The Toronto startup ecosystem is rapidly emerging as a magnet for venture capital investment in cutting-edge technologies. Over the past year, investor interest in Toronto’s burgeoning tech scene has skyrocketed, with total VC funding reaching record levels in 2022.
Much of this newfound investor enthusiasm is being driven by Toronto’s cluster of promising startups. With access to world-class talent from the University of Toronto and geometry institutes, Toronto has managed to produce some of the most innovative companies in forward-looking fields.
If current trends continue, Toronto may well become the next Silicon Valley of emerging tech. The future looks bright for startups in the Toronto ecosystem attracting high-rolling investors eager to find the next unicorn.
- Toronto is Canada’s largest tech ecosystem and has a rich history of innovation and entrepreneurship.
- The city is home to a wide range of startups, support organizations, and investors that can help you grow your business.
- Whether you’re looking for funding, talent, or networking opportunities, Toronto’s startup ecosystem has everything you need to succeed.
1. History of the Toronto Startup Ecosystem
Toronto has a rich history of innovation and entrepreneurship, dating back to the early 20th century. However, it wasn’t until the turn of the 21st century that the city’s startup ecosystem began to take shape. The rise of the internet and mobile technology created new opportunities for entrepreneurs to build businesses with global reach, and Toronto was well-positioned to take advantage of these trends.
The early 2000s saw the emergence of several successful Toronto-based startups, including RIM (now BlackBerry) and Shopify. These companies paved the way for a new generation of startups and helped to establish Toronto as a hub for technology and innovation.
In the years that followed, the Toronto startup ecosystem continued to grow and evolve. The city’s vibrant and diverse population, world-class universities, and supportive government policies all contributed to its success. Today, Toronto is home to over 5,200 startups and is recognized as one of the top startup ecosystems in the world.
One of the key factors driving the growth of the Toronto startup ecosystem is the availability of funding. Venture capital firms, angel investors, and government programs all provide funding and support to early-stage startups. In addition, the city’s many incubators and accelerators help to connect startups with mentors, resources, and potential investors.
Another important factor is the city’s strong talent pool. Toronto is home to some of the world’s top universities, including the University of Toronto and Ryerson University, which produce a steady stream of highly skilled graduates. In addition, the city’s diverse population and welcoming immigration policies attract talent from around the world.
2. Key Players in Toronto’s Startup Ecosystem
Toronto’s startup ecosystem is home to a diverse range of players that contribute to its growth and success. Here are some key players in the ecosystem:
Toronto is home to several influential startups that have made a significant impact on the global tech scene. Some of the most notable startups include:
- Shopify: An e-commerce platform that enables businesses to create online stores and sell products.
- Bench: A bookkeeping service that helps small businesses manage their finances.
- Wattpad: A platform that allows writers to share their stories with a global audience.
Venture capitalists play a critical role in funding and supporting early-stage startups. Some of the most active venture capitalists in Toronto include:
- OMERS Ventures: A venture capital firm that invests in early-stage technology companies.
- Real Ventures: A seed-stage venture capital firm that invests in startups across Canada.
- Relay Ventures: Relay Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm that backs entrepreneurs shaping the future of connected devices..
Startup incubators provide early-stage startups with the resources and support they need to grow and succeed. Some of the most prominent startup incubators in Toronto include:
- DMZ: A leading startup incubator that provides startups with mentorship, funding, and workspace.
- MaRS Discovery District: A non-profit organization that supports startups in the healthcare, cleantech, and social innovation sectors.
- OneEleven: A startup accelerator that provides growth-stage startups with mentorship, funding, and access to resources.
Startup accelerators help startups grow and scale their businesses by providing them with mentorship, funding, and access to resources. Some of the most active startup accelerators in Toronto include:
- Techstars: A global startup accelerator that provides startups with mentorship, funding, and access to a global network of mentors and investors.
- NextAI: NEXT Canada is a national, non-profit organisation that trains talented entrepreneurs to start world-class businesses and get more people to use technology.
- Creative Destruction Lab: A seed-stage startup accelerator that provides startups in the science and technology sectors with mentorship, funding, and access to resources.
Toronto’s startup ecosystem is thriving, thanks to the contributions of these key players and many others. With a supportive community and access to funding and resources, startups in Toronto have the potential to make a significant impact on the global tech scene.
3. Funding Landscape
As a startup founder in Toronto, it’s important to understand the funding landscape to secure the necessary capital to grow your business. This section will cover two sub-sections: Access to capital for startups and Investment trends.
Access to capital for startups
Toronto’s startup ecosystem has a variety of funding options for startups at different stages. The Ontario government as well as the Toronto government provide many funding opportunities. Additionally, there are angel investors, venture capitalists, and crowdfunding platforms available to entrepreneurs.
Toronto’s startup ecosystem has seen an increase in venture capital deal sizes, with an average of $23 million in 2022, up from $6.8 million in 2020. However, the ecosystem has migrated to supporting Series A+ stage companies, while there is less support for seed-stage cleantech companies, particularly those that aren’t software plays.
Investors in Toronto’s startup ecosystem are looking for startups with high growth potential, a clear market opportunity, and a strong team. The most active investors in Toronto’s startup ecosystem include BDC Capital, MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund, and Real Ventures.
