• by William Mougayar
    Venture advisor, 4x entrepreneur, marketer & strategist. I live in Toronto, curate a lot, blog a bit, and help startups.

Unpacking Toronto’s Tech Startup Events

Too Many Tech Startup Events in Toronto? Hell Yeah!events image

Since mid October of this year, there has been an incredible amount of tech startup related events in Toronto, and the frenzy continues until mid-December. That’s more than I ever remembered in the past 7 years that I’ve been involved in this community.

What’s happening? Let’s deconstruct what’s going on, and list the constellations that are responsible for this flurry of activity.

If you’re in the Greater Toronto Area, suddenly, it feels like we went from a handful of events per week to several, and often overlapping events “per day”! I think it’s good thing for the Toronto Tech Startup ecosystem (and I’m not counting the dozens of regular Meetups that continue to occur). I am focused on the more significant events with at least 75 attendees.

There is a good variety of events across several topics and angles, and this is a sign of a healthy ecosystem. The events I’m seeing cover the gamut of topics:

  • Software

  • Creative

  • Venture Capital

  • Women in tech

  • Marketing

  • Bitcoin

  • SaaS

  • Sales

  • Hackathons

  • Wearables

  • Portfolio companies related

  • Lawyer-clients related

  • Product management

  • Ones with out of town experts

  • Etc.

An interesting fact about these events is they are totally decentralized. No one entity or organizer controls, manages or hosts a majority of them. And no one ever will.

I’m also seeing new types of events, such as in the areas of Wearables, Product Hunt, Bitcoin, Women in tech; and there are some new cool event spaces such as at Bitmaker Labs, OneEleven, Pivotal Labs, MakeWorks and Shopify.

How you learn about these upcoming events has always been a challenge, but it’s getting better. Here’s a quick list of the key constellations that you need to keep an eye on:

The Toronto Startup Digest has been doing a great job with their Monday morning email, but despite their comprehensiveness, additional events seem to pop-up here and there. In addition to the weekly email, their Web Calendar view offers a quick way to glance at a whole month of activity on one page. There are some significant upcoming events such as:  AccelerateTO, Startup Open House, HohoTO, MeshMarketing, AndroidTO, MakerFaire, CIX.

The Startup North Facebook Page has taken a life of its own as a collective contribution of news, events and opinions surrounding the entire Canadian tech startup space. New events are often announced there.

The Startup North Events page has a comprehensive listing of events as well, and it goes beyond Toronto, covering all of Canada.

Tom Emrich and the Wearables machine. Tom has been a driving force in the Toronto tech Wearables space (and globally too). He has been spearheading the always-packed, always-waitlisted Toronto We are Wearables monthly meetup,  just ran a world-class WEST conference, and has more events up his tech sleeves, such as  SmartWeek Toronto: October 24-26, Sports Hack Weekend: November 14-16, and FITC Wearables: November 13.

Decentral is Toronto’s center for everything Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. Their popular weekly Wednesday Meetup often gets 100+ attendees, among the movers, shakers and wannabees of the Bitcoin space. Pssst, their next guest speaker on Oct 29th is Andreas Antonopoulos, world renowned Bitcoin expert.

Bitmaker Labs recently kicked off their Think Thursday series of monthly interviews in their new 8,000 sq ft King Street West offices. Led by Craig Hunter, this series of events has been well received by the community.

OneEleven, a new 15,000 sqft cool space has been seeing a good share of quality events, some of them organized by OneEleven, and others run by select external partners. OneEleven is also home to my events, and it is where I ran the first event there in October 2013.

Pivotal Labs in Toronto. Their Google-sque new event space is one of Toronto’s latest. It opened a few months ago, and has hosted a variety of developers and startup related events.

Startup Grind. Michael Cayley, the dynamo Director behind the Toronto Chapter keeps grinding and bringing impressive speakers from the US and Canada.

HighLine (the merger of Extreme Startups and Vancouver’s GrowLab) has been on a roll, hosting a number of lunch and evening events of an extremely good quality. You can subscribe to get notified via their Meetup group.

Shopify has a new really hip event space that can host 200 attendees, and they have been hosting and organizing selected events that benefit the Toronto community. Satish Kanwar is the Shopify Toronto ring leader.

The MaRS events page has a pretty good listing that includes their own events and others in Toronto. They also have an event submission page, if you’d like to see your event listed there.

Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone is always bustling with activity, and they are hosts to a number of startup related events. The next event they are hosting is no less than the famous AccelerateTO.

MakeWorks is a new 10,000 sqft space that used to be an old shoe factory, now reincarnated as an attractive co-working space / shared R&D labs for everything related to the makers segment, and includes an event space.

The Working Group is a strategy, design and development firm that has been hosting a number of interesting events in their office. The most recent one was with the authors of the Value Proposition Design book.

BNOTIONS  is also an active instigator and sponsor to a number of local events, some of them are listed on The YMC site.

