Toronto’s Startups Need to Tell Better Stories


When John Tory unveiled Startup Here earlier this month, he suggested Toronto must do a better job of telling stories about the startup community.

It is a good point because Toronto is teeming with stories about successful and promising startups. It is a reflection of how the city has emerged as a world-class startup ecosystem in recent years.

But it would be fair to suggest that Toronto is not getting the respect it deserves, perhaps because we are not good storytellers or we are too Canadian (aka modest and humble). That needs to change because Toronto has a vibrant, fast-growing and dynamic startup community that deserves the spotlight.

Without waving the flag too enthusiastically, one of Toronto’s biggest startup and entrepreneurial success stories is Ryerson Futures and The DMZ. Here is a short list of what has happened since The DZM officially opened in April 2010:

  • More than 230 startups have been incubated and accelerated, including 500px, Figure1, Sensibill, Soapbox, Sampler and Borrowell.
  • Nearly 2,100 jobs have been fostered through newly-formed startups and market-driven research, including 1,680 jobs through startups and 219 jobs at Ryerson University
  • $139.7 million in total funding has been raised by DMZ companies
  • There are 159 alumni startups, which include 140 alumni companies
  • More than 1,700 groups have visited The DMZ, including corporate executives, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs from India, England, China, South Africa, Israel, and Brazil.
  • Ryerson Futures launched a successful accelerator program, Zone Startups India (ZSI), in Mumbai, which now has more than 50 active startups. ZSI recently doubled the size of its facility within the Bombay Stock Exchange.

The success of Ryerson Futures, an accelerator focused on helping startups drive market validation and customer acquisition, and The DMZ are part of Toronto’s emergence as a startup powerhouse. They are integral parts of a fast-growing community that has a healthy and diverse mix of entrepreneurs, investors, accelerators, incubator, service providers and well-respected post-secondary institutions.

The big question is: what’s next for Toronto’s startup community?

We believe that, in many respects, Toronto has just started to scratch its potential as a startup ecosystem. In the past five years, tremendous strides have been made in terms of the number of entrepreneurs and the infrastructure to support their growth. And we believe the best is yet to come. Toronto is poised to become one of the leading startup ecosystems.

The city’s enthusiastic embrace of startups is welcome news. One of the biggest ways Toronto can support startups is spreading the news about the size and success of the startup community. When you have high-profile people such as Mayor John Tory talking about startups when he visits other cities, that makes a huge impact. It drives awareness and encourages entrepreneurs and investors to learn more about what’s happening.

As an active member of Toronto’s startup community, we are excited it is gearing up to attract the spotlight. The city’s startup ecosystem has been a well-kept secret for too long. Now is the time to start telling our stories better and more often.