Toronto's Startup Scene
When I first immersed myself in the startup world over a year ago, I was blown away by the vibrance of Toronto's startup community. While it's obvious there's some much 'larger' hubs in the United States, Toronto is clearly Canada's answer to Silicon Valley. This is my humble attempt at putting together a list of some of the best startup resources and people in the area that newcomers should certainly know about.
Groups & Events
There's plenty of great events being hosted around the city every week. Here's a brief list of some of the groups & events I've discovered. You can keep up to date on what's happening by subscribing for the Sprouter Weekly and Startup Digest Toronto newsletters (speaking of newsletters, Hacker Newsletter is an awesome resource for distilling Y Combinator's Hacker News).
Yes, one of the world's best startup resources is Canadian! Saved from the brink by the Postmedia Group, Sprouter continues to be one of the best sources of startup information available. Participating on their Q&A site is a must, as is signing-up for their weekly newsletter. Sprouter also brings the fantastic SproutUpTO event to Toronto. A first-class opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and hobnob with some great entrepreneurs (I really enjoyed when they brought in Lane Becker from SF). The next event is coming up in a few weeks this March, featuring guest speaker Tony Conrad (About.me founder & True Ventures partner).
Lean Coffee is a weekly event (Tuesdays & Thursdays off-and-on, bright and early), organized by a group of Toronto's lean startup advocates. Each session tackles a different topic under the lean startup umbrella, where participants are encouraged to contribute in the discussion, whether you have experiences to share or not. You are guaranteed to meet some very interesting people.
MaRS Discovery District
"Building Canada's Next Generation of Growth Companies" is a fitting slogan. MaRS is a great resource to get one-on-one advice from dedicated advisors. They also have a large network of experienced entrepreneurs they can hook up with aspiring entrepreneurs for mentorship, and a great startup 101 series for which you can get past videos / take the intro course on their website (or get involved via live webcasts). Be sure to check out their Entrepreneur's Toolkit for a wealth of information & assistance, including funding, advice & inspirational videos, templates & workbooks, and other valuable information. They also host the Mobile Monday series of events, if you're a mobiphile.
C100 is a non-profit, member-driven organization dedicated to supporting Canadian technology entrepreneurship and investment. Keep an eye out for their popular AccelerateTO event, featuring prominent Venture Capitalists from the Valley & Toronto as well as plenty of aspiring entrepreneurs and community influencers.
Startup Weekend Toronto
Startup Weekend in Toronto is one of many weekend 'hack-a-thons' held around the world, where participants get together with local developers, marketers, designers, and enthusiasts, and start companies in just 54 hours.
Held sporadically in cities across Canada, including Toronto, DemoCamp facilitates the popular startup pitch concept. Entrepreneurs, developers, funders, and other interested parties participate making this one of the larger startup events held in the city. Startups can apply to pitch their idea / product / service and engage in discussion with the audience and judges.
Startup North is a great community resource for startup articles, events and job postings.
Startup Drinks is a worldwide phenomenon, and Canada has it's own variety. A great place to grab a pint with like-minded individuals in a casual setting. Now with FREE APPETIZERS!!!
Mobile Founder Drinks
Mobile Founder Drinks, organized by Sarah Prevette of Sprouter, is a great way to meet influential entrepreneurs focussed on mobile in Toronto. It's only been held once so far, but keep an eye out for the next in this great series of events!
Founders & Funders
Founders & Funders is a series of invitation-only dinners that aim to bring together great startups and VCs / angels active in the city. Startups apply for consideration in this annual event.
Ladies Learning Code
A relatively new addition to the startup scene but growing rapidly, Ladies Learning Code hosts regular workshops that focus on hands-on, social learning for a number of common programming languages and frameworks. Apparently a lot of ladies want to code!
