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Toronto poised to become the world’s next tech startup hub

Will Toronto be the world’s next great producer of tech startups? There are plenty of reasons why it could be, and should be, and few reasons why not, at least according to the newest entrepreneur-mentoring endeavour in the city. StartUp Here Toronto, which is a partnership with another Toronto startup, Ten Thousand Coffees, is meant to provide mentoring help for entrepreneurs trying to grow new businesses in the GTA. The StartUp Here Toronto Café has links to dozens of existing startups, incubators, accelerators, funders and educational institutions to help visionaries and inventors turn a great idea into a successful business. Anyone interested in meeting up with someone to talk about an idea over coffee can use StartUp Here to make the connection.

The notion that meeting like-minded people for a chat over coffee can lead to great business opportunities was behind the startup Ten Thousand Coffees, which now claims to have 60,000 users. Dave Wilkin, founder of Ten Thousand Coffees said that coffee chats are the best way for young professionals, industry leaders, entrepreneurs and students to get started.

Toronto Mayor John Tory agreed, saying that mentorship had played an important role in his life. The StartIp Here program is the result of a city of Toronto-endorsed strategy to promote startups and help them move “From Concept to Commercialization.”

I want Toronto’s business community to have access to the tools and support they need to thrive and grow in the modern economy. Mentorship has played an important role in my life, and I’m pleased that this program will help open doors for a new generation of entrepreneurs.

The list of reasons why Toronto is the place to be for startups is impressive: its location and position as a global hub of commerce; its diversity; its highly educated population; its low business costs (lower than the thirty-one largest cities in the US); its more than fifty business incubators and accelerators; its large design workforce, the third largest in North America; its reputation as the world’s most youth-friendly city and the best city in the world to live.

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There is so much going on already that a US-based writer for Tech Crunch who has business in Toronto said the city “has all the markings of a world-class hub for technology startups.” Torontonians, Josh Guttman continued, “are a creative and entrepreneurial people. The culture of the city lends itself to the tech field.” Among the successful venture-backed businesses already calling Toronto home are Shopify, KIK, Flybits, Plooto, Wealthsimple, FreshBooks, 500px, Brika, nymi, Wattpad, SoapBoc, Figure 1, and Vidyard.

The Plooto story is not atypical. It’s a business started up by a young entrepreneur who had already founded a gaming company in Toronto, Vast Studios. With its success and ultimate sale, he turned to an enterprise designed to help small and medium business owners on the administrative end. Plooto is built around sending and receiving business payments electronically. Hamed Abbasi says in a piece on the StartUp Here website that Toronto is “on par with Silicon Valley” in terms of ingenuity, innovation and passion. Equally important, the solutions he and his company are creating are solving real world problems not just in Toronto but around the world.

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It seems there is no limit, other than imagination, to what can become a business these days, from online cognitive behaviour therapy (TranQool) to toys for coping with life in the twenty-first century (Twenty One Toys) to a platform for delivering personalized marketing messaging to mobile users (Flybits). The entrepreneur behind that one, Dr. Hossein Rahnama, was also involved in the launch of Ryerson University’s business incubator, the DMZ, in 2010. He says Toronto has very good ICT infrastructure, among the highest bandwidth networks in the world very good universities outputting talent, and financial clout as a G8 financial centre.

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