How Industry Leaders Are Working to Keep Startups in Canada
Canada’s most populous city is home to more than 3,000 active tech startups. Few would consider Toronto an unfavorable location to launch an innovative new company. Indeed, Canadian unicorns like Shopify, Kik, Hootsuite, and D2L all boast satellite offices in the city, as do several U.S. giants, such as Google and Facebook.

In spite of this, Toronto’s tech startup scene is still viewed by many as being in an early, fledgling state. One reason for this is the fact that none of the thousands of active tech startups in the region have reached the billion-dollar valuation threshold that is often required for fast-growing companies to become major international players.

The business community in Toronto is still largely defined by the daily bustling of Bay Street, which makes it difficult for even the cleverest startups to stand out. Thanks to a recently announced campaign backed by Toronto Mayor John Tory, this may change in the near future.

StartUp Here Toronto

StartUp Here Toronto is a new website and promotional strategy designed to champion the Toronto region as a centre for startups, innovation, and growth. Mayor Tory will partner with City of Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic to embark on a dual city mission to San Francisco and Silicon Valley in April. The purpose of their journey will be to promote the region’s strengths, including talent and innovation, in order to encourage investment.

According to Mayor Tory, “Toronto and the Waterloo Region are no further apart than San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and are home to a diverse, highly educated population and game changing ideas. We need to build our reputation as a place where great talent is nurtured, industries can grow and where we engage the public in finding innovative solutions.”

A Private Sector Tech Fund

In addition to the Mayor’s new initiative, some successful entrepreneurs that got their start in Canada are returning to aid the country’s startup scene. Tony Lacavera created his first business in 1998 and has spent more than 15 years working in the venture capital industry.

Lacavera is the entrepreneur behind Canada’s fourth-largest wireless provider, Wind Mobile, and he recently announced his intention to raise up to $100 million to create a venture capital fund that will assist Canadian tech companies, specifically.

Lacavera’s motivation stems from the observation that so many promising companies struggle to maintain funding after spending their initial seed capital. Despite the fact that Toronto is full of innovative incubator programs, funding for many new companies begins to dry up between year one and three. The result is companies having to seek funding from foreign investors or relocate their business outside of Canada altogether.

“I discovered that companies need a lot of growth capital,” says Lacavera. “But there’s not a lot available in Canada. I’m trying to be a true Canadian alternative. I want to accelerate growth in Canada.”

Lacavera’s plan is to keep the tech fund open until the conclusion of 2016, at which point he will shift his focus to helping the companies it has funded. By reducing some of the stress associated with money and funding, Lacavera hopes that he can aid companies in their mission to provide top-quality tech products and services to the Canadian market.

A Diverse Talent Pool

Arguably, Toronto’s biggest strength is the linguistic and ethnic diversity of its’ homegrown talent pool, which receives an obvious boost from several world-class engineering schools and universities in the region.

According to Mayor Tory, “People live where they can get a great quality of life, and a big part of that is making sure you can have a good job, or that you can start up and run and flourish a business; the two go hand in hand. Toronto is the economic, innovative, and financial centre of this country. As Toronto does well, so Canada does well.”

It’s clear that, through initiatives like StartUp Here Toronto and with the help of private venture capital funding, utilizing the region’s deep talent pool to its’ full potential is a challenge that leaders in the Toronto region are ready and willing to tackle in 2016.


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Posted by: DSR
Friday, April 1, 2016
Tag: Business Start Ups
Business Start Ups
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