Alberta Pin - Fort Mac Support

Rebuilding Fort Mac: Wear Your Support on Your Sleeve

 “This will likely be Canada’s largest disaster, surpassing the 1998 Quebec Ice Storm”. – Charity Intelligence Canada

It’s truly remarkable to see how people bind together during times of hardship and devastation, how complete strangers bend over backwards, how local businesses and organizations help create a movement for aid. Yes, we’re referring to the recent devastation in Fort McMurray. Evacuees have been patiently waiting; we can’t imagine what it might be like to wake up each morning at SAIT or Mount Royal University’s reception centre, waiting to find out when your unexpected trip will come to an end. Many of the evacuees don’t have a place to call home, over 2400 houses (10% of their buildings) were destroyed by the massive wildfire. Not to mention the 550 toxic homes that were deemed not safe to live in (at least for now).

Some residents are scheduled to re-enter Fort McMurray today (June 1st). According to a Red Cross survey, “75% of residents plan to come back to Fort McMurray. Municipal officials are expecting roughly 14,000 of the 80,000 residents to return today”. Fort Mac restoration will commence right away. However, it will be a lengthy cleanup process that will cost a pretty penny. Now is the time to help rebuild northern Alberta, since most of us can’t physically lend a hand, monetary donations are the next best thing.

Alberta Strong Pin - Fort Mac Support

Uppercut has collaborated with our sister company Fairgoods to build an #AlbertaStrong pin in support of rebuilding Fort Mac. 100% of the proceeds from this proud Albertan pin will go towards United Way’s efforts in Fort Mac. This adorable, heartfelt pin was designed by Shauna Hartsook, Brand Director at Fairgoods, it’s a 14K gold plated soft enamel limited edition pin. It truely represents our united passion for the province, our perseverance, and entrepreneurial spirit. Gosh, we love Alberta!

Help support your fellow Canadians with us! #ymmfire

Or if you live in Calgary, please feel free to swing by our office at Suite 400, 119 14 Street NW (Assembly Co-Working space) between 9-5pm M-F. Just ask for Chelsea, Shauna or Lauren at the 4th-floor reception. We will hook you up!

2016 Anvil Awards

2016 Anvil Awards Celebration

2016 Anvil Awards

We’re proud to announce our work for Hungry Volcano received two merits for Logo and Corporate Identity Package, at the 2016 Anvil Awards – the Ad Rodeo Association’s celebration of creative excellence in Calgary. This year’s celebration took place at Flames Central, and with the always entertaining emcee Andrew Phung at the mike. It was a fun night for our team meeting old and new friends, and congratulations to all the winners and nominees for their outstanding work!

Uppercut: Where to Go AFter Parse?

Where to Go After Parse?

In our previous post "What Silicon Valley has taught us About Startups", we discussed the shift in tech and development. In this post, I'll talk about the closure of Parse (a startup success) and how to move forward. Parse is a cloud app platform provider that enable developers to build their applications and not have to worry about rebuilding backend functionality for every mobile platform.


Parse, a Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS), was acquired by Facebook in 2013, prompted hundreds of thousands of applications built around Parse. I mean why not? Parse offered an excellent free tier model, and it's easy to use and integrate. The acquisition alone was enough to make people leave their current provider and sign up for Parse. At the time of Parse’s acquisition by Facebook, co-founder Ilya Sukhar reassured users that Parse was “not going away”. “It’s going to get better,” he wrote. “We are excited about the future of Parse”. So it came as a big surprise when Facebook announced Parse will be no longer be available after January 28, 2017.

The shockwave of the Parse closure has sent a stir throughout the industry leaving many development studios (including our own) wondering where to go from here, and what are the best solutions to offer our clients? Is it worth getting into bed with another service provider like Parse only to have the carpet pulled out from beneath our feet once again?

Facebook has never directly come out and said why they are halting Parse but my guess is low profitability. Parse’s closure seems to be a reflection of the times, no more of the glory days of startups procuring a ridiculous amount of investor dollars and sustaining hyper-inflated burn rates. We'll see more investor dollars go into areas outside of software-only applications and services. However, the people at Parse are making the ending easy, a Parse migration guide is available, and co-founder James Yu said in a blog that in addition to the Parse Server tool (introduced last week), Parse has teamed up with HerokuAmazon Web Services and MongoLab on extended solutions.

Parse Alternatives

Facebook has open-sourced the project now, so hopefully, we see the Parse server project continue and even thrive. Many will be counting on it! There are a plethora of Parse alternatives, here are 15 alternatives to Facebook’s Parse, but at the same time you have to ask yourself, can you afford to have this happen again?

There is a range of other options available to the development community, and now more than ever cutting out the middle man and going straight to the cloud yourself is starting to make a lot of sense. You might as well run your infrastructure on the same platform Parse was on, AWS (Amazon Web Services).

Granted this option is not for everyone, some of the knowledge prove allusive to the inexperienced while others may not have the time or resources available to have an in-house solution. However, if offering a solution to clients which is free from a volatile startup market, while being able to retain the same feature reach experience as a product like Parse, then starting your cloud implementation might be a reliable solution.

Which cloud is for me?

2015 was the year of Amazon, technology industry analyst Ben Thompson wrote ”AWS [Amazon Web Services—the company’s insanely profitable cloud computing division]. AWS should prove as an attractive solution to those clients who are tech savvy and concerned about the backend of their applications because it's here to stay.

