Mack Male

Mack is the co-founder of Taproot Edmonton.

Stories, sidebars, and posts

QuoteToMe has raised $1 million to reimagine construction procurement

QuoteToMe has successfully closed a $1 million seed financing round led by Seer Developments, SkipTheDishes co-founder Chris Simair, and Startup TNT. The company’s digital construction purchasing service launched in November to help contractors save money on materials and digitize paper-based processes.

"Since November we’ve achieved month-over-month growth of 90%, so that’s pretty exciting," said founder and CEO John Chabluk. "We’re now working with some of Canada’s largest contractors."

The company, founded in 2017, has 14 employees, who are mostly in Edmonton. It will use the funds to keep up with growing demand. Chabluk noted the COVID-19 pandemic has helped accelerate the use of its services as construction companies increasingly adopt digital innovation.

Last month, QuoteToMe wrapped up participation in the Propel pre-accelerator program from Startup Edmonton. "It was an amazing way to get integrated into the community," said Chabluk. "I wish we had been in the program during the first three months of our company!"

The seed round came together slowly but now that the company has momentum, Chabluk is preparing to launch a $2 million bridge round to facilitate a Canada-wide expansion within the next 12 to 18 months.

QuoteToMe’s 2019 Q2 Advisory Meeting: Paul Verhesen, Barrie Bridgeman, Joel Semeniuk, Andrew Langstone, Roman Jaworsky, John Chabluk. Supplied.

Strategic support

Paul Verhesen, former CEO and partner at Clark Builders, is one of the company’s advisors. He first learned of QuoteToMe when Clark’s Northstar Equipment Rentals business was facing competition from the startup (equipment rental was an early line of business for QuoteToMe).

Around the same time, a friend had challenged Verhesen to do more to help bring about the innovation in the industry he was always talking about. Though he was a founding member of Canadian Construction Innovations (one of the reasons he was awarded the Edmonton Construction Association’s Claude Alston Award in 2017), Verhesen had not yet opened up his pocketbook.

"It really hit home," Verhesen said of his friend’s challenge. "It’s easy to say someone else has to take responsibility, but all of us as individuals have to do that."

So Verhesen decided to meet with Chabluk and his team, and he quickly realized they were on to something. A few months later, he was talking more seriously with the startup and today is a strategic investor in QuoteToMe.

How it works

QuoteToMe helps contractors order materials and equipment digitally by centralizing communication and handling quote comparisons which can often result in better pricing. It makes money by charging a small percentage on each transaction.

Though it’s an integral part of their business, purchasing is something that construction companies often aren’t focused on, Chabluk said. That leads to increased costs.

"Most construction companies know they have this problem, but they didn’t have a solution, or had more important priorities," he said. "It is a complex problem that we aim to simplify."

Verhesen agrees. "That purchase of lumber is probably the least serious part of your day, it’s not high on your priority list," he said. "But the cumulative impact of those purchases is significant, and that’s what QuoteToMe has exposed."

"The average savings for our customers is 20%," said Chabluk. "The construction industry has extremely tight margins, so to be able to save that amount is huge."

Growing from Edmonton

Chabluk, who hails from Winnipeg, says the company will remain based in Edmonton as it grows, though a new sales team in Ontario is currently planned.

"Edmonton is a construction hub for Canada," he said. "It has been an incredibly welcoming place for us to run the company."

Verhesen sees "plenty of talent and entrepreneurial moxie" in Edmonton, and notes that the city used to be a proving ground for contractors. "If you could make it in Edmonton, you could go elsewhere and be successful."

But he worries that the industry has become complacent.

"I want to get back to the days where Edmonton is cultivating the next generation of contracting expertise."

Verhesen sees no reason why QuoteToMe can’t be successful from Edmonton.

"QuoteToMe could be the next PCL Construction."

Meet our new Health Innovation Roundup curator

We’d like to introduce you to Hiba Kamal-Choufi, who started curating the Health Innovation Roundup a few weeks ago.

