tech culture

Toronto’s Hot Tech Scene

by Joey deVilla on September 27, 2010

sarah prevetteSarah Prevette addresses the SproutUp crowd.
Photo by Brett Gundlock for the National Post.

“On almost any given weeknight,” goes the article in today’s National Post, Sprouting a Hotbed, “there is an event in Toronto somewhere where the technology crowd convenes to talk about the smartphone applications they’re building, to offer advice on each other’s business models and share Twitter marketing strategies with an eye to becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg.”

There’s a lot going on in my city’s tech scene, and it’s making splashes worldwide. The article covers some of the names of the people who make Toronto the tech-place-to-be that it is, including friend and former coworker at Microsoft, David Crow:

"If you were to ask me what’s in the water and what makes Toronto special, it’s that it’s one of the most diverse cities in the world," he said. "Much of what we think of as innovation is just the tension between different viewpoints and Toronto is the city of differing viewpoints … the whole point of building the community piece is to help the diversity and these folks come together and get excited about what’s going on."

Read the full article

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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McDonald’s on El Camino Real and totem pole at Pioneer Square
Scenes from the Valley’s El Camino Real (left) and Seattle’s Pioneer Square (right).

Here’s some food for thought. Ahmed Hassan very recently wrote a comment in response to an article of mine, Ideas to Steal from Silicon Valley and Seattle, and it’s worth promoting to its own article, so here it is.

Being from Toronto and having worked in both Toronto, Ottawa, and the US, I think Toronto has severe challenges.

1. We build workers…not leaders.

We have loads of talent…but all we create is good worker bees.

2. Yes, lack of big companies is a big deal.

There are some ‘entrepreneurs’ who will just go at it on their own. yet, the vast majority of people like a decent job. So they meet up at large companies…work for a while…then maybe decide to start their own thing. All we have in Toronto proper is IBM and AMD. Anyone care to explain how RIM was founded in Waterloo. I ask that as a serious question. How does a small town create the only great Canadian tech company in operation right now? Why was it not founded in Toronto? Ask that question a few times…over and over.

3. Politicians do not understand business.

When you have someone like Miller who says he doesn’t care about companies who move to Mississauga for lower tax rates as he only wants companies who are willing to pay more to take advantage of Toronto’s urban character… you know something is wrong. They will try to push venture capital and ‘incubators…’.

As I say…mentality before process.

4. Sometimes you run out of talent.

How many high tech centers do we need? Everywhere you go, there is a lack of talent. If Toronto tech can just pickup and move to Seattle, Silicon valley, New york, boston, dallas, austin… in an already established tech base, why would they bother doing it here? Better weather, lower taxes, more like-minded entrepreneurs.

It’s not impossible. But Toronto has its work cut out for it. The biggest threat to Toronto…is actually Waterloo. Very close to Toronto and with a large tech base. It’s largely a mentality gap. Toronto embraces bureaucracy and structure. Startups are about freedom and independence. If you will…that’s why RIM was founded in Waterloo as opposed to Toronto. No Toronto bureaucracy would have ever approved of RIM. I mean they would be competing against Motorola, Nokia, MS… impossible…that’s a bad investment.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

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