BetaKit’s Due South series profiled Canadian entrepreneurs who founded companies in the United States, and in recent years, many of those entrepreneurs have returned to build teams, scale businesses, and take advantage of the country’s emerging tech hubs.
Patrick Stein, vice president of engineering at Tatari, a San Francisco-founded media company, has experienced a similar journey, and now, he’s hoping to make Toronto the engineering base of the company.
“Toronto has this really tight-knit startup community that you don’t really get elsewhere, especially in Silicon Valley.”
Stein grew up in Etobicoke, on the west side of Toronto, attended the University of Toronto, and in 2010, co-founded Connectsy, a bootstrapped mobile application startup. He left the city because he wanted to get more involved in the startup scene, which wasn’t as prosperous a decade ago as it is today.
He ended up answering “the siren call of the states” and moved to Portland, Oregon in 2012, where he was a senior developer for Vizify, a company that was later acquired by Yahoo. Stein then moved to San Francisco in 2014, to take on a senior software engineer role at Yahoo. He also worked at Tumblr for just over a year, where he served as senior software engineer and later on, principal software engineer.
In 2016, Stein became vice president of engineering at Tatari. Tatari is a data and analytics platform that works in the linear television advertising space, and more recently, the connected TV advertising space. Founded in 2016, the company optimizes TV advertising and manages media-buying through advanced analytics. The company is trying to modernize the TV advertising experience, using metrics like demographics and brand response, in an attempt to elbow a traditional medium of marketing into its digital future. Some of its clients include Mrs. Fields, carsharing company, Turo, and watch designer, Mvmt.
Stein said bringing Tatari’s operations to Toronto was something that he’d been thinking about very early on, and it consistently remained in the back of his mind as the company grew. Stein said that last year, after eight years of experiencing the American startup world, he and Tatari decided it was time to return to Toronto to build the company’s engineering team.
“Toronto has this really tight-knit startup community that you don’t really get elsewhere, especially in Silicon Valley,” Stein said. “That aspect of collaboration that you get here is really something that’s unique and quite powerful.”
Tatari has offices in San Francisco, Santa Monica, and, (as of last fall), Toronto. Stein said the city’s collaborative and helpful network of entrepreneurs was a pleasant respite from the cutthroat culture of Silicon Valley.
“It was just time to come back,” Stein said. “There’s an attitude in Canada in general of people being friendlier and nicer, and it’s clichéd and it’s stereotypical to say that, but it’s true. It’s the right place to be.”
Tatari’s Toronto office, currently located in the city’s financial district with its sights set on the Queen West area, was initially envisioned to just house an engineering team. But Stein said the Toronto outpost is going beyond its original mandate, and is now building out some of its core product teams, expanding into product design and development.
“Toronto has a fantastic base of engineering talent especially for a startup,” Stein said. “There are some really great engineers here, and there are some really great schools that are beating some great new graduates into the kind of ecosystem here.”
Tatari stated it has raised no VC funding since its founding, with Stein noting that this was really by design.
“Bootstrapping gives you that independence,” Stein said. “It was just something that came together naturally, and pretty much every month we’ve been in operation, we’ve been able to turn a profit and be self-sustaining, which is pretty amazing.”
Tatari has focused on the traditional linear TV space, a sizeable industry, but one that Stein said is also shrinking. Looking ahead, he said the company is looking towards the world of streaming and connected TV, and that 2019 will be the year the company completely embraces these mediums. Tatari is looking to transform its product to be as powerful for the streaming world as it is for linear TV. He added that this year, he also wants to make Toronto the company’s largest engineering office, and shift the company’s main base of engineering operations from the United States.
“If you’re looking for a place to really establish a strong engineering team and to have access to a community that can support you and help raise the bar, Toronto is a bit of an obvious choice,” he said.
Image courtesy Tatari.