Hiba has been keeping a close eye on what’s going on in the health innovation space. As you can imagine, the past month has been quite a unique time to take over this particular roundup! Hiba has done a great job of curating the latest COVID-19-related news as well as other updates from the sector.

Hiba Kamal-Choufi, our new Health Innovation Roundup curator

Hiba started her career as a news editor in Beirut, covering stories that involved a range of topics, including the Arab uprisings in 2010 and 2011. After moving to Edmonton, she joined Shaw TV and has since held a number of communications positions. She has a master’s degree in communications and technology (MACT) from the University of Alberta and holds an M.A. in international relations and B.A. in journalism from Beirut, Lebanon. Hiba is currently the Director of Jobline and Email Marketing at IABC Edmonton.

The Health Innovation Roundup launched in the fall of 2018 with Catherine Griwkowsky as curator. We’re grateful to Catherine for all the work she did to keep readers informed and to help grow the roundup, and wish her all the best.

We’re thrilled to have Hiba on our roster of roundup curators who pay attention to what’s going on and distill it to its essence to make sure you are informed. Here’s the whole crew:

Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss an edition. You can get up to two of these roundups for free if you join as a Taproot Reader.

If you become a Taproot Member, you can get as many roundups as you like, along with other perks. Plus you’ll be helping us pay for high-calibre local journalism from our curators and the freelancers we commission for original stories. We’re building what comes next — join us.

Answers to local questions about the COVID-19 pandemic

We have launched a COVID-19 microsite containing curated answers to questions about Edmonton’s response to and experience of the pandemic. Our objective is to help the local community understand this complex and quickly evolving topic better.

How the microsite came about

In the latest edition of our newsletter, sent on March 17, Karen wrote:

"In light of COVID-19 and the efforts to control its spread, we’re thinking about what more we can do to inform our community without contributing to the noise and information overload."

Our curators were already (and still are) collecting relevant news for our roundups, but we felt there might be an opportunity to do more. We invited readers to submit questions related to the pandemic. It wasn’t long before the first few questions came in and we’ve since received dozens more. That validated the need for Taproot to offer something more on this topic.

We discussed a number of different approaches for answering those questions. Given our resources, our expertise in curation, and our experience building microsites in the past, we felt that a microsite was the best approach for us.

What the microsite is for

The microsite contains questions posed by our community and answered by Taproot editors, based on primary documents and reliable published sources.

There’s no shortage of important information being shared about COVID-19 right now, but it is difficult to find answers to specific questions. Often the nugget of information you need is buried in the middle of an article or government document. You might also have to look at a large number of sources to get the complete answer.

Those are the problems the microsite aims to solve. You’ll find answers to specific questions, all in one place. Each answer contains links to sources and other information if you want dig deeper.

We don’t intend to publish the news of the day nor are we trying to be the destination for breaking news. The mainstream newsrooms in our city have that covered, and we are grateful to those journalists for their hard work, much of which we are pointing to in our answers and in our roundups. Our contribution is to simply and succinctly deliver what our readers say they want to know.

As Lauren Harris wrote at Columbia Journalism Review:

"In times of crisis, newsrooms ought not stop producing the news. But they can slow down, ask themselves what matters most, and be a calm guide for readers. Signal, not noise."

We strive to be that calm guide here in Edmonton.

What’s next

We have published a handful of entries thus far, and we’re working on many more. Keep your questions coming in, and we’ll keep the site updated with new curated answers. We’ll also update existing answers as new information arises.

As the pandemic evolves, so will the microsite. Send us your suggestions and feedback at hello@taprootedmonton.ca.

How sponsorship at Taproot works

In the spirit of doing a better job of telling our own story, here’s an update on how part of our business has evolved since we started.

From the very beginning of Taproot, we’ve worked to avoid being dependent an advertising-supported business model. We started with membership as our first revenue stream. Membership is an effective way to align incentives – the better we serve members, the more of them we should be able to attract!

