When mesh was conceived on a cold February night in 2006, Toronto’s Web community was fairly nascent and there were only a modest number of startup entrepreneurs trying to figure out how to get a foothold in the fast-growing marketplace.
Nevertheless, we’ve had a healthy number of startup entrepreneurs during the initial mesh, which added a huge dose of excitement and enthusiasm.
Over the years, however, we’ve seen fewer entrepreneurs at mesh. It may have been the fact that two days can seem like an eternity within the startup world. It may be because mesh has become more expensive (although it’s still great value compared with many other conferences) at a time when startups are operating lean and mean.
Whatever the reason, the lack of startups made it feel like something was missing. It was like having a great party but one of your best friends can’t make it. You have a good time but you know it could have been even better.
As someone who’s an ardent supporter of Canada’s startup ecosystem and who works with many startups, I’m excited mesh has reignited its love affair with startups this year.
With the introduction of the “Hosted Startup Scholarship” program, there will be 29 startup entrepreneurs attending mesh this week. The original goal was 20 but there were so many good applications, we had little choice but to invite more. The ability to invite start-up entrepreneurs to mesh was driven by generous sponsorship provided by Ernst & Young and Microsoft.
Another exciting wrinkle is a startup roundtable that myself and Stuart MacDonald will be moderating during mesh’s second day. We’ve invited four entrepreneurs – Evgeny Tchebotarev (500px), Aliza Pulver (Homesav), Heather Payne (Ladies Who Code) and Dups Wijayawardhana (Empire Avenue) – and a venture capitalist – Extreme Startups’ Andy Yang – to provide real-world insight into what it’s like to create, operate, finance and grow a startup. The format is interactive, which means attendees are encouraged to participate and provide their thoughts.
With Toronto’s startup community so active, it would be great to have even more startups at mesh so do not be surprised to see some new ideas and programs next year.