5 Questions…with John Carson

Since 1995, Greensroll.org, a green, non-profit launched in July 2009 to help power the Internet with green energy. He currently does online communications at an independent school in Toronto.  

What motivates you to do what you do on a daily basis?jc

I am motivated by connecting with the amazing professionals that work in Toronto, and the local social media and start-up community. It’s been humbling the amount of people that have passed on their knowledge for free, either via online methods or at meet-ups, podcamps and other informal events. I get a buzz from knowing that a blog post, or tweet of mine can be read in seconds by someone on the other side of the world, and we can connect to help each other out. It’s addictive.

Do you have any success start-up tips for people wanting to create a name for themselves in your industry?

Contrary to what some people believe, I think it is very important to first build up a strong personal brand before committing to a start-up. These days, with the full transparency that social media demands, people are looking behind the scenes to see who are the teams involved in creating a start-up, app, website, blog etc. It’s not an ego thing, it’s just about having some credibility and putting yourself on the line: “Hey, we’re here, this is our start-up … happy to answer questions!”

Always be available at the end of an e-mail, cellphone number or social media profile to connect with people and help them along. It’s a more personal world these days; you don’t need to make it hard for potential advocates of your brand to reach you. First impressions DO still matter!

In your opinion why is Toronto a hotbed for cool tech start-ups?

I think Toronto is a hotbed purely because the amazing diversity of people that have come to make this city their home. I am from England, and have worked with people from Russia, China, India, and so on. All these people have brought their own perspectives and viewpoints on how to be successful in the technology industry; what’s the point of working with a lot of “yes men” who agree all the time? It won’t work. Decisions need to be questioned, critiqued and debated.

Toronto is a microcosm of the world, and because it still feels very localized, it’s easy to build long-lasting relationships with smart people as you see a lot of them at networking events around the city. The amount of ideas and opinions floating around out there are staggering.

What’s your favourite tech toy and social media site and why?

My favourite tech toy is my four-year-old basic cellphone, that has no web access, smartphone capabilities, apps etc. Strange answer? No. It means I can only use it to talk with people in person, so it retains the personal touch of human interaction, rather than spending hours getting hooked on checking e-mails, tweets and so on. I save that time for when I am at a PC. It is a life/work balance thing that I strongly adhere to.

My favourite social media site is one I have been on since it launched in 2003: LinkedIn. I have got more value out of this site over the years than any other. It takes time to use the site to its fullest capacity, but the weight of knowledge on there is pure gold. Whether it’s getting a business referral from a colleague, some instant market feedback via a poll or simply job searching, I don’t think it can be beat.

Who would you say is one of Toronto’s social media/tech stars and why?

Please indulge me with two? First off, I think Danny Brown is one of the people I would highlight. Working at a full-time job, he still finds time to write an excellent blog, is very active on Twitter, and founded his own charity that has been very successful. In the dictionary, Danny’s photo should be next to the word “community” in my opinion.

Secondly, Dave Forde of Toronto Tech Week. Dave calls himself “The Connected One” and you can definitely see why. A great network in keeping up with what’s going on in the Toronto scene. He should be in everyone’s contact book.