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How Bryan Watson Became Toronto’s Guardian Angel Investor

How Bryan Watson Became Toronto’s Guardian Angel Investor

Posted by PanamericanWorld on May 27, 2016

When Bryan Watson returned from living in Scotland in the early 2000s, Toronto felt a bit entrepreneurially desolate. 

“Having worked with Scottish enterprises there to foster some of the entrepreneurial community, and come back with outside-in eyes, I found that there really wasn’t any sort of community here whatsoever… it was slightly depressing,” he laments. 

The infrastructure was virtually non-existent, with all the great ideas and startups tucked below the surface or working in silos, dispersed from one another. 

“You didn’t have the mutual innovation centres, you didn’t have any of the meet ups,” says Bryan. “It was basically just a lot of folks working away in basements and in their offices without any sort of interconnection.” 

Angel investing groups were also on the verge of extinction, so Bryan stepped up.

“I got involved in that community fairly heavily both on the angel side and on the entrepreneurial side,” he recalls.

The entrepreneur took a post as executive director of the National Angel Capital Organization, spending the next six years building the angel community across Canada, founding and helming the Network of Angel Organizations Ontario in the process. 

On the entrepreneurial side, Bryan got involved in organizing events like StartupDrinks, a monthly grassroots event that to this day, continues to draw more than 400 entrepreneurs to discuss their day-to-day challenges. 

“No agenda, just really building that community, that ecosystem, and the interconnectedness,” he says.

In a sense, that’s been Bryan’s modus operandi since he returned – build, build, build. 

A quick peruse of his LinkedIn profile illustrates the life of a very busy, very active advocate for the entrepreneurial minded: managing director of CleanTech North for three years; director of special projects and connector in residence at Toronto-based accelerator and incubator INcubes for the past three as well; and advisor to the Mississauga Regional Innovation Center from 2009 to 2011. 

Last April, he joined boutique consulting and venture services firm Flow Ventures as a partner. 

The firm has taken an active role in developing the startup community, helping more than 120 companies traverse the filing and reporting process for credits like the government’s Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program. Flow also offers advisory services. 

“Everything from helping navigate access to capital – angels, VCs, all that – and helping decipher all the various different acronyms that are out there around government grants,” he explains. “All the way up to and including connecting to strategic partners, customers, and helping coach companies through the M&A process… really it’s a boutique, holistic growth services company.”

Since he’s returned, Toronto has started looking a lot like the startup city Bryan envisioned. 

“There’s a critical mass, there’s access to talent… we’ve got a number of companies that are setting up shop here in Toronto,” he says. “Tax credits and grants, being able to actually hire good coders and good entrepreneurial folks – all those things are incentives to build here.”

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