in Startups

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

Accounting/Tax/SR&ED/Bookkeeping/Reporting

Legal Firms & Lawyers

Journalists

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.

Recruiters

Office Space

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

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.

Events

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?

  • ruyoung

    Hey David. I’d love to see Camaraderie added to the coworking section (still going 4yrs strong). Thanks for listing CoworkingToronto as well.

  • Guest

    Looks like you’re missing First Angel Network.

  • Hockeystick

    Great post, what a huge investment of time. Flow Ventures could be added to SRED and startup consulting in general.

  • http://okgrow.com/ Paul Dowman

    Great list, and thanks for mentioning OK GROW!. Tons of great resources here.

    I should also mention that we have space in our office to share with like-minded developers/designers/etc: http://www.okgrow.com/office/

  • Zunaid Khan

    Great post

  • fananta

    Thanks for mentioning me on the list of angels :)

  • Wyatt

    http://torontoemberjs.com/ — the monthly emberjs nights at Pharmacy Bar are pretty great.

  • Atlee Clark

    to add to US investors: Hummer Winblad, Lars Leckie (invested in Influitive) @lleckie , Mohr Davidow, Katherine Barr (investors in Build Direct) @kbmdv , Altos Ventures, Anthony Lee, (invested in Allocadia) @aplee :)

  • narangjasdeep

    @davidcrow:disqus may I suggest http://metawarelabs.com under Development Shops? :) Thank you!

  • http://ossingtonvillage.com Brian Sharwood

    David, Great list! Always suggestions for more, I’m sure. I’ve used Chris Fyvie a few times on the real estate side, so he’s a good one to have on the list.
    And, although it’s small, I have entered the angel world, adding to JP Green’s Careguide. On the lookout for other things.

  • Albert Lai

    +Albert Lai, Reluctant Angel Investor
    @albertsupdates

  • http://www.brightcube.ca/ Dave Gallant

    Awesome list.

  • Lisa Brady

    @davidcrow Great updated list. Would love if you would add http://www.animatedmedia.ca @animatedmedia to the list of App Dev Shops. We are developing advanced multimedia & 3D mobile apps. Best, Lisa

  • Tamar

    Thanks for taking the time to create a new list for us @davidcrow. This time around http://www.drivenaccelerator.com is missing from the list, it would be great if you could re-add us. TIA

  • Shiv Kamal

    This is a great list!! Clearbridge Mobile (www.clearbridgemobile.com) should also be added in the list of Application Developer Shops – they’ve been around for over 3 years and have delivered 100+ apps already!