When we introduced our Roundups last year, we added sponsorship as our second revenue stream. We were inspired by popular newsletters from around the world that offer organizations an opportunity to display their brand inside each edition, to help make the newsletters sustainable. Sponsorship offers us another way to align incentives – the better we serve the community that sponsors care about, the more of them we should be able to attract!

The sponsors you see in our Roundups are supporters of the work we do and their financial contributions help to make our publications sustainable. The benefit they receive, in addition to ongoing brand awareness, is to be associated with something that (hopefully) is making a positive impact in the community they care about.

We have three types of sponsors. Title sponsors make the largest financial contribution and so receive the largest benefit, with their logo in the top and bottom of each edition, on our website, and special mention on social media. Our Cultivators are the square logos you see inside each edition. And on occasion we will promote relevant events through ad hoc sponsorship.

To be clear, none of our sponsors get any say over the content of the roundup. Our curators and editors determine what the lead story is and which headlines and events are included in each edition. We maintain editorial independence, which benefits readers of course, but also sponsors. It’s in their best interests to have a publication that the community trusts.

Our first allegiance is and always will be to the reader. If readers can’t trust us, we’ll fail at our mission to help the community understand itself better. In order to serve readers though, we need to have money coming in. We hope that we’ve struck the right balance with sponsorship.

If you have questions about this or if you’d like to learn more about sponsorship, send us an email at hello@taprootedmonton.ca.

Mover acquired by Microsoft

Local tech startup Mover has been acquired by Microsoft for an undisclosed amount.

“Together with Mover, we’ll continue to provide customers with fast and reliable migrations to the cloud, with best practices and security and more connectors to more source systems, ultimately making the move into Microsoft 365 as seamless and cost effective as possible,” wrote Jeff Teper, corporate vice president of Office, SharePoint, and OneDrive at Microsoft.

Mover co-founders Eric Warnke and Mark Fossen

“We have been partnered with Microsoft for years, so it just makes sense, we can achieve more together,” Mover co-founder Eric Warnke told Taproot. “Out of all the potential acquirers, Microsoft was the top of the list, they’ve treated us well since Day 1, we like the people and the culture.”

“We’re fans of the new Microsoft,” he added.

Warnke and co-founder Mark Fossen took advantage of a Startup Hackathon in January 2012 to build what was originally called Backup Box. The two demoed the utility at DemoCamp Edmonton 18 in March of that year. They participated in Vancouver’s GrowLab accelerator later that year and rebranded as Mover before being featured at Launch Party 3 in November 2012. Mover also participated in the Los Angeles-based Amplify accelerator the following year.

The company raised over $1 million in seed funding in the summer of 2013 from investors including Double M Partners, Yaletown Venture Partners, Amplify, Barracuda Networks, and angel investors Jarl Mohn, Rick Barry, and Dennis Phelps.

After the seed round was announced, Warnke addressed questions about moving the company. “A lot of people ask us if we’re going to move, but there are good incentives to stay here,” he said in 2013.

While the Microsoft acquisition will mean more frequent trips to Redmond, the company is staying put for now.

Mover’s website has long displayed a message in the footer acknowledging Edmonton as its home. Asked about building a startup here, Warnke said “it was hard in Edmonton, we didn’t raise a cent here.” He cited the introductions made at GrowLab and Amplify as critical for the company’s growth. They struggled to attract funding from local investors.

Still, Mover’s experience suggests that entrepreneurs can find success from Edmonton. “Edmontonians need tenacity,” Warnke said. His advice is to never give up.

Warnke was unable to talk about future plans for the product, but after the announcement was made it appears Mover is now free. More information about the integration of Mover into the Microsoft 365 offering is expected at Ignite 2019, taking place next month in Orlando, Fla.

According to the ticker on Mover’s site, the company has transferred more than 115 billion files.

“It has been a fantastic journey these last eight years,” wrote Warnke on Mover’s blog. “We have met thousands of wonderful customers and moved more data than I ever imagined. It has been an honor to be trusted by you and your fellow customers.”