In terms of industry focus, Toronto’s startup ecosystem is strong in the tech sector, particularly in artificial intelligence, fintech, and healthtech. However, there are also opportunities for startups in other sectors, such as cleantech and advanced manufacturing.
It’s important to note that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the funding landscape in Toronto’s startup ecosystem. While there was a slowdown in funding in the early stages of the pandemic, there has been a rebound in funding in recent months.
4. Future Outlook for Toronto’s Startup Ecosystem
Toronto’s startup ecosystem has been consistently rising in the global rankings, and the future looks bright for the city’s entrepreneurs. Here are some key factors that contribute to the positive outlook for Toronto’s startup ecosystem:
Access to Talent
Toronto is home to some of the world’s top universities, including the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and York University, which provide a steady stream of highly skilled graduates. Additionally, the city’s diverse population brings a wealth of talent from around the world. The city’s startup ecosystem has also been successful in attracting top talent from other tech hubs, such as Silicon Valley.
The Canadian government has been actively supporting the growth of the country’s startup ecosystem through various programs and initiatives. For example, the federal government’s Strategic Innovation Fund provides funding for companies that are developing innovative products and services. The Ontario government has also launched several initiatives to support startups.
Toronto’s startup ecosystem has seen a significant increase in investment activity in recent years. According to the 2021 Global Startup Ecosystem Report, Toronto-Waterloo is the top-ranked startup ecosystem in Canada, with over $3 billion in venture capital invested in 2020. The city’s strong track record of successful exits, such as Shopify and Wealthsimple, also attracts investors looking for the next big opportunity.
Toronto’s startup ecosystem is well-positioned to take advantage of emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and blockchain. The city is home to the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, which is focused on advancing AI research and commercialization. Toronto is also home to several blockchain startups, including Polychain Labs and Decentral.
5. Startup Events in Toronto
Toronto is a hub for startup events, with a variety of conferences, workshops, and networking opportunities available throughout the year. Attending these events can provide valuable insights into the startup ecosystem and help you make connections with other entrepreneurs and investors.
One of the most popular startup events in Toronto is Startup Grind Toronto, a global community for entrepreneurs. They host regular events, including founder office hours with Startup Grind co-founder Derek Andersen. Another great option is TorontoStarts, formerly known as Startup Toronto, which is a grassroots entrepreneur-led community that connects members to the startup ecosystem in Toronto and provides programs and tools to help entrepreneurs accelerate their business growth.
There are also larger conferences that take place annually, such as Elevate Toronto, which features speakers and workshops focused on technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Another popular event is the Collision Conference, which brings together startups, investors, and industry leaders from around the world.
In addition to these larger events, there are also a variety of networking opportunities available in Toronto. For example, the Toronto Entrepreneurs and Startups Meetup Group hosts regular events for entrepreneurs to connect and share ideas.
Attending startup events in Toronto can be a great way to learn more about the ecosystem, meet potential investors and partners, and stay up-to-date on the latest trends in technology and entrepreneurship. Be sure to check out the links below for more information on upcoming events.
6. Toronto Startup Networks
Toronto city has a vibrant and supportive startup ecosystem that includes a variety of networks and organizations that can help you grow your business. Here are a few of the top startup networks in Toronto:
- MaRS Discovery District – One of the largest innovation hubs in Toronto located downtown. Home to hundreds of startups and host various events, courses, mentorship programs.
- OneEleven – A hub for scaling startups located in the downtown core. Provides workspace, events, coaching and other services.
- Creative Destruction Lab – Seed-stage program based at the Rotman School of Management for science and tech startups.
- Highline Beta – Accelerator and venture capital firm that runs the Highway1 hardware startup program in Toronto.
- Ryerson DMZ – Incubator for student-led startups at Ryerson University. Provides coaching, funding opportunities and workspace.
- York Entrepreneurship Development Institute – Supports entrepreneurs and startups connected to York University through incubator programs, events and training.
- Next Canada – National nonprofit that runs programs, events and accelerators for young entrepreneurs and startups.
- Ladies Learning Code – Workshops and programs focused on empowering women to join the tech industry.
- Startup Grind Toronto – Part of a global startup community with regular events and speaker series.
- Toronto Entrepreneurs – Meetup group that connects local entrepreneurs through virtual and in-person networking events.
7. Toronto Startup News
Here are some of the top news sites and resources for staying up-to-date on the Toronto startup scene:
- BetaKit – Leading Canadian startup news site providing reporting and analysis on tech companies, funding, mergers and acquisitions, trends, and more.
- Techvibes – Publishes the latest news on Canadian tech and startups. Also has a jobs board and event listings.
- Toronto Star – The business section covers local startup and tech news.
- Globe and Mail Report on Business – Major national publication that regularly features startup news and profiles.
- Now Magazine – Weekly Toronto publication with a startup and tech section.
- 6ixBuzzTV – YouTube channel highlighting local entrepreneurs and business news.
- DX Journal – Digital transformation publication covering tech and startups across industries.
- Startup HERE Toronto – Aggregates and shares startup-related articles through their platform.
- Toronto Tech Slack – Active Slack community discussing and sharing Toronto startup news.