AWS may be pricey, but the proof is in the pudding. They offer the most robust feature rich solution on the market.

If AWS seems to be an overkill solution, there are other options like RackspaceLinode or Digital Ocean; even AWS Lamda is worth considering. Moving forward shouldn't be too difficult with all the great preexisting software available to us.

Don’t get caught again

With so much fragmentation existing today it is hard to decide what tool is right for the job. Will the one you pick be around in two years?

If resources, technical knowledge, and a cloud provider are available, it's possible to protect one’s business operations from future sudden inconveniences like the Parse's closure.


What Silicon Valley Has Taught Us About Startups

Glory Days

It seems the days of capital fueled ‘unicorns’ unapologetically dancing around Silicon Valley are starting to come to an end. 2015 and the beginning of the new year have provided the tech industry with its fair share of surprises. The effects of mass overvaluation of companies are starting to show in some of the most prominent players in the Valley.

Q1 of 2015 LinkedIn’s and Twitter shares dropped by 20% citing a weak future outlook. Fast forward to February of 2016 and LinkedIn shares again tumbled 43% shedding $11 Billion in value on the companies worst day ever. Even the mighty Silicon Valley is not exempt from the looming tech correction.

Every other day there is a new company valued at over $1 billion. Seemingly they give their products away for free, or their subscription models are obnoxiously structured or atrociously overpriced. Even VC giant Fidelity silently wrote down the value of Snapchat and Dropbox at the end of last year. Contrary to popular belief, as we transition into 2016, it would seem there is a realization that HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’ Russ Hanneman No Revenue theory may not be as effective as previously thought!

A Different Taste

We really do live in a world where there is nearly an app for everything.  The startup and enterprise worlds have been dominated by software-only based applications and infrastructures for years. Kickstarter and Indiegogo were full of aspiring developers trying to make it big with the next version of Mine Craft or Twitter. Although, a developer and investor focus has been shifting towards integrating hardware with new and pre-existing applications and infrastructure.

As micro-controllers and the price of manufacturing come down in price, the Android/iOS app stores have become more saturated with the same apps packaged in ten different ways. Interest is starting to shift focus to the next new era or unsaturated market of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Kickstarter and Indiegogo are full with hobbyist and enthusiast grade projects in which people are buying Raspberry Pi’s and automating anything and everything to simplify their life and potentially parlay their inventions into a viable business.

Smart ovens, smart fridges, smart toilets, and the list goes on and on. If it’s in your house and you can somehow control it with your phone or laptop, you can be guaranteed there is someone out there trying to make it smart with machine learning! It is just a matter of time until we have smart homes that integrate seamlessly with our smartphones.

Looking at tech trends moving forward from 2016 and beyond, it seems that almost all the major players are making some form of wearable or usable device. Products like Microsoft’s HoloLens, Google Glass, Oculus Rift, brain wave technologies like Muse, the smartwatch and Fitbit movement, 3D printers, smart cars, drones, the list is endless of all the amazing technologies in the consumer market.

The writing is on the wall. There won’t be another Facebook, Google+ showed us that. The fact of the matter is, for many applications, market penetration is challenging and comparable to bringing a knife to a gun fight. It is this saturation which is potentially fostering and worsening the looming tech bubble. As room for investors to make large returns on applications or services dwindles, the fight for a sliver of the pie becomes worthless, leaving investors to look for a new and exciting sliver of the pie to taste.

Now more than ever it will be important to not only be sure that your prospective app ideas are validated but that those ideas will be differentiated to compete and have legs in an already dominated market. Asking yourself some of the following questions may be a good way to measure your idea’s validity.

  • Who is your user base or target audience?
  • How have others attempted to solve this problem before, and why did their solutions fail or succeed?
  • Who are your potential competitors? Are there specific benefits for your product over the competition?
  • Does your idea already exist in the same way you were going to execute it?
  • SWOT Analysis?
  • Why will investors invest? What’s their ROI?

Bringing an app to fruition can be an overwhelming experience, especially if access to labour and resources are limited. Our talented team at Uppercut can ease you and your company in the process of researching and understanding your markets, assist in identifying target demographics and ultimately evaluate if your ideas fit into the competitive world of tech startups. If they do fit! Be sure to check out The Importance of Good Design in Apps and how our team can bring your ideas to reality. 

We’ve got the digital chops to get you there. Uppercut has helped plenty of clients with market intelligence, defining target audiences (personas), launching apps and getting momentum with user acquisition through well tuned digital marketing (SEO, Advertising, Social, Content).


How Does a New Agency Brag About Nothing?

Challenge: You’re who and what?

There are many challenges when you start an agency and one of them is, what do you show on your website? We have a highly experienced team (most of us have been in the industry for 15+ years) and have worked with Veer & Corbis, Mercedes-Benz, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Dell, and more but when you’re brand spanking new, you still have to prove yourself. How can we convince prospective clients that we have the SKILLZ to pull it off?

Solution: Show some personality

Come up with a fun idea and designed the sh*t out of it. We had this idea of a manifesto. Let’s show off our abilities: great design, copywriting, and programming. The site garnered a lot of attention and in our first year of operation, the Uppercut brand won two Anvil awards for best website and logo.

Why change something that got us noticed? As we grow, we need a better responsive site for mobile viewing and we have something to talk about, like our work!

It’s fun to be mysterious but at the same time, it’s nice to have an online showcase of all we’ve accomplished over the past three years.

Uppercut's original one page website.