How to Reach Me

Dialing "5639" on a phone keypad

In addition to my temporary change of address this summer (I’m going to be in Ottawa from May 1st through the end of August – here’s why), there will be a couple of changes in the ways I can be reached:

  • My old work email,, will be deactivated this week.
  • My old phone number, (416) 948-6447, will be similarly shut down.

Want to reach me? Here are the ways that’ll work:

  • My personal email,, works just fine.
  • I’m still @AccordionGuy on Twitter.
  • My new mobile number is (647) 985-JOEY (and “JOEY” is “5639”).
  • I’ll publish my new work email (probably or something like that) as soon as it’s enabled. / (64) 985-JOEY (5639)

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.


Introducing the BarCamp Tour

BarCamp Boston, April 9th – 10th, 2011

barcamp boston

BarCamp Boston took place a couple of weeks ago, on April 9th and 10th, and it was the first stop for the BarCamp Tour. Hundreds of people from the Boston/People’s Republic of Cambridge region gathered at Microsoft’s NERD Center, located right by the MIT Campus, to unconference, exchange ideas, meet new people, make new business and technology contacts and even party a little. You can find out more about BarCamp Boston in my recent writeup of the event.

What is the BarCamp Tour?

barcamp tour 2011

Just as BarCamp turns conferences upside down, the BarCamp Tour turns conference (or more accurately, unconference) sponsorship upside down. Rather than simply throwing money and logos at a gathering like most sponsors would, the sponsors who make up BarCamp Tour follow the rule of BarCamp that states there are no spectators, only participants. We actively and enthusiastically join in, assist the BarCamp organizers in putting together their events and do what we can to help make each BarCamp we sponsor a success. In return, we get exposure and a chance to meet up face-to-face with people who might want to use our software and services.

BarCamp Tour is made up of five startups:

  • Batchbook – the social CRM for small businesses and entrepreneurs
  • Grasshopper – the virtual phone system designed for entrepreneurs
  • MailChimp – the easy do-it-yourself tool for email newsletters and campaigns
  • Wufoo – the easiest, fastest way to build forms for your websites
  • and the company for whom I work, Shopify – helping you build awesome online stores

And here are the faces of BarCamp Tour (minus mine, because we hadn’t yet announced that I’d joined Shopify):

barcamp tour faces

Read About Us in Inc.

inc logo

BarCamp Tour was recently covered in Inc., in the article Sponsorship as Participation, a title that I believe sums up our philosophy quite nicely.

In the article, Jonathan Kay, Grasshopper’s “Ambassador of Buzz”, explains that BarCamps are great places to find entrepreneurs, small business and other people who are likely customers of our companies’ wares, and how nontraditional gatherings call for nontraditional sponsorship:

"We bought beer afterwards to enable people to network and chat. The feedback we got was unbelievable. We had one on one conversations with 50 or 60 people, living our mission. We hate the idea of traditional sponsorships. Most sponsors pay money and don’t show up—we paid, showed up and participated.”

Check out the article to find out more.

Where are BarCamp Tour Headed Next?


First up is MinneBar, which takes place in Minneapolis on Saturday, May 7th. Minnebar bills itself as “an (un)conference aimed at getting those in Minnesota’s tech and design communities together to discuss topics that interest them,” and that’s right up our alley. One of the local organizers is my friend Luke Francl, whom I’ve known since The Bubble, back when he was a specialist in lizard image detection algorithms.

Minnebar takes place at Best Buy Headquarters in Richfield (7601 Penn Avenue South) and will run from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.. As is the tradition, registration is free, but you should register at the MinneBar EventBrite page if you want to attend.


A couple of weeks later, we shimmy down to BarCamp Portland, which happens on Friday, May 20th and Saturday, May 21st. They bill their event as “an unconference for the Portland tech community, produced BY the Portland tech community. Interesting topics, cool people, great networking opportunities, wifi, and more! Building an active tech community in Portland, Oregon.”

BarCamp Portland will happen at the Eliot Center (1226 SW Salmon Street) and will run at these times:

  • Friday, May 20th from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 21st from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Registration is free, but you should register at the BarCamp Portland page if you want to attend.

I’ll be posting reports from both these BarCamps here, so watch this space!

