AHA MEDIA from Vancouver Downtown Eastside is very proud to be featured in Robert Matas’ article “Clustering In Action” in “The Globe and Mail” National newspaper

Clustering in action

Robert Matas

Vancouver — From Saturday’s Globe and Mail Published on Friday, Dec. 18, 2009 10:13PM EST


AHA Media is a struggling new company incubated in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside by a government-funded agency that turned to theories of a Harvard University professor more often associated with Silicon Valley and Hollywood than with revitalization of urban slums.

April Smith, one of the company’s founders, drifted into the Downtown Eastside after a serious car accident left her with severe memory loss and other injuries. With no money, she ended up living in temporary shelters and hotels dominated by predator pimps and drug addicts, she said recently in an interview.

Her life changed after she began cartooning to tell the stories of people she met at the hotel and on the street. A local community group inspired her to think about reporting activities in her neighbourhood without going through traditional media. She became part of an apprenticeship program developed by a cluster of local companies. After completing the program, she worked with others to open a new business in the area, AHA Media.

Prof. Michael Porter has written extensively about the advantages of clustering as an approach to economic development. Concentrating interconnected companies, specialized suppliers and associated educational institutions in the same geographic area fosters increased employment, productivity and innovation, he said. The clusters become a catalyst for innovation that feeds economic growth.

Building Opportunities with Business, a government-funded agency, dedicated to revival of the local economy, embraced clustering at the suggestion of an ex-board member who had studied at Harvard.

Ms. Smith was part of a training program developed by a cluster that included Bell Canada, the FireHall Arts Centre, a local digital filmmaking program that works with youth at risk called Intersections Media, a B.C. government employment program called BladeRunners and a non-profit group working in social media called W2: Community Media Arts.

The training program “gave me a big, big start,” she said. “It gave me a sense of direction.”

Ms. Smith is now on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Flickr. She describes herself as a mobile new-media videographer and social media content-producer. She shoots camera-phone videos and live-streams events onto the Internet.

To speak with April Smith more personally


To see more of AHA MEDIA:





Clustering pushes local businesses to think how they can work together, BOB’s chief executive officer, Shirley Chan, said. But, unlike Silicon Valley, the Downtown Eastside businesses do not have resources to carry out many of their ideas.

“Many employers here are marginal, they do not have a lot of money. That is why they are here. The rent is cheap,” she said. “ Without finding sources of funding, there is not a lot that can be created.”


AHA MEDIA wishes to thank the following 🙂

Robert Matas, Reporter for Globe and Mail http://www.theglobeandmail.com

Shirley Chan of BOB ( Building Opportunities with Business ) http://www.buildingopportunities.org

Irwin Oostindie of W2 Community Media Arts http://www.creativetechnology.org

Lani Russwurm of DTES CAN ( Downtown Eastside Community Arts Network ) http://tinyurl.com/yaqw5mz

Lorraine Murphy of Raincoaster Media http://RaincoasterMedia.com

  1. December 22, 2009 at 3:49 am

    Supercongrats! Your success is all due to your own hard work; we just pointed you in the right direction.

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