Toronto has finally jumped on the startup bandwagon.
While the startup ecosystem has flourished in recent years, Toronto either ignored it or decided it didn’t deserve as much attention as the film and music industries. As someone who has been actively involved within the startups community for the past 15 years, it was a frustrating and puzzling situation because there were so many positive things happening.
Yesterday, however, Toronto officially declared that startups are pretty darn interesting. At an event held in Shopify’s gleaming offices in downtown Toronto, Mayor John Tory talked about how the city needs to celebrate the successes and growth of the startup community.
In particular, he talked about the need to “tell our story better”.
In a nutshell, this is the best thing that Toronto can do to support startups. Toronto needs to be an enthusiastic cheerleader for the startup community. On a regular basis, It needs to declare that Toronto features one of the world’s most dynamic startup ecosystems. Tory needs to tell the story in San Francisco, New York, Austin and Mumbai – places that have teeming startup ecosystems.
If Toronto did nothing but boast about the ecosystem and tell stories about success startups that would be enough. It doesn’t have to anything more than that. It doesn’t have to create incubator spaces, it doesn’t really need to invite startups to participate in procurement programs, and it doesn’t need fancy Websites (although it certainly helps to have a Website that tells good stories).
For too long, Toronto has done little or nothing for startups, even as the more startups were launched, thousands of jobs were created, and a teeming ecosystem of accelerators, incubators and service providers emerged to provide support. It was like City Hall was oblivious to what was happening.
To be fair, the city’s startup community does operate in a vacuum. Those of us inside assume everything knows about the amazing startups create and the awesome technology unleashed to change our personal and professional lives. But the reality is probably different for the mainstream population, who don’t see the flurry of activity. For many people, technology is a strange, complex and sometimes troubling creature. It is disruptive and forces people and organizations to change.
But as Mayor Tory said innovation is the new “commodity” that will drive the Canadian economy. Innovation will create good-paying jobs, generate taxes to support social services and infrastructure development, and create vibrant communities across the country.
Toronto is late to the startup party but there’s still time to copiously drink the Kool-Aid. If the city can become a startup evangelist, it can become an agent of change and ambassador for progress. With more, better and sustained enthusiasm about Toronto’s startup community, more people will recognize there’s a lot happening. This will attract more investment and more entrepreneurs to drive more growth and opportunities.
Hello, Toronto: Welcome to the party. What took you so long to get here?
More: Here’s a post that I did in November 2014 on what John Tory could do for Toronto’s startups.
If you’re looking to jump-start your startup marketing, I can help you make it happen – everything from messaging and brand positioning to strategic planning and content development. I published a book, Storytelling for Startups, that provides strategic and tactical guidance to entrepreneurs looking to embrace the power of story-driven marketing.