Toronto’s startup community has come a long, long way over past two to three years. It has evolved from a place where many people talked about launching a startup to a place where a growing number of people are creating startups or working for a startup.
As important, Toronto’s startup community is maturing as many of the key pillars that will make it vibrant are being established. All in all, there are plenty of reasons to be encouraged and excited.
With this in mind, it was inspiring to hear Brad Feld do a “fireside chat” with Extreme Ventures’ Andy Yang yesterday. Feld, the co-founder of TechStars and the author of “Startup Communities”, talked about the key ingredients that a startup up community needs to create a rock-solid foundation.
- Entrepreneurs (aka leaders) leading the charge, while lawyers, marketers, VCs, etc. (aka feeders) support the ecosystem.
- Making a long-term commitment. Feld originally placed this at 100 years but pulled it back to 20 years because it was an amount of people could get their heads around. Having a long-term perspective, he said, provides communities with the ability to deal with the cyclical ups and downs.
- Let anyone to get involved so they can support and nurture the community. This means making it easy for people to connect in a way where there is no “friction”
- Have a constant flow of activity such as events, conferences, meetups, etc. that lets members of the community get together to exchange ideas, meet new people, etc.
In the wake of Feld’s insight, here are some things that Toronto’s startup community needs to continue its development.
1. More money. It’s the obvious need but the ability to provide entrepreneurs with the capital to develop ideas and drive growth is one of the highest priorities.
2. More people such as Chris Eben, David Crow and William Mougayar willing to make a personal commitment to support and nurture the ecosystem by organizing events and pulling in speakers such as Feld and Fred Wilson.
3. A directory for startups that they could tap into to find the services needed to establish themselves and drive growth. One of the most difficult things for any small business is finding the right kind of help at the right time, so a directory might be a way to make it easier.
4. Stronger and better ties with other startups communities such as Waterloo, Ottawa and Montreal. There are a lot of activity happening, and there are ways collectively we can support each other by sharing insight and best practices, and working together.
5. A kick-ass startup conference. Not to open the kimono too much but we’ve got some big plans for mesh ’13 to embrace the startup community after dipping our toes in the water last year.
6. More people like Feld to come to town to provide perspective and context about how we’re doing and how we stack up. One of the most interesting comments made by Feld is that “every community has unique characteristics, so the worst thing Toronto could do is try to be like Silicon Valley”.
7. More exits, which would do several things: get more entrepreneurs to take the startup plunge, encourage and reward investors for backing startups, and, hopefully, allow successful entrepreneurs to do more startups and/or invest in startups.
What else does Toronto’s startup community need to thrive?