If you’re a developer or designer, there a number of key events in that space, such as DevTO, HackerNest, GirlGeeksToronto, Rails Pub Nite (link includes Unspace events too), and TorontoUX.

Adding Your Event

If you would like to add a new event to Startup Digest, email Josh Sookman or Will Lam, and/or post your event directly on the StartupNorth Events page. While you’re at it, announce it on the StartupNorth Facebook page. And when you tweet it, how about adding the hashtag #TOtechevent so others can find these events easily?

See you at the events! A good entrepreneur is a networked entrepreneur!

ps- If I missed any significant tech event organizers or constellations in the GTA, please point them in the comments space.

pps- Are you happy with how you’re keeping track of these events based on the above information? If you have any suggestions or ideas, let’s hear it.

ppps- The goal of this post was not to list all events, but rather to point people to where they can look to find out about events that interest them. So, my apologies if I didn’t list your event specifically.

  1. Paul Sullivan

    Great summary William. Glad to see renewed activity with Startup Management…you are a great asset to the startup community.

    btw. StartupNorth has Startup Open House listed as Oct 29th, but should be the 30th.

  2. William Mougayar

    Thanks Paul. In what link specifically do you see the date being wrong? Maybe Satish or David Crow could fix it then.

  3. Will

    Thanks for mentioning Josh and I at Startup Digest, William! Would appreciate any feedback on how we can run the Toronto Startup Digest better.

  4. Paul Sullivan

    Listed here –> http://startupnorth.ca/event/startup-open-house/?instance_id=14214523

    They also have an entry for the 30th, which is correct.

  5. William Mougayar

    You’re doing a great job, as it’s the best single sourced collection. Since you asked:
    1. Promote your Calendar view. I didn’t know about it til yesterday. It’s great.
    2. Tweet every new event that you add
    3. In the email, single out the New additions.
    4. Try to include events that are far out 2-5 months out. I find you’re great to find out what’s happening next week, but not always as good for seeing “next month”. It thins out a bit.
    5. Open a “Submit Event” link similar to Startup North Events page.

    Hope this helps 😉

  6. John P. Kennedy

    Thanks for the summary William.

  7. ceben

    Thanks for the very helpful post! I’m always acutely aware of the fact that people just don’t know where to look.

    Thanks for listing The Working Group. It would be good to add Startup Weekend as another series of great events throughout the GTA and globally. UP.co (the new parent org of SW) also owns Startup Digest and Startup Next which, coincidentally we run out of TWG.

    Thanks again!

  8. William Mougayar

    Great. Thanks for pointing these out.
    I only highlighted a handful of events, but was focused more on the centers/hubs/constellations that are running them.
    The goal of the post was to show where anyone can go to look for events themselves.

  9. Will

    All great suggestions, which I will address point by point:

    1. Definitely a great idea – I’ll just insert it into the template. You’re probably not the only one who doesn’t know about the calendar view.
    2. Will talk to the Up Global Dev team about possibly having an automated local Startup Digest twitter account – should be a great in terms of distribution of events on twitter, which I’m sure many of our subscribers are on.
    3. Can’t really do that as the template is mandated by Up Global, so it’s the same experience across all the cities Startup Digest is deployed in – Josh and I are just the human brains behind the curation process.
    4. Would love to, but that’s limited to: 1. events being submitted that far out, which is very few – we’re able to add 2 months out which is within our reach (manually going through eventbrite, meetup.com) – most event organizers don’t plan out that far ahead, 2. the majority of our subscribers are not planning that far out in advance. You’re probably an edge case power user 😉
    5. We have a submit event link in our newsletters, but our Rails app requires a Startup Digest account to login and submit (again, product is mandated by Up Global) – a pain I know, but it keeps out spammers/bots.

    – Will

  10. William Mougayar

    Thanks Will. In this case, please do what you can to punch-up the Calendar & Submit event in the newsletter to make them more noticeable.
    And if you start tweeting, consider adding the tag #TOtechevent so they can be scooped that way too.

  11. Arati Sharma

    Thanks for adding our Toronto office in the list of event spaces – I’ve been working with our facilities team, finance team and employees to make sure our office is welcoming space for the community. It’s not the easiest since our space is a working office, but I’m glad we’re known as a hip space for startup events.

    I know most people in the community know this, but if you’d like to host something in our space that you think would be a great fit for Shopify, please contact me arati[at]shopify[dot]com.

  12. William Mougayar

    Yup. I love your space, and I realize you’re selective for events you choose to host there. Thanks.

  13. Corey Eastman

    Great post and thanks for curating this list Will – One more I’d like to add is Lean Enterprise Toronto (#LeanEnterpriseTO), a monthly Speaker Series focused on helping enterprises innovate like startups, which is hosted at Climax Media. For more information and to get notified about upcoming events, workshops and round tables, please check out: http://www.meetup.com/Lean-Enterprise-Toronto