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.
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
- Felicis Ventures – Investors in Shopify, InteraXon, Top Hat Monocle, etc.
- Foundation Capital – Investors in kik, Visier, etc.
- GrandBanks Capital – Investors in ClearFit, Achievers, xkoto and others
- Spark Capital – investors in Thalmic Labs and Kik
- Social+Capital – Investors in Wave Apps
- Matrix Partners – Investors in TribeHR
- Union Square Ventures – investors in Wattpad, Kik
- Khosla Ventures – Investors in Wattpad
- Lightspeed Venture Partners – Investors in Influitive
- SoftTech Capital – investors in Tulip Retail
- Atlas Venture Partners – investors in Hopper
- General Catalyst – investors in Hopper
- Horizons Ventures – investors in InteraXon, Fixmo, Bitstrips
- ffvc – investors in InteraXon, 500px
- Mohr Davidow investors in BuildDirect
- Hummer Winblad investors in Influitive
- Altos Ventures investors in Kontagent
- Formation 8
- RRE Ventures investors in
- Greycroft Ventures in Adenyo
- August Capital investors in Wattpad
- Raine Ventures investors in Wattpad
- AME Cloud Ventures investors in Wattpad
- KPCB investors in Fixmo
- AndreessenHorowitz investors in 500px
- Sequoia Capital investors in Achievers
- Harrison Metal investors in 500px
- Rugged Ventures investors in 500px
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.
We all need office space. I have spent hours looking at listings on Craigslist, Kijiji and other sources. I
- Cushman & Wakefield
- Oxford Properties
- Colliers International
Maker spaces are very different than flexible lease office space.
Application Development 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?