How Do I Get BarCamp Tour to Sponsor a BarCamp in My City?

twitterIf you’ve got a vibrant tech/design/entrepreneur community in your city and they’re holding a BarCamp, we want to help make it even more awesome! If you’d like BarCamp Tour to sponsor your city’s BarCamp, fill out the BarCamp Tour Form (made with Wufoo, of course!) and give us your particulars. Be prepared to convince us of why we need to sponsor your city.

You might also want to give us a tweet – we’re @BarCampTour – to sell us on why your city’s entrepreneurial community is active and healthy.


Shopify’s Build-a-Business Contest and its Crazy-Ass Grand Prize

Build-a-Business logo

The Build-A-Business Contest is Back!

Spring is sprung, the grass is riz…I wonder where the cool contests is?

Wonder no more. Shopify is bringing back the Build-a-Business Contest. Last year’s contest was a major success:

  • It created almost 1,400 new businesses, all of whom were entrants in the contest
  • Those businesses’ Shopify stores took in 67,000 orders
  • Those orders totalled up to over $3.5 million
  • And the winning company, DODOcase (they make cool-looking protective cases for tablet computers) claimed the grand prize of $100,000.

This year, we’ve (See? I’m already using “we”! Do I get my bonus now?) upped the ante. How up is upped? This upped:

Over $500,000 in prizes: pair of hand holding a stack of crisp $100 bills, with many, many stacks in the background.

I will repeat that: over a half-million bucks in prizes.

“What sorts of prizes are we talking here?” you might ask.

I would reply “Lots. The details of all the prizes are on the Build-a-Business Contest site, but what say we just focus on the grand prize for the time being?”

The Grand Prize, Part One: Filthy Lucre

The grand prize – the ultra-mega-super-Kahuna prize, is so good that I’m beginning to wonder why I took a job with Shopify. Maybe I should quit, open an online store, win the contest and walk off with…

$100,000 in cash: close-up of a hand putting a coin in a piggy bank

…$100,000 in cash! That’s a nice little bonus on top of the money you can make with your store.

The Grand Prize, Part Two: The Big Apple

However, this is no mere raffle – this is the Build-a-Business Contest, and as I said earlier, we’ve upped the ante!

We think that “a hundred large”, while nice, just isn’t enough. We want this prize to be awesome. Like gangsta rapper video awesome. How about we throw in some trips? Say, to…

New York City!: The Empire State Building, lit up on a cloudy day.

…New York City! (If you win, I will give you directions to the coolest obscure little rooftop bar, right in the shadow of the Empire State Building.) We’ll cover airfare, hotel and even throw in some “walkin’ around money”. That’s how hard we rock.

The Grand Prize Part Three: Power Lunch

“But what about food, Joey?” you might ask. “And not just food…I need scintillating conversation with my meal!” I would usually respond by saying “Wow, there’s no pleasing you.” But this is the Build-a-Business Contest, and we’re all about pleasing you, so we’ll throw in:

Seth Godin!: Seth Godin giving a presentation on stage in front of an image of Superman

…lunch with Seth Godin! And no, not some silly thing where you meet at a restaurant; that’s for lightweights. We’ll do one better: Seth will cook you lunch himself. And all you thought he did was write great business books!

The Grand Prize, Part Four: V for Victory

“Not enough!” you cry, and I look at you with great incredulity.

“What more do you want? I’ve given you a hundred grand, a trip to New York and lunch with Seth Godin, which by the way, he is cooking himself.”

“But I’ll need help growing my business! Couldn’t you hook me up with an expert on the subject?”

At this point, I’d slap my forehead in frustration. But this is the Build-a-Business Contest, and we’re going to make it rain by giving you…

Gary Vaynerchuk!: Gary filming one of his videos, brandishing wine.

…a one-hour power session with Gary Vaynerchuk! Gary’s done a killer job helping other people build their businesses with his advice and books like Crush It! and The Thank You Economy, and now you’re going to get an hour of one-on-one time with him. Gratis. You’ll learn more from him in an hour that a lot of people I know learned in four years of business school.

Here’s what Gary has to say about the Build-a-Business Contest:

The Grand Prize, Part Five: We’re Bringing Plex-y Back

“But that’s only the East Coast, Joey!” you might say. And under normal circumstances, I’d reply by saying “Dude, isn’t that enough?” But this isn’t normal! This is the Build-a-Business Contest! And we will give you the West Coast too, in the form of:

The Googleplex!: Exterior shot of Google campus, featuring an Android statue

…a trip to Google! As in California. As in a tour of one of the most amazing high-tech campuses in the world. And we’ll also throw in a personal AdWords consultation to help boost your business.

