Ontario Shows There’s No One-Size-Fits-All For Supporting Entrepreneurship
Toronto, ON (Monday, May 28, 2012) – As Startup Canada continues its national search for better ways to support and celebrate entrepreneurship, its tour stops in Ontario confirmed that communities need more than a one-size-fits all action plan.
“Ontario really hit home that there is no one solution to creating a more entrepreneurial culture and ecosystem,” said Victoria Lennox, Startup Canada Co-Founder. “It requires a myriad of elements, individuals and often circumstances. It takes time, an appetite to try new things and see where they go, and, perhaps most importantly, it requires vision and leadership to pull everyone in the same direction.”
Startup Canada is a grassroots, entrepreneur-led initiative to support and inspire entrepreneurship across the country. The prime idea-generators for its six-month National Tour are its Town Hall events, where entrepreneurs and supporters of the entrepreneurial community work together to identify and explore ideas for supporting entrepreneurship in general, in each city, and within the region.
Ontario Town Halls were hosted in Waterloo, Winsor, Markham, and York, facilitated by Rick Spence, a Startup Canada Advisor and former editor and publisher of PROFIT, The Magazine for Canadian Entrepreneurs.
“We ask people to think like entrepreneurs and find doable, innovative solutions to local, regional and national-level challenges,” said Spence. “In Ontario, we collected some great new business ideas, from a company that sources beta testers for tech startups to a national mentor hotline. I’m also intrigued by the suggestion of creating ‘drinkubators’ to promote social engagement and build more robust relationships between entrepreneurs.”
While Ontario entrepreneurs echoed ideas heard in previous stops of Startup Canada’s tour – such as the need for a centralized one-stop support and programming shop, youth mentorship programs, and collaborative incubation spaces – there were also some new propositions.
Examples included Windsor’s pitch of piloting an entrepreneurship-infused secondary school – with Startup Fairs as opposed to science fairs, entrepreneurial guest speakers and lecturers, and financial literacy taught in math class – and Markham’s idea to create a new support network focused on helping companies engage international markets through the provision of market intelligence services, international connections, and leveraging groups like Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT).
Town Hall participants also spoke of the power of community and the need for entrepreneurs across all backgrounds to come together at all levels to support, mentor and collaborate for mutual growth and learning.
“Successful entrepreneurs need to be comfortable with taking risks but also need to know that they can rely on the entrepreneurial community and culture for support and guidance as they move their journey forward,” said Tim Ellis, CEO of the Waterloo Accelerator Centre, the host location for Waterloo’s Town Hall. “The strength of the Waterloo Region stems from its entrepreneurs and the many support organizations in place all working in concert to help companies grow into sustainable and globally competitive firms.”
“A big piece of building an entrepreneurial community is creating an environment where entrepreneurs can interact with each other, support each other and recognize each other’s efforts and achievements,” said Yvonne Pilon, Director of Programs & Communication with WEtech Alliance. “The Startup Canada town halls have sparked conversations amongst hundreds of entrepreneurs that are vital to the community that supports them. Entrepreneurs and community stakeholders must leverage these conversations and work together to ensure that entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking is rooted into the community.”
Startup Canada also spent a day at the MaRS Discovery District touring the facility and meeting with the entrepreneurs and leadership of one of Ontario’s leading forces driving innovation and entrepreneurship. “Innovation does’t happen in a vacuum. At MaRS we bring together key players who can accelerate and amplify innovation to strengthen our knowledge economy. Entrepreneurs are at the core of this process and matter profoundly to the future of this country.” Dr. Ilse Treurnicht, CEO, MaRS Discovery District.
Jeremy Laurin, CEO of VentureLab, who hosted a Startup Canada Town Hall in Markham said, “Startup Canada is important because it coalesces the energies, best practices and innovations of individual Canadian startup communities, enabling each community to learn from experiences of others, and by bringing these best practices and experiences together, has the potential to be a driving force in promoting and advancing entrepreneurship in Canada through inspiring and empowering the growth of local startup communities.”
Startup Canada has taken Ontario’s ideas with them to their next tour stop, New Brunswick, where it is hosting events from May 26 – 29. After that, the team heads west to Alberta for a week of activities in Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, and Medicine Hat from May 31 – June 9.
Throughout Startup Canada’s National Tour, provincial steering committees are helping put the spotlight on local startups and build connections across Canada’s entrepreneur communities through live webcasts of the Town Halls and active social media networks.
In addition to being championed by patrons such as Brett Wilson (Host of RiskyBusinessTV, former Dragon & serial entrepreneur), Heather Reisman (Founder, Indigo Books & Music), Dani Reiss (Founder, Canada Goose), and Michael Legary (Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Seccuris Inc.), Startup Canada has also received support nationally from a number of ambassadors and industry sponsors Microsoft, Gowlings and Ernst & Young.
Other sponsors include Best Western Hotels, Artik, Kick Ass Media, PubliAir, VideoBooth the Association of University Research Parks Canada, the Canadian Association of Business Incubation, the Evidence Network, Francis Moran & Associates, FreshBooks, MSBi Valorisation, NextMTL, the Ottawa Technology Transfer Network, Podio, Best Western, Backbone Magazine, HootSuite, ITWorld Canada, Paper.li, Sprouter, and Techvibes.
A full schedule of events and the complete National Tour is posted on the Startup Canada website –www.startupcan.ca/tour
For additional information or to pre-schedule interviews, contact:
Co-Founder, Startup Canada
Ontario Tour Highlights:
- 2500 through Startup Canada Town Halls and Fringe Events
- 60 one-on-one interviews with Ontario entrepreneurs and enterprise support organizations
- Partnering with Toronto’s Centre for Social Innovation to discuss how to leverage technology, mentorship, and community-building within social enterprise (businesses whose primary source of income is derived from creating goods or services that have environmental, cultural, or social value)
- Partnering with WEtech and The Accelerator in Windsor to host Lunch With A Guru: Saul Colt, who was recently named one of the iMEDIA 25: Internet Marketing Laders & Innovators
- Tours of Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District; Waterloo’s Accelerator Centre; the Conrad Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology Centre at the University of Waterloo; the Agfa HealthCare Research & Development facility in the Research and Technology Park at Waterloo University
- Attendance at the York Technology Alliance Technology Leadership Awards Luncheon
- Interviews with the 2012 cohort of The Next 36
About Startup Canada
Startup Canada is Canada’s first-ever, entrepreneur-led, national movement to enhance the nation’s competitiveness and prosperity by supporting and celebrating Canadian entrepreneurship. Startup Canada is harnessing the collective energies of Canadian entrepreneurs and enterprise support communities from Coast to Coast with the goals of providing the entrepreneurship community with a strong voice, promoting a vibrant entrepreneurial culture and creating a unified brand that Canadians can rally around. Startup Canada is launching this effort with the country’s first national entrepreneurship tour and campaign. The tour will run from March to September, engaging 25,000 Canadians and 250 partner organizations across the country. Entrepreneurs will participate in more than 30 Town Halls and 100 Fringe Events and connect through a social media groundswell campaign.