Toronto is known for being the home of a hundred languages, a cosmopolitan and multicultural hub of activity, and Canada’s largest city. With such diversity, it’s no wonder that Toronto’s startup and coworking ecosystem are thriving and growing.
Coworking in Toronto
The coworking community of Toronto has exploded, and there really isn’t a more apt word for it. In 2010 there were only three coworking spaces, and though others have since opened and closed, the city now sustains 25 spaces and there is still room for more in pocket areas. By comparison, there may have been 10 coworking spaces in the whole country in 2010, whereas in 2015 there are approximately 120. Toronto’s growth is thanks to a number of factors, including the state of the economy, rapid changes in technology and social media, and a shift in the way people work. This is fairly common in many cities around the world, but with Toronto being the largest city in the country, many of the coworking spaces in the city were ahead of the curve, mostly due to the collaborative nature of CoworkingToronto. It’s a collective of coworking spaces that work together to raise the profile of coworking across the city and plan and launch projects such as the Coworking Passport Program and the successfully advocating to the Mayor of Toronto to proclaim the first ever CoworkingToronto Day.
Innovative Toronto Startups
It’s incredibly difficult to choose just a few innovative startups in Toronto, but the ones that are making the biggest strides are:
Analytics Canvas – Built by Toronto-based nModal, Analytics Canvas is an advanced tool to visualise, automate, and enhance data analytics processes to help users better understand their web traffic and statistics.
NewPath Consulting – Startups need online marketing and tech support, and with the unique suite of services that NewPath Consulting offers, small businesses can integrate cloud tools to transform and grow, without hiring someone full time.
Eventmobi – Tackling the conference and event industry, Eventmobi’s event apps help organisers wow attendees with a personalised experience, in-app chat, venue maps, poll and survey engagement, and alerts such as room changes or meal times, plus built-in pre- and post-event features that event organisers used to only dream of.
FreshBooks – FreshBooks is every freelancer’s best friend, or at least it should be. While not a new startup, it continuously launches something new to keep it in the forefront of the startup community. Proudly built in Toronto, it’s an easy way to create cloud-based invoices, track time, and get paid faster – what all freelancers and startups want more of.
Toronto Startup Scene Pockets
Many cities have a central area where startups tend to congregate. For some, it is the Central Business District or a section of the downtown core. In Toronto, startups are spread throughout the city in at least four key areas, and that is partially thanks to the widespread locations of coworking spaces in the city, especially the ones outside of the downtown area. Toronto neighbourhoods have clusters of startups that attract other startups to open shop nearby. Being in close proximity to other complimentary startups – or even being close to the competition – can help improve the ecosystem by increasing collaborative options, yet being in a different part of town offers a chance for a startup to find their own footing and grow on their own.
Key Issues in the Toronto Startup Ecosystem
Some of the issues that the Toronto startup community has is not isolated to the city itself. Like many other startup hubs, there is the race to be the first, the largest, or the loudest. There’s also an all too often urge to be the disruptor or rush into fads such as daily deals and cryptocurrency, rather than tackling current issues.
Opportunities in Toronto
According to the Startup Genome Project, Toronto ranks within the top 10 on a global scale. While Toronto has a high concentration of startups, the support for them seems unparalleled compared to other Canadian cities. Startup Canada, an advocacy network designed to engage startups, launched the Startup Toronto meetup to be the entry node to a network of local startups and to facilitate valuable connections among members. Similarly, Hackernest, DevTO, FITC, and Lean Coffee all unite the local tech startup community each in their unique way, be it networking, education, or the sharing of best practices. This is all supported by some great Toronto media that share relevant news and information on the Toronto tech and startup community, particularly TechVibes Toronto, BetaKit, and the blog and newsletter by startup critic Mark Evans. Given these resources combined with the supportive coworking community, there’s no doubt that the Toronto startup ecosystem has opportunities that other markets do not.
Toronto may be dubbed the Silicon Valley of the North, but it is certainly gaining ground by its own merit.
Rachel Young is a Canadian serial entrepreneur and the Founder of Camaraderie Coworking Inc, with one location in Toronto, ON, another in La Prairie, QC ,She believes in the coworking movement, and encourages spaces near her and around the world to ditch the idea of competition in favour of collaboration. As such, she is also a founding member of CoworkingToronto, CoworkingOntario, and CoworkingCanada. She’s currently writing a book with a unique take on coworking communities.