Nspire Innovation Network
Birthed by some entrepreneurs out of the University of Toronto, this well-run group facilitates the startup movement for young adults (geared mostly towards those exiting or just-exited university). Their National Business & Technology Conference is a great way to meet other aspiring entrepreneurs and drop-in on some insightful workshops. You'll also find a startup competition, as well as some headline speakers (like the President of IBM Canada, Harry Rosen, or the Founder of Four Seasons, Isadore Sharp).
Ofcourse, there's no community without the people who make it great. Here's a few I've come across that are worth a follow (in alphabetical order):
- Chris Albinson, Panorama Capital
- John Albright, JLA Ventures
- Chris Arsenault, iNovia Capital
- Ali Asaria, Well.ca
- Robin Axon, Mantella Venture Partners
- Jordan Banks, Facebook Canada
- Jonas Brandon, Startup North / Rogers Ventures
- Alex Blom, SalesChoice / Helix
- Eugene Bomba, PwC Toronto Tech
- Jeremy Bower, The Working Group (Mobile)
- Erin Bury, Sprouter
- Elizabeth Caley, AccelerateTO
- Peter Carrescia, OMERS Ventures
- Roger Chabra, Rho Ventures
- Boris Chan, XtremeLabs
- David Crow, Startup North, Founders & Funders, DemoCamp, Toronto Startup Guy
- Daniel Debow, Rypple, Workbrain
- April Dunford, Marketing Wiz
- Chris Eben, The Working Group / Rocketr
- Mark Evans, Startup Marketing Mentor
- Kunal Gupta, Polar Mobile
- Howard Gwin, OMERS Ventures
- Austin Hill, Angel / VC
- Duncan Hill, Mantella Venture Partners
- Satish Kanwar, JetCooper / Lean Coffee TO
- Alex Kjorven, ACCESS Community Capital Fund
- Albert Lai, Kontagent / Big Viking Games
- Raymond Luk, Year One Labs
- Jevon MacDonald, GoInstant / Startup North
- Mark MacLeod, General Partner at Real Ventures
- Mark McQueen, Wellington Fund (Venture Debt Fund)
- Mike McDerment, FreshBooks
- Krista Napier, IDC Canada Senior Analyst, Mobile / Digital Media / Emerging Tech
- Heather Payne, Ladies Learning Code
- Mark Pavlidis, Endloop Mobile
- Andrew Peek, Rocketr / Jet Cooper
- Scott Pelton, GrowthWorks Capital
- Sarah Prevette, Sprouter
- Vivian Prokop, Canadian Youth Business Foundation
- Matt Roberts, BDC IT Fund
- Katherine Roos, Enterprise TO Small Business Guru
- Mark Ruddock, Status.net / Viigo / INEA
- Ken Seto, Massive Damage / Endloop Mobile
- Josh Sookman, Guardly / Former VC
- Farhan Thawar, Extreme Venture Partners
- Bryan Watson, National Angel Capital Organization
Also, shameless plug: me!
I'd be amiss to leave out these folks, even though they don't have a big presence in Toronto / Canada:
- Steve Blank, Stanford
- Paul Graham, Y Combinator
- Howard Lindzon, StockTwits
- Dan Martell, Canadian Entrepreneur
- Dave McClure, 500 Startups
- Eric Ries, Lean Startups
- Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot
- Hiten Shah, KISSmetrics
- Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures
Since just about anyone can qualify as an angel, the best resource by far is AngelList. Check that ish out.
Incubators & Venture Capitalists
- Founder Fuel
- Extreme Venture Partners
- Mantella Venture Partners
- Blackberry Partners Fund
- Real Ventures
- JoltCo (@ MaRS Commons)
- MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund (also see the funding database)
- Mobile Experience Innovation Center
- Ryerson Digital Media Zone
- Rogers Ventures
- iNovia Capital
- JLA Ventures
- OMERS Ventures
- Rho Ventures Canada
- Year One Labs
It's certainly possible I've missed something or someone. Please let me know so I can continue updating this resource! @SterlingWes