As the largest, and most diverse city in Canada, roughly half of Toronto’s citizens hail from countries all over the world. This global perspective, coupled with a large pool of affordable technical talent due to strong engineering universities, offers many of the necessary ingredients to scale startups. The startup community is tight-knit and interest in entrepreneurship is on an upswing. Recent initiatives like the Digital Media Zone and the government-funded MarRS Discovery District have fueled the latest wave of entrepreneurial energy, creating important resources and foundations for future success. Still, Toronto startups do face some challenges. There’s a dearth of marketers with startup experience, which can hinder rapid growth and distribution. And local startups tend to exit early, rather than chasing the multi-billion dollar dream. This means lots of small wins, but few large wins that can rewrite an ecosystem and forge an entire wave of startup investors.
These businesses offer industry expertise and are a source of startup talent and potential customers. They help fuel the local startup community.
Acquired for $871m by
Up and coming startup
Up and coming startup
Acquired for $315m by
A serial angel investor and ecosystem advocate, David Crow is at the forefront of the effort to increase Toronto's exposure to the greater angel market. Previous to his role at Venture for Canada, David was director of OMERS Ventures.
Dan Debow is perhaps best known for his series of successful exits. He was the cofounder of Rypple, which was sold to Salesforce, and was also the founder of Workbrain, which was sold to Infor. He is currently an angel investor in several well-known Toronto startups.
In 2003, Mike built FreshBooks, cloud-based accounting software geared towards small businesses. Since then over 5,000,000 people have used FreshBooks to save time billing and collect billions of dollars.
After founding and exiting Workbrain with Dan Debow, David went on to become president of SaaS company Dayforce, which was acquired by Ceridian where he has served as CEO. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, such as the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and Arthur Kroeger College Award for Management.
After founding and leading the nonprofit Ladies Learning Code, Heather Payne founded HackerYou, a programming bootcamp and also operates The Lab, a digital literacy facility located in downtown Toronto.
Matt founded Golden Venture Partners, one of Toronto's leading early-stage VCs, in 2000. The firm has specialized in mobile technology. He led the investment in SocialDeck, a mobile social gaming company that was later acquired by Google.
Mark's 2007 exit to Oracle has been the highest profile, and no acquisition since then has been larger. After Eloqua was acquired, Mark went on to found Influitive a startup with a focus on increasing sales for B2B companies.
As a VP at Cossette, Joe runs the Cossette Lab in Toronto. The Lab aims to help accelerate a startup development as well as establish relationships with Cossette personnel. Previously, he was a Manager, Online Development at the MaRS Discovery District.
Vicki is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, and advisor to the next generation of change makers and leading advocate for entrepreneurship as a way of creating positive transformation in the world. As the founder of SheEO, Vicki supports women who leverage their talents, strengths and passion to create businesses.
Marcus is the Co-founder & CEO of HIGHLINE, a VC-backed accelerator that helps digital startups secure institutional capital and compete globally. Backed by major Canadian VCs, including BDC Capital and Relay Ventures, HIGHLINE has 35 active portfolio companies, a 90% track record for follow-on capital and 4 meaningful exits in just 3 years of operation. Prior to HIGHLINE Marcus was the Managing Director of Extreme Startups and has been a digital entrepreneurial leader since the late 1990s.
Nortel's expansion in the 1960s and 1970s brought thousands of talented telecom engineers to the Greater Toronto Area. In 1983, deregulation forced Nortel to spin off Bell Canada Enterprise (BCE) which heralded another era of Canadian telecom dominance.1983
Founded by Mike Lazaridis, Research in Motion (RIM) was a pioneer in data transmission research. RIM is perhaps better known for it's Blackberry line of phones, and the company was later renamed Blackberry Ltd in 2013.1984
This expansion of the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax incentive program allows for generous tax assistance to companies performing R&D in Canada.1994
With a 2.5 million sq. ft. complex located in the city's downtown, the MaRS Discovery District is located in Canada's largest research cluster. Its goals include equipping innovators and organizations with entrepreneurship skills, helping startups scale and grow, and cooperate with partners in verticals such as healthcare, energy, and education.2005
Founded by a number of high net worth individuals, Maple Leaf Angels focuses on investing in seed and early stage technology companies.2007
After seeing a need for a space on campus that would encourage students, alumni and young entrepreneurs from the wider community to collaborate, Ryerson University created the Digital Media Zone (DMZ), an incubator/accelerator. Since 2010, the DMZ has incubated more than 130 startups that have raised over $40 million in funding and fostered the creation of more than 1,200 jobs.April 2010
Between 2011 and 2014, OMERS plans to deploy $180 million in mainly early stage companies, and place a representative on their board of directors.2011
Oracle acquires Eloqua for $871 million. Mark Organ, the founder of Eloqua, goes on to found another company, Influitive.2012
Founded by angel investor Amar Varma, Xtreme Labs is perhaps the most important mobile development shop in Canada. This acquisition by Pivotal is important in the company's shift towards enterprise solutions.2013
With this funding, the University of Toronto will expand the entrepreneurship opportunities it offers to students through its four accelerators: The Creative Destruction Lab (Rotman School of Management), The Hatchery (Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering), The Impact Centre (Faculty of Arts & Science), and UTEST (The Innovation and Partnerships Office, produced in partnership with MaRS Innovation).2014