One Post to Rule Them All

One Ring to Rule Them All

Hard to believe that it has been 21 months since I wrote Don’t Panic: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Toronto Startup Ecosystem. There are parts of this post that are a little dated but it generally holds up as a meaningful introduction to the Toronto/Waterloo startup scene. The goal is to provide a curated list, it will not be comprehensive. 

If I’ve missed anything, add a comment or ping me directly @davidcrow and I’ll make updates on the fly.

People & Companies

There are so many people and companies, it is hard to know what is important to whom. I will do a separate posting with the companies and founders that I’ve been following. The challenge is that this is a long, long list and there are a lot of amazing companies in Toronto.

Angel Investors

Institutional Investors

There are a lot institutional investors that are active in Toronto. Entrepreneurs need to do a little diligence on their investors. You should be trying to figure out what type of companies do they typically invest in? How big is their fund? How much is unallocated? Who else have they invested in?

Foreign Institutional Investors

Banking/Financial Services


Legal Firms & Lawyers


I think the biggest piece of advice is that generally the “we’re a startup and we launched” it just a shitty pitch to any journalist. You need to spend some time building a better message understanding who these journalists are, why their audience might possibly care about your story. This is a list of journalists that write about emerging technology companies. But you should also seek out journalists in your vertical or segment, this might might include moms, marketers or anything.


Office Space

We all need office space. I have spent hours looking at listings on Craigslist, Kijiji and other sources.

Maker Space

Maker spaces are very different than flexible lease office space.

Educational Programs

Application Development Shops

Design Shops

PR & Marcomm Agencies

These are the Toronto-based PR Agencies that I’ve worked with or seen their work first hand. I probably need to add a section for other international PR firms particularly NYC , SF and the UK. This can be a very expensive and very difficult for founders that have not found product/market fit.

Coworking/Flexible Lease Office Space/Accelubators

We can call it what you want. Incubators, accelerators, cyclotrons. It doesn’t matter. The activities range from education to local economic development to flexible leasing to coworking. They are a necessary part of the ecosystem. But it feels like at times rather than starting a “real company”, that many have decided that the path of rent some real estate and attract others with a few programatic offerings is a better business model (at least there is a defined market with a key pain that can be monetized). Let’s call it what is is, it is office space with benefits or office space ++ (office space # for you Microsoft peeps). The benefits range from flexible leases to access to advisors to educational programs to investment capital. Do your research. Focus on the outputs, i.e., the companies that have graduated from each.


There are a limited number of Canadian events that matter. There are the big events. They are big, they are busy, and not a lot of business happens at the event. But you can be guaranteed that most of the major players above will attend and you can reduce the number of trips to connect with people. You should be going to events that your potential customers attend. I am pretty sure unless you are an investor, service provider looking to service the startup industry that you shouldn’t be focused on these events. They are interesting social opportunities to connect with these groups in a concentrated fashion. You should also be actively looking for those same opportunities in SF, NYC, Boston, UK and around the globe.

If you’re going to travel and you want to stay in Canada there are 3 events where you can bump into most startups, founders and investors including some from outside Canada. These events are worth traveling for, but you need to have significant motivation/reason, like you are speaking or you have arranged a meeting with a specific individual.

The rest of the conferences are regional in nature but they should be considered mandatory if you are looking to connect in one shot. These events include most of the local ecosystems, i.e., Montreal, Ottawa, Alberta, Waterloo, etc.

There are smaller local events that happen more regularly. But I am not an expert at these events anymore. I recommend just subscribing to StartupDigest for a great weekly calendar email (you can also check out our Events page). Where are people finding really great opportunities to connect?

Beyond Toronto: State of Halton Tech Scene

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Rick Stomphorst who is a co-founder of Silicon Halton . Halton Region is in the West end, it includes Burlington, Oakville, and Milton.Population is >500,000 people. I would have called it a bedroom community, but there is a strong set of tech companies like Ivara and Awareness Inc. We focus on Toronto, Waterloo, Montreal, Vancouver and Halifax but there are strong communities around Canada that have emerging tech startup communities.

Five years ago the state of the tech community in Halton was “virtually non-existent”. Polite conversations about tech startups would have met by shoulder shrugs, glossy eyes and guessimates of the number of startups in the low single digits (if not zero itself).

Asking those same questions today, and you’ll get a wildly different answer.

Number of Tech Companies in Halton RegionWe have been committed to connecting high-tech entrepreneurs, companies and enthusiast. Two major vehicles for connecting the community are Silicon Halton (full disclosure: I am a cofounder of Silicon Halton) and HalTech. Silicon Halton was launched in 2009 by 2 people with 2 events. In 2012, it has grown to almost 800 members and 80 events. Silicon Halton is a grassroots hi-tech community of people who make a living, make meaning, and make things happen in technology in Halton Region. HalTech is an Ontario Network of Excellence Regional Innovation Centre providing education, advisory services and industry-academia collaboration programs and hosted an additional 35 events for entrepreneurs in 2012.

The primary focus of the events been education, building local connections and increasing exposure to local companies. At the Silicon Halton’s monthly meetups, one activity is to “get to know your members” where two entrepreneurs introduce their company. These two intros per month have translated into 24 tech companies connections per year enabling collaboration, shared resources, recruiting and other local opportunities. Additional events have been added to the calendar including DemoNights and PitchNight. Feedback from participants it that the ability to connect with other entrepreneurs and professionals has helped accelerate local companies and local ecosystem. Other Halton region events include contests like Pythons Pit.

The early stage nature of the community has included a focus on shared resources and co-working. The goal being to help connect early stage companies to the broader ecosystem and reduce the risks often associated with commercial leases and real estate during the initial startup phases. The discussion around co-working spaces including 2 at concept stage and a member created app, SpaceSurfers, for finding and sharing workspaces.

Halton has a strong educational resource with  “the Harvard of animation schools”[1], Sheridan College, in Oakville. Sheridan has a strong history of great applied research in digital media, health and advanced manufacturing. It’s a great local talent pool that is easy for entrepreneurs to access through events like BIZTECH Career Fair or through campus the job posting service. [Ed. – I’m intrigues by the Bachelor of Interaction Design and the Bachelor of Game Design in providing students with design oriented skills].

Incomplete List of Halton Tech Companies & Startups

Halton companies and entrepreneurs have easy access to the activities in Peel (RIC Centre) and Hamilton (Innovation Factory & Software Hamilton) regions.

If you are in Halton Region consider joining Silicon Halton and get connected to other locals interested in high growth, high tech companies. Silicon Halton provides a platform for Halton tech companies and to enable a stronger ICT and Digital Media cluster in Halton Region.


  1. “As Sheridan’s animation department continued to grow, it produced hundreds of animators into Canadian and international studios, at one point in 1996 being called “the Harvard of animation schools” on “a worldwide basis” by animator Michael Hirsh.” on Wikipedia