By Lana Hall
In a bid to strengthen the startup community across southern Ontario, Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ) has announced a partnership with fellow business incubators OneEleven and Communitech, which is based in Waterloo.
“The tech community in Ontario is fairly tight to begin with,” says Brendan Dellandrea, Marketing and Communications Director for the DMZ. The three groups, he says, have casually collaborated in the past, but formalizing the partnership will give them access to each other’s facilities, including workspace and access to meeting rooms. Access like this could be especially beneficial for startups that have to travel.
“This is about opening access to our respective incubators,” he says. “In Toronto we have access to businesses who, increasingly, are the clients for some of these startups in different parts of Ontario.”
Chris Plunkett, Director of External Relations for Communitech, says there is a functional need for partnerships like this. “For companies in Waterloo, they might turn down a meeting in Toronto based on distance. So on a practical level we were thinking: what can we do to address this?” But there are other perks to strengthening links between communities as well, he says. “On another level, when companies are in that space – creating, mixing, collaborating – it’s beneficial to everybody.”
Despite the specialized nature of the startup community, Bilal Khan, Managing Director of Toronto-based incubator OneEleven, says there is little competition between regions or businesses.
“We compliment each other,” he says. “There is a lot of raw, technical talent in Waterloo, but Toronto is where the marketplaces are. We are more focused on things like, how do we collaborate? How can we support each other?’
Here at Ryerson, the DMZ, which is currently working with 75 startups is looking forward to that collaboration.
“Imagine,” says Dellandrea. “You have a startup in Waterloo. You’re on a shoestring budget. You get your first client and it’s here in Toronto. We’re saying, ‘come, have access to workplace, have access to mentorship. Make that meeting with your client even better.”