The Grand Prize, Part Six: The Four-Hour Fix

I stand in front of you, my arms wide, wearing a big open-mouthed smile, awaiting your response.

You say: “Okay, Joey, the Build-a-Business Contest grand prize is sixteen different flavours of awesome. But…”

My smile fades. “But…?”

“Couldn’t you…you know…add one more business guru? I mean, you had a couple on the East Coast, and this is the West Coast and all…”

I compose myself and rub my temples, resisting the urge to admonish you for wanting so much. Why? Because this is the Build-a-Business Contest, and our motto is “Go hard or go home”. And we’re not going home!

So I offer one more thing:

Tim Ferriss!: Tim Ferriss at a book signing

…dinner with Tim Ferriss! Tasty food, and a chance to pick the ultimate lifehacker’s brain about The Four Hour Workweek and The Four Hour Body.

“Now are you happy?” I ask.

“Yes,” you reply.

“Good. Now here comes the hard part. You have to win the Build-a-Business Contest, and you need to do the following in order to get your shot…”

The Build-a-Business Contest in Four Steps

The Quick and Easy Guide to Shopify's Build a Business Contest

It’s pretty straightforward, really:

Step 1: Think of something to sell online. (Lightbulb)

Are you an artisan? Got a line on some killer sauces and spices? Perhaps you sell accordions? If you have an idea for a business in which you sell things online, you’ve got step 1 down.

On to step two…

Step 2: Build an online store using you-know-what. (Computers displaying the Shopify wordmark)

We’re cool with giving away prizes, but there’s a reason we’re holding the Build-a-Business Contest: we want you to build online stores using the Shopify platform. It was built with making it easy to start and run an online store – in fact, we were our first customers! Take it for a spin…we think you’ll love it.

Once you’ve done that, the next step’s pretty easy:

Step 3: Enter the Build-a-Business contest. (Big ENTER button)

You can’t win if you don’t enter. So once you’ve got your Shopify-based online store up and running, enter the Build-a-Business Contest!

And finally:

Step 4: Build your business with our help. ("Help is on the way" indicator in an elevator)

We don’t succeed if you don’t succeed. So we’re committed to helping you take your Shopify business and grow it. As a tech evangelist with Shopify, I’m going to be part of the team that does just that, and you should check in with this blog, because I’ll be posting lots of advice, tips and tricks for getting the most out of Shopify.

And Why are You Still Reading This?

Don’t get me wrong, reading is good. But you should be scurrying over to Shopify’s Build-a-Business Contest site, where you can get all the details about the contest…

To the contest site!

And watch this blog, because I’ll be posting regularly about the Shopify platform, the Build-a-Business Contest and more.

It. Will. Dominate.

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.


The Cake is a Liu Kang!

Having trouble choosing between the new releases of Portal 2 and Mortal Kombat? With Portal Kombat, you don’t have to choose…

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.


Tomorrow’s Royal Wedding Afternoon Tea with Toronto’s Lady Bloggers

afternoon tea

I’m actually on vacation this week – I exited Microsoft as of last Friday and will be entering Shopify on Monday – so the Windows Live demo that I’m doing tomorrow is something I’m doing gratis, like a hobby or something to do in lieu of catching a matinee.

The negotiation went something like this:

Lesley (who works at the PR firm High Road Communications): Would you be available on the 27th to do a Windows Live demo?

Me: Actually, you probably haven’t heard yet, but I’m leaving Microsoft to join Shopify. My last day’s on the 22nd. I’m going to be taking it easy before heading up to Ottawa.

Lesley: It’s an afternoon tea and the guests are all women.

Me: …aaaaaaand what time would you like me to arrive?

The assignment is simple: do a tech demo at a Royal Wedding-themed afternoon tea. I can do that.

Fun fact: This is an afternoon tea, not a high tea. There’s a difference!

