Adil Dhalla, Tech Entrepreneur
Founder, My City Lives
Adil co-founded My City Lives, a trailblazing application that mashes urban exploration videos with Google maps.
“One of my proudest accomplishments since co-founding My City Lives was the first day we paid rent for our office at the Center for Social Innovation. Being able to pay rent as a startup is a huge milestone. It means you’ve done something right if you can graduate from working in squatted spaces, coffee shops and your parents’ garage.”
My City Lives mashes cutting-edge geo technology with the basic human concept of community. It takes crowd-sourced video content uploaded to the site by people in a community and geotags it to specific locations on Google Maps – via computer or mobile phone. Geotags show the exact location of where a video was taken based on GPS technology. Think Google Street View meets YouTube.
While Google Street View can show you the outside of a place, My City Lives lets you explore inside. Think you know the best pizza slice in the city? You can record a video, upload it to My City Lives and grant permission to use the location so other users can see inside. MCL lets users venture inside coffee shops, restaurants, communities and parks throughout Toronto – and eventually entire other cities. “Hopefully, we’ll play a big role in how people explore and learn about places be it for utility (i.e. where’s the best burger joint in town?) or to virtually travel,” Adil says.
Adil’s vision for MCL was born three years ago when he volunteered in Tanzania, a country in East Africa. He taught youth about computers and the Internet. They would often ask him, ‘Brother Dil, what’s Toronto like? What’s Canada like?’
“I would show them pictures and articles about our city, but they couldn’t read them. I thought to myself, if I could just take you to these places myself somehow and introduce you to the CN tower or downtown – we could have a deep impact on how people learn about places. My City Lives is about the transfer of knowledge among people in different communities and different places in the world,” he says.
A day in the life
Adil now travels throughout North America to make connections with potential investors, secure partnerships and build relationships that will help the company grow. His approach and unique ideas have captured the attention of major tech bigwigs, landing him on the West Coast and down in Silicon Valley, America’s tech core. He’s been to some of the world’s top tech headquarters including Facebook and Google. One of Adil’s personal highlights was riding a loaner bike across the ‘Googleplex’ to meet with people from the Android Team. In Vancouver, he went kite surfing with other entrepreneurs and venture capitalists (investors).
My City Lives partnered with Toronto video agency BizMedia to create a series of exclusive content for the platform. Adil captures big events such as We Day, TEDxToronto, Buskerfest and Toronto’s all night art festival Nuit Blanche, as well as profiling entire neighbourhoods in the city. These videos are in addition to the user-generated videos.
Adil also does special projects like the Transit Mayor series, a narrative about the mayor who led Toronto through what he calls one of the city’s most formative periods. Ex-mayor David Miller reflected on Toronto as one of the world’s great cities.
Why this job rocks
Adil is extremely proud of his work and the future of My City Lives. “As the world continues to urbanize, the opportunity to document, share and celebrate what’s great about cities has never had so much potential,” he says. Eventually My City Lives hopes to go global to showcase the unique cultures of many cities around the world.
- Adil studied history at Queens University then earned his MBA from Wilfred Laurier.
- He worked as a consultant for a small consulting and marketing firm. He helped overhaul the company’s website and update its tech infrastructure.
- He moved on to work at Waterfront Media in NYC, the world’s largest online health portal, where he managed relationships with partner companies and helped them monetize.
- While doing his MBA, Adil founded TicketTrunk.com, an online self-service box office that anyone can use to sell tickets.
- In 2009, he co-founded My City Lives. He now leads a small team of dreamers and developers.
Entrepreneurship is a challenge and a risk, but Adil says to always remember that nothing worth doing comes easy. “When we started, I borrowed money from my parents to pay bills. While they're my biggest supporters, I didn't feel good about it. I made sacrifices to cut my costs and stayed focused with my business partners to realize our vision. Thankfully, we got funded not too long after.”
To be successful you need to be willing to take chances and fail without tossing in the towel. “Good entrepreneurs are really bad at giving up. They become obsessed with how to overcome obstacles. What I love about every successful entrepreneur I've met is that they keep trying,” Adil says.
Tips for success
- Embrace your entrepreneurial community. Attend meet-ups and events and check out sites like sprouter.com. This will help you meet other entrepreneurs in your area. You can learn from them and potentially work together.
- Work with others. “The biggest lesson I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is you cannot do it alone. The best thing you can do is speak to others who are trying to do similar things as you and grow in a positive direction with them.”
- Take chances. Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone – it takes hard work, commitment, patience and support. Believe in your vision, surround yourself with positive support and stick with it for as long as you can.