Monthly Archives: December 2012

Getting Nando’s in Calgary

Our family have the tradition of eating Nando’s every Friday evening. Lately we have combined that with a movie night with the kids. It is loads of fun. As luck would have it there has always been a Nando’s relatively close by, N1 city when we lived in Cape Town, Umhlanga in Durban and Parkview next door to Woodlands. I knew there are Nando’s stores in Canada but could not find one in Fernie when were here in September.

When we were dropping of the rental car in Calgary we happened to drive past a Nando’s. It must have been some sort of a sign, as I now know that there are only one Nando’s in Calgary (which is the 3rd largest city in Canada).All excited we stopped wanting to have some lunch but it was closed. So we had KFC across the road. Not the same at all.

We got there by pure chance!

We got to Nando’s in Calgary by pure chance! What luck!

The next time I got to Calgary to pick up the De Jager’s, I left early so I could stop at Nando’s for lunch. I was not disappointed at all. I could have been in the Nando’s in Corlett drive in JHB. They even had beer on tap, which I have not seen in SA.

Inside Nando’s in Calgary – Felt just like back home!

I ordered my favoured half chicken meal, and it was just like back home. The service was great and the food awesome! Well done Nando’s, I hope you guys have great success and that there will be a Nando’s in Fernie someday!

I ordered my favourite half chicken meal at Nando’s in Calgary

Until them we have to eat another takeout on Fridays, although we all would prefer Nando’s. At least I can look forward to another airport run next week, which I will combine with a stop at Nando’s!

Getting Connected

Getting connected to the Internet proved to be a much bigger challenge than I expected. The plan was to get a SIM card in Calgary to be able to SMS (text as they call it here), do voice calls but most importantly be able to connect to the Internet. We agreed with the owner of the property we are renting to take over their cable TV and Internet subscription for the time we are in Fernie. So I expected to get there and start using the web at blistering speeds.

Things didn’t turn out that way. The first challenge in getting connected was with the 3G connection on my iPhone. When I purchased the SIM card in Calgary, I added what they call features to my prepaid account. Features are basically 30-day bundles you buy on prepaid to make it cheaper. I added a bundle for unlimited text, receiving calls (which you pay for otherwise) and unlimited voice calls after hours. I then also added a 1 GB of data on top of that.  The total for these two features was $70.

Thinking that the 1 GB of data would be more than enough I used my phone to navigate in Calgary. That evening while suffering from jetlag I tried to log into my TELUS Mobility online account. After resetting the password about 3 times I noticed that their site is “best viewed in IE or Firefox” and I was using Safari on my Macbook. When I finally got into the account, I realised that the features was not loaded and that I had used up all of the $100 in credit that I had loaded for only a few hundreds MB of data.

The next morning we returned to the TELUS store and after a call to the call centre they corrected it. Apparently it is a known and common issue when add features while activating new prepaid accounts. Clearly pre-paid is such a small part of the market here that they don’t bother fixing a known issue.

Getting Connected – The 3G speed at the house in Fernie

After all that the first part of getting connected was successful. When we arrived in Fernie, the owner of the house had left a folder with a bunch of information for us. Included were the wifi network name and password for us to use. The only problem was that I was not picking up the network.

There were a few others that seem to be available through out the house but the password didn’t work on them. The modem was in a one room in the house the owner had locked with all their personal belongings in there. I contacted the rental agency and after the delay in them chatting to the owners they send me the same information as in the folder again. They must have thought I was an idiot for not being able to connect to the network.

I later convinced them that there must be another problem, so the owner suggested to go to a computer store in town and renting another modem to set things up. They offered to pay for the rental. The store however did not stock cable Internet modems and they said that Shaw (the provider) would not allow two modems in the same house either.

So the obvious next step was to try and get into the room to see if there is a problem with the modem. However the rental agency didn’t have a key. So the locksmith came out to the house and tried to pick the lock but was unsuccessful. He then had the idea that if the owners could give him the number on the key he could try and make one. After a bit of a delay (the rental agency was having their xmas party that afternoon) we got the key number. The locksmith went back made and key and then returned to give it a try. But we had no luck with the key either. The next step was to drill the lock open, but he had to get permission from the owner first. By this time it was too late so we had to wait another day.

