.

Zoom Zoom Out… The shift to autonomous vehicles has been slower than some would like but that has not dampened the enthusiasm of legacy automakers investing in emerging technologies. GM and others have invested $7 billion into self-driving startup Cruise and Porsche recently led an $80 million round into WayRay, another augmented reality startup.
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Restaurant Relief

Under pressure to close restaurants again for indoor dining as covid cases spike, the Ontario government has come out with a handful of relief measures for the struggling restaurant industry.

  • PPE will be subsidized for small businesses through $1,000 one time grants, which will cover glass, gloves and face masks.
  • Booze delivery and takeout, which begun as a temporary measure at the outset of the pandemic, has been made permanent to help restaurants shore up their bottom line.
  • Support and pandemic related advice will be offered through Ontario’s Small Business Enterprise Centres.
  • Deliveries at retail and grocery stores can now be accepted 24/7, a change now made permanent.

The Ontario government is setting aside $60 million for the program as part of the Main Street Recovery Act.

Hot and Cold
Will $1,000 bucks do much to help a gutted sector? Ontario Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath calls the plan “delusional.” The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses thinks it’s a good first step, but would like to see targeted support similar to measures in Quebec which covered up to $15,000 of restaurants fixed costs.

On Plate: Only 28% of restaurants in Ontario are back to their pre-pandemic revenues, facing cold weather and the possibility of an end to indoor dining more permanent closures aren’t far off.
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Bye Bye Plastics!

The federal government is making good on a 2019 campaign promise to ban single use plastics with the announcement that plastics which are difficult to recycle will be the first to be scraped starting next year. 

What’s Banned: Plastic straws, grocery bags, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery, and food ware made from hard-to-recycle plastics.

The government also plans to implement recycled-content requirements in products and packaging.

Why Ban Plastics?

Plastics can be really bad for the environment. The items being banned are often found washed up on shorelines and in water systems around the world. Canada hopes the reduction of plastic use will eliminate 1.8 million tonnes of greenhouse-gas emissions per year.

Controversial Approach

The ban is implemented by listing plastics as ‘toxic’ under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). This is controversial for two reasons:

  1. It allows the Liberals to circumvent parliament to bring in the ban.
  2. Defining plastics as a toxic material could have implications for the interprovincial and international trade of plastics. A spokesperson for the Minister of the Environment says this change won’t affect trade, explaining labelling plastics as toxic “does not necessarily mean they are ‘toxic’ in the way the word is commonly used.”

Alberta is upset that the ban will hurt their oil industry and the province's plans to become a recycling hub. Industry groups are voicing concerns about the ‘toxic’ label, and the necessity of single use plastics in PPE.

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Peak Picks

Watch the 13-minute guitar solo by the late Eddie Van Halen that made him a legend.

Airlines are one of the hardest hit industries by COVID-19. Check-out this visualization to see just how bad it is.

A decoupling of supply chains between China and everywhere else is underway. See how such a huge economic shift could all play out.
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Leftovers

China: Canada begins accepting Hong Kong pro-democracy activists as refugees in a move likely to anger China.

Hootsuite: Two Hootsuite employees claim to have been fired after bringing light to the company's controversial contract with the US Immigrations and Customers Enforcement.

Relief: Prime Minister Trudeau commits to an additional $600 million in relief for small

Facebook: The tech giant is set to remove all QAnon pages ahead of US election.
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Supercluster F*ck

We don't have a swearing policy at The Peak but I wanted to push the boundaries with that header. A new report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer alleges that the Government's supercluster plan is far behind schedule and unlikely to create as many jobs as promised.

What's a Supercluster?

  • In 2017, Prime Minister Trudeau's government unveiled a plan to create hubs of innovation by bringing together companies, post-secondary and research institutions.
  • The initiative focused on creating regional hubs for the areas of ocean sciences, artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing, protein industry, and digital technology.
  • The Government contributed $918 million over five years to fund projects that would drive innovation and economic growth in the Supercluster's focus areas. The Liberals expected industry to contribute an additional $1 billion.
What's wrong with them? According to the independent Parliamentary Budget Officer, spending of the $918 million has been far slower than expected and job growth doesn't appear to be on track with the 50,000 new jobs that the Prime Minister originally promised.

Additionally, the PBO Officer couldn't find any international research to support the Liberals claims of how much the supercluster program would contribute to the Canadian economy.

One of the problems is the lack of IP protection. So instead of benefitting the Canadian economy, critics argue that companies are using the Supercluster's funds to develop innovations that pad their bottom line.

Bottom line: Superclusters were a marquee part of the Liberal Government's job creation plan. It all sounds great... but with much of the money going to huge corporations, it has the potential to become a corporate welfare boondoggle.
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The Big Breakup

  • Monopolies: Tech companies use their platforms to extort independent businesses. A frequently used example is Apple demanding that all apps on the App Store give them a 30 percent cut of their in-app purchases.
What are they going to do about it? The report suggests a number of solutions including breaking up of the big tech companies altogether, emboldening agencies that govern market competitiveness, and reforming anti-trust laws to create a stronger review of acquisitions.

What's next: To take action on their recommendations, the Democrats need to turn this report into legislation. But Republicans came out strongly against their recommendations, arguing that many of the proposals are too intrusive. As long as Republicans control the Senate, it's unlikely any of these proposals will become law.

Zoom out: The report was a pivotal step forward in the fight against big tech and provides a framework for future regulations that could enable antitrust cases against Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon.

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