Edmonton’s official population rises to 972,223

Edmonton’s official city population is 972,223 as of April 1, 2019, an increase of 72,776 over the last municipal census in 2016. The City of Edmonton said that represents an average growth rate of 2.6% annually.

"This is a great sign for Edmonton," said mayor Don Iveson as he announced the results of the 2019 Municipal Census at City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 5. "One of the highlights of our census is that we continue to have one of the youngest populations in Canada."

John Rose, the City’s chief economist said he is projecting a growth rate of 2.1% for 2019, which is still higher than Alberta’s 1.9% and Canada’s 1.3%. "Edmonton remains a centre of economic growth," he said. Rose is confident that Edmonton will hit the milestone of 1 million residents late next year.

Iain Mac Lean, director of elections and census at the City of Edmonton, said only 7,558 of the roughly 420,000 addresses in Edmonton failed to respond to the census. "We are proud of that number," he said. Using a mathematical formula similar to the one used by Statistics Canada, City officials extrapolated to account for households that did not respond to the census to arrive an unofficial total population of 992,812.

This year, 39.7% of households completed the census online, double what officials have seen in the past. Mac Lean projects the cost of the census will be just under $2.5 million.

This year’s census was the first to include gender options beyond male and female, with six choices total including an option for residents to choose their own term. “We all want to feel included in our communities – this means having a sense of belonging and feeling valued for your uniqueness,” Barb McLean, equity specialist with the City of Edmonton, told Global News back in March when the census launched. “Including more gender options in the census gives representation to residents in our city who have been invisible for a long time.”

Mayor Don Iveson

The census "is a critical tool to advocate for our fair share," Iveson told reporters. "We are continuing to drive Alberta’s economy and these numbers are a very strong indicator of that."

An updated draft of the City Plan was also released today. That plan "includes bold recommendations on how we will grow and develop to a city of two million people." The update is scheduled to be presented to Urban Planning Committee on Sept. 17.

The most recent federal census, conducted in 2016, determined the population of the Edmonton metropolitan region to be 1,321,426 and the city itself to be 932,546.

The Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board’s Growth Plan projects a doubling of the regional population to 2.2 million people by 2044, "a significant transformation that will result in a complex metropolitan region requiring deliberate and determined collaboration and leadership."

"Over the past 40 years, the Region has doubled its population from 500,000 people to 1.2 million people, while tripling its urban development footprint from 22,260 hectares to 69,930 hectares," the plan says.

Calgary’s 2019 municipal census counted 1,285,711 residents as of April 2019, an increase of 1.45% over April 2018.

Full results of the 2019 Municipal Census are available at edmonton.ca and in the Open Data Catalogue. Edmonton’s next municipal census is scheduled for 2020, with another federal census scheduled for 2021.

A commitment to transparency

In early 2015, Edmonton’s City Council adopted the Open City Policy, an important document that articulates the City of Edmonton’s commitment “to bring to action the Open City principles of transparency, participation, collaboration, inclusiveness and innovation.”

Yet policies don’t implement themselves, and that’s often where the heavy lifting needs to be done. For an organization as large as the City of Edmonton (with 14,000+ employees) it’s clear that writing a set of principles is a very different challenge than applying them to everyday work. Truly becoming “open by default” requires persistence. A little public pressure doesn’t hurt, either!

Edmonton Journal columnist Elise Stolte has demonstrated again and again her commitment to this work. Most recently, she shared a “win” involving the construction of the Valley Line LRT. Stolte asked the City for the non-conformance reports it files to track TransEd’s performance, but the City refused to provide them. She appealed to the City’s freedom of information co-ordinators and was again rebuffed. So she appealed to the provincial commissioner, who determined Stolte is right and the City should release the reports.

Unfortunately, she still doesn’t have the reports. Facing a leave of absence that will take her out of the city, Stolte concludes that “transparency cannot depend on individual journalists, especially now that newsrooms are smaller, and it can’t depend on this formal, legal structure with deadlines, extensions and co-ordinators.”