The next day he returned and took about 30 min to drill the lock open. When we got into the room the modem was unplugged. I plugged it in, and it all worked perfectly, although a little temperamental at times.

Getting Connected – The line is nice and fast!

Never thought getting connected here in Fernie would be such a mission…but now that we are, we love it! It is nice and fast and we stream video like a dream.

Do More Faster

Do More Faster - TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup

I am not usually a fan of books that are a compilation written by different authors. I tend to find then disjointed and without a well paced rhythm. But I really enjoyed the previous two books by Brad Feld so I wanted to give Do More Faster a try. Despite these challenges the book was very enjoyable, with great gems of information and advices throughout. The authors sorted the contribution according to themes to try and get more cohesion and succeeded to an extent.

Do More Faster is co-authored by David Cohen the co-founder and CEO of TechStars. The contributors from the book also are all connected to TechStars in some way. One thing I really enjoyed was the comments David and Brad would give after most of the piece by contributing authors.

==>Click here to buy: Do More Faster <==

But as I mentioned there were some great bit and piece of advice here are some of my favourites:

Do quick releases, and get Feedback

This is a constant mantra of many of the software startup book I have read lately and is well explained in Do More Faster

Entrepreneurship is a team sport

This is the best articulation of this idea I have heard so far. It seams the odds are more in you favour in a multi founder startup. One of the arguments is that you need more than one person to keep the passion and enthusiasm going through some of the challenging times every startup face.

Vesting Founder shares

This was a really cool idea. And one I would have benefitted from 10 years ago. Instead give the founders of a company their entire allocation of share right of front. You make them vest over time. For example, if you had two founders who agree to split the shares 50/50. Instead if the vesting was done over 4 years, they will get a fifth of their shares at the start and then at the end of each of the next four years. This means if one of the founders leave after year one, at the end of the five years the share split will be 50/20.

83(b) filing

This is a very important piece of paper the founders of the business needs to complete upfront when they start a company with a vesting agreement.  It saves the founders a huge tax liability later. Matt Galligan who writes this piece, didn’t file his 83(b) once and paid for it dearly.

==>Click here to buy: Do More Faster <==

There quite a few great snippets of information like this in Do More Faster. It is worth a read if you will ever find yourself in a tech startup space. I enjoyed Do More Faster.

Opening a Canadian Bank Account

Update: Recently opened a US bank Account, read the post here.

Since we will be in Fernie for 5 months, I thought it would be easier to open a Canadian bank account. There were a few reasons for this. The first was the volatility of the rand. I find it easier to budget for the trip at a fixed exchange rate. This may mean I win or lose a little depending on what the Rand does, but this way I have a clear idea what the trip will cost us upfront.

The second challenge is the general hassle factor of using a South African credit card when overseas. I like to limit my cell phone charges when overseas so I usually divert my SA number to voicemail while overseas. After the first one or two transactions, the bank will try and reach me and when they are not able to do so, they stop the card for overseas use. Needless to say that leads to allot of frustration.

I knew it would take a few days before I got a Canadian bank account open. So I informed the bank before we left that the card will be used overseas for the next 5 months. Despite that when I tried to do the first important transaction it was declined. This was around 15:00 in Fernie, so already very late into the night in SA. It took a 30 min call back to SA to finally get the transaction approved.

Thirdly there are quite a few merchants here in Fernie whom charge you an extra 2% if you pay with a Credit Card.

Opening a Canadian bank account would help with all these. Before the trip I called the local TD Canada Trust branch and tried to open an account before we arrived, but that was not possible. I then tried online but also didn’t have any luck there. After a few google searches I was not sure it would be so easy for a foreigner that is a non-resident to open a bank account.

