An entrepreneur’s guide to Toronto’s tech scene

If you’re interested in the Canadian tech scene, Toronto is on your radar. Certainly the hype surrounding this tech scene is not undeserved.

Among other good news to come out of Canada’s financial capital, the city has cemented its reputation as a global center for AI, thanks to a $5 million investment by Google into the Vector Institute last year and an aligned buy-in from the city’s academic, government and corporate sectors.

Toronto now boasts the highest concentration of AI startups in the world and has added more new tech jobs in the past year than New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area combined.

Add to these merits a myriad of top-notch incubators, accelerators, coworking spaces, and government incentives, and it’s easy to see why a recent survey found that Toronto is expected to break out as one of the world’s leading technology innovation hubs over the next four years.

Of course, Toronto is not without its drawbacks for tech startups. And for those looking to explore and potentially break into the Toronto tech scene, understanding its great promise, and its potential pitfalls, is paramount.

Following a team member’s recent trip to Canada’s biggest city, we decided to really delve into what makes this city’s tech ecosystem unique, in both its advantages and disadvantages.

An abundance of networking and support organizations

Arguably the most important part of any startup ecosystem, networking and support organizations abound in Toronto. Incubators, accelerators, and world-class industry events all provide entrepreneurs access to not only networking but mentorship from those who have been long established on the scene.

According to a report by the City of Toronto there are over 60 business incubators in the city, and the growing Toronto tech startup community is seeing a rapid rise in innovative solutions.

One of the historically most important organizations that has contributed to this is the MaRS Discovery District, which launched in 2005 as one of the world’s largest innovation hubs, offering funding, mentorship and facilities to the city’s entrepreneurs.

Other notable accelerators in the city include the Creative Destruction LabExtreme Accelerator, and Highline, each offering highly-sought after programs with mentorship, access to capital and working spaces. There’s also Techstars — a newcomer to the Canadian startup scene — which is holding its first cohort in Toronto this year. The accelerator is led by Sunil Sharma, who was also active in getting the world’s premier pre-seed startup accelerator, Founder Institute, which was started by Adeo Ressi and Jonathan Greechen, up-and-running in the city.

Universities are also contributing to the city’s impressive innovation, with DMZ at Ryerson University, University of Toronto Entrepreneurship, York Entrepreneurship Development Institute, and The Accelerator Centre all being named as some of the world’s top university-linked business incubators and accelerators.

There are also a plethora of coworking spaces. For startups looking to test the business environment in Toronto, WeWork is located at the heart of the city’s Entertainment District with six full floors of private offices, coworking space, and meeting rooms in a beautiful 100-year-old building.

Workplace One also offers several coworking spaces within the city, located in the districts of King West, King East, Queen West, and Bay Bloor. The diversity of locations allow any startup to get a feel of the lay of the land in Toronto to better understand which district best suits their needs. In Queen West you’ll also find Acme Works, which focuses on the needs of startups and offers flexible working hours along with a sense of community and collaboration.