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

It’s indescribably beautiful!

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On the surface this might not seem like a Canadian success story, Eloqua was acquired by Oracle for $871MM. Eloqua by all appearances is a publicly traded company with headquarters in Vienna, VA. But they are probably the best kept secret in the Toronto technology community. Eloqua was founded in Toronto in 1999 by my friend and co-founder, Mark Organ (LinkedIn,) along with Abe Wagner (LinkedIn) and Steve Woods (LinkedIn, ). This is nearly a $1B dollar deal that was born and breed in Toronto (yes, I can do basic math it’s $129MM short but that’s pocket change and unlike when Siebel acquired Janna in 2000 for $975MM at the time of the deal the price changing with the Siebel’s stock price, this is an all cash deal). I had started figuring that it would be Salesforce that acquired Eloqua, so I am surprised that it is Oracle, and so soon after their IPO. Here is a great analysis of the marketing automation industry and the assessment for Marketo, Act-On, ExactTarget, etc.

Congratulations to all of the Eloqua employees. I continue to hear stories about an amazing group of people including:

It’s an amazing story that still has a big chunk of the product development team based in Toronto. Congrats to the entire Eloqua team and alumni.

All roads lead to Toronto

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Regardless of where we fall in arbitrary rankings, Toronto is an amazing city. And it seems that all roads lead to Toronto. With the amazing teams from both StartupFest and GrowConf arriving in the dead of winter.

StartupFest Elevator Tour

Check out the crazy awesome pitches and feedback from StartupFestival in Montreal.

Just look at it this way. Here is an amazing chance to get to hang out with entrepreneurs, founders, investors and other crazies in our ecosystem at the top of the CN Tower. Let me repeat that, at the top of the CN Tower. Before you do the math about how much fun this is going to be, just realize that a ticket to ride up the tower is $23.99 + HST. For essentially the price of the ride up, you get an event focused on entrepreneurs. I do some basic math, you add a drink and some h’orderves  and your at break even. Great chance to have some fun, make some meaningful connections, and potential generation press and relationships that pay off.


GROWtalksGROWtalks is happening in Toronto and Montreal. I know that Clare, Debbie and team are bringing some amazing entrepreneurs to share and educate. Just like they for GROWtalks at GrowConf 2012 in Vancouer.

GROWtalks is a one day conference focused on how to create actionable metrics, and use them to make better product and marketing decisions for startup success. Industry experts share advice to startup teams on how to improve design, product and customer development, acquisition, retention, and more.

I hear that the list of speakers is set to include the likes of Brant Cooper, Dan Martell, Rand Fishkin and other amazing speakers. This is a great one day event at a reasonable price point, I’m hearing $199 for entrepreneurs, so get access to entrepreneurs and experiences.


We’ll have more on both of these events. Get your tickets early!