I’m an eternal optimist. I see the glass as half full, not half empty. I believe good things are around the corner.
It’s an attitude I have about Toronto’s startup community, which is slowly starting to mature and flourish. Having been around the high-tech scene since the mid-1990s, this is the most exciting the startup community has ever been.
It is interesting, however, to see the growing number of critical articles and blog posts about Canada’s high-tech and startup sectors.
This started with the Globe & Mail, which suggested Canada’s high-tech sector is “vanishing”, while ignoring the burgeoning number of startups. And earlier this week, Zak Homuth suggested Toronto’s startup ecosystem is “broken” and it has some “serious problems under the covers”.
With all due respect, it’s a strange post because many of his arguments either don’t make sense or they’re wrong.
For example, he suggests most entrepreneurs are “very young” and most of them aren’t tied to Toronto. True, Toronto is full of people who were born and raised in other places, but I’m not sure why this is an issue. And while there are many young and smart startup entrepreneurs, I can tell you there are also many experienced entrepreneurs.
Homuth also suggests “we don’t brag about or lean on our native networks in Toronto”. I completely agree Canadian startups, in general, need to be more cocky, but the suggestion we don’t lean on our native networks is off the mark. From my experience, Toronto’s startup community is extremely supportive and people are generous with their time. DemoCamp and HoHoTo are great examples of the community’s cohesion.
Homuth is also critical about how Toronto is dominated by “small ideas” and how they aren’t “world changing”, and we have “almost zero entrepreneurs and early employees experienced at scaling”. Seriously? Try talking to people such as Dan Debow, Mike McDerment, David Ossip, Bill Tatham and Ron Dembo.
And Homuth also claims the mentorship ecosystem in Toronto is weak due to a lack of experience. Wrong. He should take a look at the mentors at MaRS, Extreme Startups
Labs and INCubes to see the kind of depth that exists.
I’m not suggesting Toronto’s ecosystem is perfect because there are some significant holes, including the lack of capital – a situation that is improving but has a long way to go.
But I think it’s inaccurate and unfair to suggest Toronto’s startup ecosystem is broken. My take is it’s evolving, progressing and maturing. There is a large and growing entrepreneurial network and an infrastructure of suppliers, partners, mentors, investors and employees being developed around it.
There is a lot to be excited about, although more work needs to be done to seize the opportunity to become a world-class startup community.
I’m bullish on Toronto’s startup ecosystem so it rubs me the wrong way when someone criticizes it. What do you think? What parts of the ecosystem are thriving, and what parts need to be fixed?