Where we opened a Canadian bank account

TD Canada Trust Fernie – Where we opened a Canadian bank account

But like most of our experiences here so far it was a breeze. It took me all of 5 minutes to open a cheque account. I left with my debit card and Internet banking profile all done.  The only hiccup was I needed two documents for identification, one was my passport, but they didn’t want my SA driving license, so they ended up using the Canadian Visa as the second document. Getting a additional card for my wife was just as easy.

What was interesting is that the ATM was inside the bank. So when I wanted to withdraw money on Friday evening, I was not sure if the ATM would be accessible. It was, they had a flimsy door separating it from the bank, and through it you could see the open bank safe. I wonder how long it would be before somebody breaks into the bank if this was in SA.

Once the account was open I wanted to transfer money from South Africa to the Canadian bank account. I had completed forms and gave the bank back home a copy of my passport and airplane ticket before I left, to finalize it as quickly as possible. Despite that there was a few days delay, luckily the exchange rate moved in my favour while I waited so it all worked out.

So far everything has gone great with the Canadian bank account. We have done a few transactions with the debit cards; I have downloaded the iOS app and the Internet banking works like a charm. Thank you to Andrea Gignac from TD Canada Trust – Fernie that made helped me to open a Canadian bank account.

If I knew it was going to be this easy, I would have opened a Canadian bank account when we were in Fernie in September when we were here to find a place to rent. That would have probably saved me a few thousand rand, but that is how we learn, I suppose.

Skis for Fernie’s legendary Powder

Most of the skiing we have ever done has been in Europe. About 6 or 7 years ago we decided to buy a full set of equipment. Back then we decided that we love skiing enough that it would work out cheaper to buy some equipment instead of renting every time we go skiing.

I think that first investment we made have shown a really great return. We have been using most of that equipment till now. We replaced bits and pieces along the way but most of the stuff is still from that first batch.

One of the challenges in buying instead renting is that your equipment, especially ski’s get outdated after a few years. The other big challenge is that travelling to all over the world with all the stuff can be a mission, but we have the hang of that by now.

Leading up to this season we realised through some of the nonstop (the instructor course) communication that conditions in Canada will be a lot different than what we are used to in Europe. The first change is that the temperature is much lower, so we needed to learn to layer our clothes. The other big adjustment would be for the legendary Fernie powder.

Here is a video where Jens (nonstop technical director) talks about buying skis:

This meant that we needed to get new skis for Fernie’s legendary powder, as our carving skis won’t work well in the deep and steep stuff in Fernie. So last Friday the day before opening day we wanted to go to the shop in the video (The Guides Hut) to have a look at what they had. It was our full intention not to buy anything yet but to just look around and learn about the things we need to consider.

When we were looking around, Mark (whom I now know is the owner) came up to us and started chatting and answering our questions. He was super helpful and explained everything we wanted to know. While we were still looking around, Jens came into the store and he started helping as well. He gave us great advice on skis that would work for us in the course and in the Fernie conditions.

It was a great experience and we ended up both getting new skis, I got new boots and Ankie layers and layers of clothes. Have a look at my new skis:

dynastar outland 87

My Skis for Fernie’s Legendary Powder – Dynastar outland 87

And new boots have been long overdue:

My new boots fit like a dream

My new boots fit like a dream – Lange Pro Booster 120

So far the service and help here in Fernie has been amazing, people are very friendly and always eager to help. Today we went out for the second time on the new equipment and it was amazing. The 24hours leading up to this morning had produced about 32cm of snow. This was on our balcony this morning:

About 32cm over night

Snowed more than 30 cm over night last night

As we got out of the car in the parking lot on the mountain, the snow started falling again. It was one of the best days skiing we have ever had. I was often knee deep in powder and once just before I planted my face in the snow up to my middle. It is a whole new feeling, skiing in such deep snow, but I am sure we will master it before the end of the season.

I am really loving ever moment! Make sure you get skis for Fernie’s legendary powder if you ever come over here.

Thanks to Mark Gallup from The Guides Hut and Jens Mende from NonStop for the help! You guys rock!