So along with my former coworker Ruth Morton, I’ll be demonstrating some features of Windows Live to some notable bloggers including She Does the City, Lauren O’Nizzle, Erin Bury, Casie Stewart and Raymi the Minx, who’s going to be wearing this:


Raymi writes:

i’ll be wearing this for high tea tomorrow and i have a flower on my arm to match the print. i’m going president’s wife angelica houston styles visiting tropical climate royalty, except with a fancy hat or some kind of insane feathery headdress of sorts with my hair straight down and blond. this is in front of my aunt’s old coach house october 4 2008 and this belonged to her, i think she said she bought it at g’s from those nice tibetans, maybe possibly incorrect here. anyway it will be the first time i ever wear it in public. the ante has been upped guy. i am just pumped not to have to buy a dress, well that part’s great but the trying on is exhausting and i have no energy for it.

I will look through my closet tonight for something appropriate. I leave it to you to guess what how I interpret “appropriate”.

This should be interesting.

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.


The New Job: Technical Evangelist at Shopify

shopify bag

All right, enough hinting. Time to lay all the cards on the table.

Some of you guessed, intuited or ratiocinated correctly: I am going to work at Shopify. My role will be something that I’ve been refining for the past 10 years — both formally at OpenCola, then Tucows and finally Microsoft, and informally with the Peekabooty project, DemoCamp Toronto, b5media and Toronto’s worst-run startup – the role of Technical Evangelist. We haven’t worked on my exact title, but there’s time aplenty to figure it out.

The Shopify Story


Shopify is the best platform out there for creating online stores. It was created by software developer Tobias “Tobi” Lütke (hint #9 from my series of image hints, pictured above), whose contributions to the world of software include his stint on the Ruby on Rails core team, the Active Merchant library, the Typo blogging engine and the Liquid templating language.

snow devilShopify was created when Tobi co-founded Snow Devil, an online store for snowboarding equipment. When he couldn’t find a decent online store package, he used his programming skills – my friend Pete Forde waxes poetic about Tobi’s ability to code – and wrote his own. The resulting store was simple, smart and elegant, and Tobi realized that he shouldn’t be selling snowboards, but stores.

Shopify have been doing quite well. Here’s a snapshot of their performance last year:

  • Shopify hosted over 11,000 online stores (a 70% increase over 2009)
  • With a total of over 2.7 million customers (more than double the sales in 2009)
  • Who placed over 1.6 million orders (a 132% increase over 2009)
  • Which would result in $124 million in sales
  • And they provided 22,000 phone support minutes

tim ferriss four hour work week

They also teamed up with Tim “The Four-Hour Work Week” Ferriss to launch the Build-a-Business Contest, which offered a $100,000 grand prize to the new Shopify-based business that posted the highest-grossing sales during the contest period. The end result: almost 1,400 new businesses making over $3.5 million in revenue with nearly 67,000 orders. The winning business was DODOcase, who make gorgeous book-like protective cases for tablets such as the iPad 2, iPad, Playbook and Kindle. Ferriss also acts as an advisor to Shopify.

millions of dollars

Shopify have been profitable on their own, but they’re also ambitious. That’s why they secured $7 million in Series A funding from Bessemer Venture Partners, FirstMark Capital and Felicis Ventures in December. Their plan for the “seven large”? To invest it in product development, infrastructure, tools and technology, international expansion and getting their paws on the best damn tech evangelist they can find.

And that’s where I come in.

The Evangelist Story

joey devilla steve ballmer

I got to know some of the people from Shopify at conferences like RubyFringe, FutureRuby and CUSEC and have become friends with a number of them. Since getting funding, they’ve been looking for developer evangelists and called on me to give them some pointers on whom to look for and where to look.

“It’s like hunting unicorns!” said Shopify’s Edward Ocampo-Gooding of the task of looking for evangelists, and he’s right. The job requires a rare mix of technical chops, people skills, writing savvy, presentation mojo and business sense. Edward asked me for some help in February, and I came up with a list of skills sets, personality types, indicators and place to look and emailed it to him, thinking that that would be the limit of my involvement with their search.

A couple of weeks later, Tobi contacted me with a straight-to-the-point message: What are your plans?

“The startup scene is missing you dearly,” he said, “and we have a position here that would fit you like a glove.”

If you asked me six months ago what my career plans were, they’d have been to stay at Microsoft for a good while longer. The company’s been making a number of right moves, I’d been assigned to the challenging role of promoting Windows Phone, I was the Supreme Kahuna of the developer tracks at Microsoft Canada’s big cross-country tech conference, and I was also Microsoft Canada’s most prolific blogger. I worked not in a cubicle, but in my home office, Hacklab or a number of cafes, got assigned enough gear to fill my Honda CR-V and made enough coin to become part of the Toronto Life demographic.


