Immigrants are drawn to Hamilton for many reasons; jobs, family, and a sense of belonging. The reason Ankur Patel and Robert Skoczen were drawn was Brüha — the startup that gave them the autonomy to express their creativity developing a user friendly product that will someday become popular like Google, Facebook or Twitter.
Patel, a 26-year-old Indian, Skoczen a 33-year old Polish Canadian, along with Canadian born Graeme Davis, Kristian Borghesan and Ryan O’Neil are partners of Brüha (connecting the community to events through their app), located at The Forge, 245 James N. Forge is a product of McMaster’s Innovation Factory fostering young entrepreneurs to innovate and grow their businesses in Hamilton.
Born in Gujarat, India, Patel came to Canada as an international student after completing his BEng in IT at 21. He completed IT and web design at Lambton College in Sarnia in August 2014 and applied for his work permit. While waiting for his work permit, he moved to Brampton and made many Gujarati friends. In February 2015, responding to an online advertisement he connected with Davis who hired him to work remotely. Together they founded Brüha in September of the same year and Patel moved to Hamilton.
In Hamilton, Patel found his first job and his true love. Together the couple visited India last year and got engaged. He now lives with his fiancé who is also from Gujarat and planning to get married next year. Patel says that the wedding will take place at a neutral place and they plan to visit a Hindu temple before or after. He is not religious, but attends Diwali and new year celebrations in Brampton to keep in touch with his friends. If he ever gets a chance, Patel says, “I would like to study artificial intelligence.”
Skoczen’s parents immigrated to Canada when he was eight and they lived in Burlington. Skoczen says he did not enjoy high school however he excelled at Sheridan computer science program that resulted in a full-time job at the college. Then he moved to Mississauga and worked both as an instructor and a technologist at Sheridan. Skoczen says he is a workaholic and after nine years of working full time, in January 2016 he made a resolution to pursue a hobby. He searched the internet but the only thing he could come up was PHP, his favourite programming language. He searched for PHP events and startup Fair at Mohawk popped up. He signed up and attended the event. Skoczen says despite the fact he is anti-social, at this event he spoke to every company and after careful consideration believed Brüha was his match. He worked part-time remotely for Brüha while also working at Sheridan full time and living in Mississauga. In June of this year he quit Sheridan, moved back with his parents in Burlington and started Brüha full time.
“It is inconvenient to both but I really cannot afford to sign a lease here in Hamilton at this time,” says Skoczen. He plans to make a new year resolution to start an outdoor hobby, hiking or biking. Hamilton, its culture, architecture and people makes it unique, a city like no other, says Skoczen. His dream is to buy a home in Hamilton some day. For now his favourite place is his bed (a comfortable foam mattress).
“I enjoy relaxing or sleeping in my bed, there is no other place I’d rather be,” he says.
Their similarities far exceed their differences. Although the skin colour, country of birth and religion are different, they are risk takers, entrepreneurial, tech lovers, and deeply desiring Brüha to succeed. “For our team to succeed hard work and commitment is needed. We all depend on each other and I don’t want to let my team down,” says Patel. Skoczen agrees and he adds “I want to create a product that is really good and easy for people to use. The team have their own specialties: Patel and I work very closely together, we have fun working together, we are the same.”
Like most millennials they have dreams and the appeal to support social causes. The team, Davis (CEO), Borghesan (marketing director), O’Neil (art director), Skoczen (chief technology officer) and Patel (lead web developer) are not only colleagues but good friends. Skoczen and Patel both agree that their leisure activities involve work and the team: team dinners, pool parties, laser tag and promoting charitable events, for example, Kegs4Cncr raising funds for oncology program at McMaster and JR Digs acoustic Christmas concert raising funds for local charities.
The team often walks to the city centre and Jackson Square, says Skoczen, “I point to the taller buildings and say one day our office will be up there on the top floor.”