Can Ontario mount a serious challenge to Silicon Valley?

With a pile of government cash behind it, Ontario is gearing itself up to compete on the global technology field.

With a pile of government cash behind it, Ontario is gearing itself up to compete on the global technology field.

When most people think of technology clusters that are making waves their eyes are often drawn to what is going on in Silicon Valley, London’s East End or Tel Aviv. They may not however point to Toronto as an area seeing exciting growth.

I travelled to Toronto last week to find out how the Canadian government is stimulating investment in start-ups, aiming to produce the kind of ecosystem which breeds entrepreneurial talent.

Enterprise in Canada has seen recent successes including Research in Motion (the creators of Blackberry smartphones) and enterprise content management software business Open Text.

Now the government is putting together a framework which it hopes will see the creation of another technology giant to challenge the likes of those coming out of the west coast of the US.

Ontario, the province Toronto is located in, has formulated an innovation strategy which has two key pillars: building the demand side for risk capital, and building the supply of risk capital.

To do this it is stimulating angel networks, seed funding and early-growth investments through its Ontario Emerging Technologies Fund and Ontario Venture Capital Fund – a fund which has made investments into nine Ontario venture capital funds and invested directly into six Ontario companies.

To go with the exciting and innovative start-up climate which has been created in Toronto, the hotbed of talent found a two-hour drive away in Waterloo and Kitchener has lead to Google setting up its Canadian operations there.

Alongside the University of Waterloo, which cultivates some of the highest achieving computer scientists, Google is working with organisations including Communitech Hub (a facility dedicated to the growth and commercialisation of Ontario’s digital media industry) to encourage entrepreneurs to not only set up their new business in Ontario, but view it as a long-term home which can support the kind of growth seen by Research in Motion.

Over the coming weeks GrowthBusiness will be providing an insight into what is going on in Ontario, including interviews with Ontario Capital Growth Corporation president John Marshall, engineering director for Google Canada Steve Woods and a host of both foreign and native start-ups which view Toronto, and Ontario, as the ideal location for business incubation.

Hunter Ruthven

Bernard Williamson

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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