But as I have learned firsthand, a lot can change in six months. From getting separated to nearly getting dead and a whole host of other things best left unblogged (meet up with me in person, buy me a stiff drink or two and I’ll spin a good yarn for you), the universe seems to have seen fit to shake things up for me. So I decided to respond in kind and shake it back.

I went back and forth over their invitation for about a month. The Golden Handcuffs have a powerful grip, but in the end, I decided to follow my own advice and choose the path that I believed was truer to me.

“Let me get this straight,” I told them. “You’re offering a pay cut, risk and total disruption…

Where do I sign up?”

Introducing “Alternate Accordion City”


One interesting wrinkle is that Shopify isn’t in Accordion City. It’s in Ottawa.

“Would I have to move to Ottawa?” I asked Tobi and Shopify’s Chief Platform Officer, Harley Finkelstein. Ottawa’s a beautiful city with plenty to recommend it, but the Canadian cities in which I’d prefer to live are the “MTV” ones: Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

“Actually, for the evangelist position, you might be better off working out of Toronto,” they said, much to my relief. “It’s the big business city, and better for flying to the States, which you’ll be doing a lot.”

“But…” added Tobi, “we’d like it if you could spend your first couple of months in Ottawa. You know, to get immersed in Shopify, learn our tech, get to know us and for us to get to know you. Besides, Ottawa’s nice in the summer.”

I thought it over and realized, hey, nothing’s really holding me back. When am I going to have this degree of freedom and mobility in my life again?

“Okay, you have a deal,” I said. “I figure I should hang onto my current lease, but I can’t pay two rents at the same time. Find me a place in Ottawa, and you’ve got me on the premises for the summer.”


If you walk into Shopify’s offices, the first person you’ll meet is Brittany Forsyth, one of their HR people, and she’s stationed at the front desk. She landed me a place at 126 Sparks, which is practically crawling distance from Shopify, and damn, is the place pretty sweet.

Shopify’s offices are in ByWard Market, which is Ottawa’s most lively neighbourhood, as it’s home to a number of bars and restaurants. Between the apartment and the office, there should be enough goings-on to keep a fella like me amused:

byward marketClick the photo above to see it at full size.

One week from today, I’m going to pack what I need to live away from home for four months into my car, crank up the tunes, point the wheel towards Highway 401 and make my way to Ottawa for the summer.

After the summer, Toronto will be my home base, although I expect that I’ll be making regular visits to Ottawa. Thankfully, Porter Airlines and the Toronto Island Airport make this fairly easy.

Travellin’ Man


Although Shopify is a Canadian company, most of its customers are not in Canada. They’re in the United States, so a good chunk of the job involves travel there. I’m going to have to step up my plans to get a Nexus pass.

barcamp tour 2011

The 2011 BarCamp Tour will be the first of my series of trips to the U.S.. The BarCamp Tour is a tour of various BarCamps by five startups – Batchbook, Grasshopper, MailChimp, Wufoo and Shopify – who provide sponsorship and promotion, assistance to organizers and enthusiastic participation at BarCamps across North America. The first city was Boston, and next up, on May 7th is Minneapolis. After that are Portlandia (May 20 – 21) and Seattle (June 24 – 25).


“The Valley” is still where a lot of the online action is, and it’s expected that I will be making regular trips there. It has been hinted that I may have some extended stays in the area, which may require a pied-a-terre, a home-away-from-home down there where I can crash. I’m not complaining one bit.

The Adventure Begins Anew

adventure cat

And so here I am, putting the finishing touches on this blog entry. As I write this, it’s Monday, April 25th at 12:58 a.m., and I’m sitting in my darkened home office, bathed in the glow of a large LCD monitor and the sounds of Groove Salad coming from my speakers.

I’m on vacation, so my original plan was to hold off on writing this until the morning. However, restlessness, excitement, anxiousness and the exhilarating uncertainty of this next chapter have conspired to set me in front of the keyboard and write. This is only the beginning of a lot of changes, some interesting experiences and what I’m certain will turn into a helluva lot of stories. It’s going to be an adventure, and on this blog, I plan to take you along for the ride.

See you out there!

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.


My Next Job: Final Set of Hints

Here’s the last set of picture hints about my next job. All will be revealed tomorrow…




This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.