Stolte concludes:

“A city that shares information freely is admitting it will never have everything perfect. When it shares, it’s inviting the rest of the community to come along. It’s an act of humility that builds bridges.”

Stolte’s persistent effort on behalf of Edmontonians is incredibly important work. Others deserve recognition here as well, such as CBC Edmonton’s Janice Johnston who led the effort to have Edmonton police share the names of homicide victims.

We’re doing our part too. While live-tweeting Executive Committee on Monday, it became clear that councillors were going to move an important discussion about role clarity in Edmonton’s innovation sector to the November shareholder meeting, which is private. I tweeted my dissent to a few members of the committee.

The next day, Councillor Andrew Knack and Mayor Don Iveson agreed the discussion should be public.

On Wednesday afternoon, Councillor Knack filed the following notice of motion:

“That EEDC work with TEC Edmonton, Health City, and other stakeholders and report back on the status of the recommendations in the YEG Innovation Compass Report. This report should specifically address opportunities to reduce overlap, clarify roles and governance, accelerate the technology economy, and better serve the municipal innovation ecosystem.”

Assuming his motion is carried at next week’s council meeting, a report will come back providing the public with more information and importantly, another opportunity to participate in the discussion.

I know I wasn’t the only one who reached out to members of council to let them know how important it is that this discussion be held publicly. And that’s the point. It’ll take the persistent effort of all of us to ensure that the City of Edmonton and City Council adhere to the principles of transparency they’ve articulated. We’ll keep at it.

Introducing the Business Roundup

We recently launched our newest roundup: the Taproot Edmonton Business Roundup.

Each week we bring together the latest on the companies, entrepreneurs, employees, investors, leaders, and others shaping Edmonton’s economy. Read the Business Roundup to stay informed on what’s happening in local business. Sign up here to get the Business Roundup delivered to your inbox.

We are constantly gathering business-related updates from a variety of sources and each week we distill what we’ve discovered into an email update containing everything you need to know about local business. We save you time and keep you informed, and we add context where appropriate to help make sense of the news.


I (Mack) am currently writing the Business Roundup. I have been writing about urban affairs for more than 15 years at mastermaq.ca and have cultivated great information sources during that time. That said, I have my hands full building the engine that makes Taproot go, so we’re looking for a talented curator to help us tackle this beat! Learn more and apply here.

We believe that beat reporting is a critical part of the intelligence gathering that we do at Taproot. Paying concerted attention to a local topic that Edmontonains are curious about helps us ensure the stories we produce serve the community. We have covered business in the past with our stories on building an AI industry and the expectations facing 104 Street. Of course, our existing roundups like Tech and Food also cover aspects of business.

We’ll publish the Business Roundup for Taproot Members and subscribers first, each Friday morning, with social media shares to follow later. You can see the launch edition here. Let us know what you think! Your feedback will help us improve the roundup and make it even more useful.

You can read the Business Roundup for free, because we believe good stories should reach as many people as possible. Taproot Members get it first though, and will have access to the full Business Roundup archive and other benefits. You can join Taproot as a paying member or a free reader here.

Introducing the Food Roundup

This week we’re excited to share our newest roundup with you: the Taproot Edmonton Food Roundup.

Each week we bring together the latest on the restaurants, chefs, producers, events, and other updates from Edmonton’s food scene. Sign up here to get the Food Roundup delivered to your inbox.

We are constantly gathering food-related updates from a variety of sources and each week we distill what we’ve discovered into an email update containing everything you need to know about local food – the cream of the crop! We save you time and keep you informed, and we add context where appropriate to help make sense of the news.

Sharon Yeo is curating and writing the Food Roundup. She has been writing Food Notes on her blog for years and will continue doing so. Taproot readers will benefit from her experience and attention to Edmonton’s food scene, and we’ll work together to produce even more great coverage of local food.

