Scotland meets Canada with #CrossCreative

Earlier this month the Cross Creative group went global, jetting off to Canada to meet some exciting folks doing cool things in the world of digital. With over 20 meetings in 5 days, it was a jam-packed week of learning, networking and showcasing Scotland’s digital talent across the pond.

The international trip forms part of a six month training and development programme for senior leaders in Scotland’s digital sector. During their time in Toronto the group met with a number of the city’s best and brightest companies, from successful start-ups to internationally recogonised Canadian brands. Here’s a few highlights from a very inspiring week…

Key lessons from the Cross Creative group:

  • Empowerment is everything.
  • When recruiting, hire for ‘cultural adds’ rather than ‘cultural fits’ – say goodbye to unconscious bias and diversify your team
  • Your career is not a “ladder” – it is a jungle gym – moving sideways and trying out new things is great!
  • Even the best make mistakes. Huge ones too.
  • Perks are a bonus, but work-life balance and culture are more important
  • University collaboration seems to be the common denominator in thriving tech communities
  • Mistakes happen. It’s how you try to plan for them or react to them that matters.

We visited far too many brilliant companies to share in a single blog post, so here’s a snapshot:

MaRS Discovery District

One of the world’s largest urban innovation hubs, that supports start-ups, helping them grow, create jobs and solve society’s greatest challenges.


Freshbooks make invoice and accounting software for small businesses and ‘execute extraordinary experiences every day’, as written on the wall of their office kitchen! Great to learn about their impressive company culture.


TFO is a publicly funded, French language educational television station. The Cross Creative group got an in-depth look at “LUV” – the innovative green screen studio that utilises real time gaming engines to build TV sets. Coming soon to a Canadian TV set near you…


One of Canada’s biggest success stories of recent years, the Shopify team shared some great take-aways on how to attract a top team and allow them to grow.


The world’s first cloud-based phone carrier. Text Now’s culture, employee benefits and office space were incredible – their environment-conscious office building generates more energy than they use!

Impossible Things

A private guided tour of the amazing “ReBlink” exhibition that features a unique 3D augmented reality overlay on famous paintings. ReBlink offers a modern-day recasting of the past, seamlessly blended onto the original work using augmented reality.


Canada’s only creative agency that specialises in digital start ups, technology firms, and large brands.

Tech Connex

Since 1982 TechConnex has been a strong voice for everyone in the Greater Toronto Area tech cluster – supporting business developers, innovators, suppliers, and providers. The Cross Creative group were privileged to spend time with the CEO Peer Group Event at IBM’s Innovation Space.


DMZ support tech and digital start ups through the entire growth journey in their newly improved 3 stage development programme. With space, advice and access to expertise and mentors, it’s a full support accelerator programme.

A huge thanks for everyone who opened their doors to us, shared their knowledge, wisdom and Canadian hospitality. Give us a bell if you’re ever in Scotland!

Our contributors

Jen Neilands (Sidewalk Labs), Leesa Butler, Esther Phua, Patricia Yeboah (Artscape Daniels Launchpad), Tiphaera Ziner Cohen, Telma Fletcher, Justin Cohen (CISCO), George Kyriakis, Steve Bujouves (FreshBooks), Aislinn Malszecki (MaRS Discovery District), Ian Kelso (Impossible Things), Valentina Sutton (Text Now), Chris Kleisath (SAP LABS Waterloo), Juliesa Adolphus (DMZ Incubator), Eam Keu, Jason Reynolds, Kathleen Chiu (SAP – Toronto office), Ulrich Dessouassi, Max Paiment, Cliff Lavallee, Carole Nkoa (TFO Studios), Chelsea Rudderham, Tammy Connelly (Shopify), Miguel Sanchez, Sarah Cuddie (21 toys), Gonzalo Duarte (Centre for Social innovation), Wendy Bairos, Fatima Zahidi, Corey Ingwersen, Stacey Orth (Eighty-Eight Agency), Marsha Druker (Fuck Up Nights, Toronto), Max Greenwood (Techvibes), Ryan Ellis, Barry Fairhurst, Tech Connex members (Tech Connex), Matt Skynner (Venturelabs), Michael Howatson, Farouk Dossa, Ditmar Haist (Rangle) and Laura Curk (Hockeystick).

Find out more about Cross Creative.