The Toronto Tech Scene is Giving the Valley "Border Envy"

Anastasia Lamotchkina

On October 29th Vordik had the privilege of attending AccelerateTO, a technology-focused conference organized by the C100. With an A-list lineup of fireside chats and discussions, the focus was centred on encouraging VCs and entrepreneurs alike to embrace the bourgeoning tech scene in Toronto. 

It was something InteraXon CEO, Ariel Garten, said in particular that got Vordik thinking. Over in Silicon Valley, she says, they have “borden envy.”

“Something is happening in Toronto, isn’t it?” Californians often ask her in hushed tones. Indeed there is and it can’t be kept a secret for much longer. As a nation, Canada is developing and expanding, creating and encouraging others to create. It should come as no surprise, then, that Canada’s largest city finds itself in the midst of all the action.

all the right ingredients

A few years ago, the BlackBerry meltdown had investors and analysts running out the door, with predictions that Ontario’s technology heart would be damaged alongside the telecommunications giant. This, however, did not prove to be the case. It seems that aside from Blackberry’s activities, there are a number of factors contributing to the growth of the ICT sector in Toronto and area.

World class Talent 
As it goes, one of the most important aspects of a business is having the right people. Building a strong, motivated team continues to be a challenge across all industries – especially in the tech sector, where passion drives innovation. Toronto has a unique advantage when it comes to HR. Boasting the highest foreign-born population levels of all G8 nations, it is the diverse demographic makeup that has helped in solving problems in the workforce from a variety of perspectives. According to a report drawn up by the City of Toronto, there have been issues with labour shortages in ICT, which have, in turn, drawn the attention of multiple recruitment agencies that have helped bring in some of the brightest minds from across and beyond Canada.

Faith + Support in the Startup 
If companies such as Shopify and Hootsuite have proven anything, it’s that there is no reason to underestimate Canadian startups. Luckily, hubs, accelerators, incubators, and a number of other organizations have been popping up in incremental numbers in and around Toronto to help foster the right kind of environment needed for ICT companies to prosper. Borrowing ideas from the Valley, Toronto is becoming an interconnected tech community that has been leveraging partnerships and working together in the name of progressing innovation. Over recent years, both the Canadian and Ontario governments have also demonstrated growing support for the industry, highlighting the value that technological innovation brings to our community as a whole.

A City of HQs
Although in the twenty-first century geographical location has moved away from being one of the most important aspects of growing a business, there is something to be said about where an organization chooses to position itself. At the moment, Toronto is home to the headquarters of nearly 40% of Canada’s top ICT companies. Corporations such as Twitter Canada, Facebook Canada, SAS and Cisco have all opted to build major offices in the Toronto core, with the latter throwing a cool $100 million into the move. These shifts have together created a powerful hub and have certainly helped guarantee Toronto’s place on the world map.

Banding together

A key takeaway for us from this past week’s AccelerateTO conference was that Toronto needs to band together to acknowledge the potential this hub has for becoming even greater and stronger. As Aydin Senkut of Felicis Ventures (Palo Alto, CA) noted during his fireside chat with Ariel Garten, there is absolutely no reason that Toronto can’t rank in the top five or even become the number one tech hub in the world. The potential is absolutely phenomenal, and Vordik hopes to see this prediction come true in the near future.