By Sarah Del Giallo
Biz and Tech Editor
When it opened in April 2010, Ryerson president Sheldon Levy hoped it would help turn Toronto into the next Silicon Valley.
While Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ) hasn’t reached such proportions quite yet, it continues to expand at a surprising rate and draw global attention nearly two years later.
The DMZ is a Ryerson owned digital media workspace at 10 Dundas East. The open concept offices overlooking Yonge-Dundas Square house young entrepreneurs and budding companies, many of which are the brain children of Ryerson students and alumni.
The companies within the DMZ focus on products like apps and websites for a knowledge-based, technical world.
Rob Platek, is the CEO of Jobdeals and a graduate of Ryerson’s computer engineering program. Jobdeals is new to the DMZ, which now works with 31 companies. Until recently, Platek’s business didn’t have an office space.
“Before the DMZ, I was [working] on the couch with my dog and my cat,” he said.
Jobdeals, which connects consumers and providers with local services, operates out of the fifth floor of the building.
“It’s totally amazing,” said Platek. “It’s actually an incredible resource. I get to bounce ideas off of other entrepreneurs, because everyone is in that kind of headspace.”
The DMZ currently operates out of two floors — the fifth floor is the original and there was an expansion to the third floor in January 2011. The physical expansion is continuing with a third workspace in the basement, which will give the DMZ a total of nearly 16,000 square feet of office space.
Looking towards the future, president Sheldon Levy expects the DMZ to continue to grow.
“It’s very hard to tell at what speed and how big it will get, but at the same time, I think it can only continue to expand,” he said. “It’s expanding because of its success and the interest in it is overwhelming.”
To get started at the DMZ, an entrepreneur must submit an orientation form to StartMeUp Ryerson. Once a form is submitted, Start- MeUp will aid the newcomer with a pitch, and if the pitch is strong enough, it will be recommended to the DMZ Steering Committee.
If the committee approves membership, the company will receive a move-in date, a free workspace and 24-hour access to the DMZ along with all of the resources the Zone provides.
Since moving into the DMZ. Platek’s Jobdeals has received more press, has had free access to lawyers, public relations personnel, and a constant flow of industry professionals to pitch to and network with.
“It definitely opens up my network,” said Platek. “It’s just a really cool community.”