We believe that beat reporting is a critical part of the intelligence gathering that we do at Taproot. Paying concerted attention to a local topic that Edmontonains are curious about helps us ensure the stories we produce serve the community. On the food beat this effort has already borne fruit as we were first to tell you about the City Market’s impending move away from 104 Street.

We’ll publish the Food Roundup for Taproot Members and subscribers first, each Tuesday morning, with social media shares to follow later. You can see the launch edition here. Let us know what you think! Your feedback will help us improve the roundup and make it even more useful.

You can read the Food Roundup for free, because we believe good stories should reach as many people as possible. Taproot Members get it first though, and will have access to the full Food Roundup archive and other benefits. You can join Taproot as a paying member or a free reader here.

Tech Roundup Review: January 2019

Every Tuesday morning we publish the Tech Roundup, a newsletter full of the latest headlines & happenings in Edmonton’s technology community. In addition to the curated, easy-to-scan lists of news and events, each edition includes one or two featured items which are the updates highlighted below. Sign up here to get the Tech Roundup by email each week.

Here’s our look back at the month of January 2019 as captured by our Tech Roundups.

January 8 – BioWare co-founders appointed to the Order of Canada

BioWare co-founders Dr. Ray Muzyka and Dr. Greg Zeschuk were the only Edmontonians among 103 new appointments to the Order of Canada in December. The two co-founders were named Members of the Order of Canada for their "revolutionary contributions to the video game industry" and as developers and co-founders "of an internationally renowned studio." In this edition we also highlighted the selection of the founding members of the Edmonton Advisory Council on Startups (EACOS), the refinancing and shareholder consolidation announced by Yardstick Software, and an Alberta Venture feature on Testfire Labs.

January 15 – Alberta AI Business Plan funding ask submitted to Province

The Alberta AI Business Plan, developed by a steering committee made up of local investors, entrepreneurs, service providers, and academics, was released outlining a vision to make AI "a billion dollar industry in the province by 2025." A funding ask was submitted to the Government of Alberta to "kickstart the accelerator and pre-seed funding". In this edition we also highlighted Amii’s announcement that it will host the Deep Learning & Reinforcement Learning Summer School this year, the selection of Testfire Labs as a finalist in the AI category for SXSW Pitch, and a development from the University of Alberta that could make a new generation of lithium ion batteries with 10 times the charge capacity of current batteries.

January 22 – Chris Lumb steps down as TEC Edmonton CEO

After nearly ten years with the organization, Chris Lumb has decided to step down as CEO of TEC Edmonton, effective June 30, 2019. “With outstanding staff and management, a strong culture and excellent client outcomes, TEC will continue to do outstanding work helping to grow emerging technology companies in the community,” he said. In this edition we also highlighted Arden Tse’s move from the Venture Mentoring Service to Yaletown Partners’ Accelerate II fund, the news that Rising Tide’s Ashif Mawji was inducted into the 2019 Alberta Business Hall of Fame, and that Testfire Labs and AltaML were added to the Government of Canada’s list of qualified suppliers for artificial intelligence.

January 29 – Applied Quantum Materials receives funding to turn windows into solar panels

University of Alberta spin-off company Applied Quantum Materials was one of 29 successful projects in the Climate Change Innovation Technology Framework (CCITF) – Clean Technology Development program, receiving a $420,000 grant from Alberta Innovates to use nanomaterials to turn windows into see-through solar panels. In this edition we also highlighted F12.net’s acquisition of BC-based Level4 Technologies, the City of Edmonton’s new online system for managing recreation program and facility bookings, and comments from UCP leader Jason Kenney on cryptocurrency.

Popular Clicks

These were the top 5 most clicked on items from the month:

That’s a wrap on January! Sign up here to get the Tech Roundup by email every Tuesday morning.

Thank you to our Tech Roundup sponsors: Advanced Technology Centre, Amii, EEDC, Startup Edmonton, Stormboard, TEC Edmonton, Jobber, Testfire Labs, VMS, Instamek, and CompuVision.