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Startup Toronto builds out entrepreneurial community and a brand new incubator program

Startup Toronto builds out entrepreneurial community and a brand new incubator program

Posted by PanamericanWorld on August 06, 2016

“Community” is a word that occurs in every response Craig Major gives. It’s the focus of Startup Toronto and all its endeavors, including its monthly events, new podcast and upcoming incubator.

While some cities may lack any sense of entrepreneurial community, Major explains that Toronto’s wealth of resources, events, and opportunities can also be overwhelming and difficult to navigate.

“The community is very vibrant here,” says the Startup Toronto co-founder. “There are over 50 incubators and accelerators here in the city … but people don’t know where to go.”

As Major was launching his own business, Simple Suitor, he says he was “looking for a community to join where I could talk to startups on a regular basis who were struggling with the same struggles I was having, that we could find mentors and work together. There wasn’t anybody doing that. And that’s the community I wanted to build.”

Major has been working in tech for years and was often helping other budding entrepreneurs. So when he had a chance encounter with Gabriella Chan, who was looking to establish a Toronto branch of Startup Canada — a community that would act as an entry-point and hub for entrepreneurs — Major immediately signed to help with what was meant to be a single event — about 100 events ago.

In just about a year and a half, Startup Toronto (not to be confused with the City’s StartUp HERE Toronto platform) has created a grassroots, volunteer-driven community of over 2,500 members which helps entrepreneurs from any sector – not just tech – meet like-minded individuals and connect to programs best suited for their business. Thus far, the network has been built through monthly workshops, bootcamps and networking events, and will soon be expanding its offerings for female entrepreneurs specifically.

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To celebrate their membership milestone, Startup Toronto is celebrating with a Summer Bash at Marche on August 9, which also serves as the launch of their new weekly podcast. Their first will feature Bobby Umar, as well as the minds behind WelcomeSpace, the Fireside Conference and Gugoiza.

The focus of Startup Talk is on knowledge-sharing, says Major, who plans to speak to successful, established companies as well as interesting earlier-stage companies, coworking spaces, funders and others involved in entrepreneurial activities.

Also in the pipeline is a new “agnostic” small-business incubator through which Startup Toronto hopes to launch 100 businesses for 2017.

If any city can accommodate another incubator, it’s Toronto.

“The vibe in Toronto is incredible,” says Major. “We’re starting to see an explosion of startup growth here that other cities haven’t seen. Recent studies show Toronto to be one of the Top 10 if not Top 5 startup cities in the world.… It’s an exciting time to be here.”

Amid all his talk about community, it may be helpful to know that Major grew up without one, moving often around different parts of Ontario with parents who always ran some sort of side business.

“Moving around a lot affected my ability to relate to people — always being forced to make new friends in a new environment, talking to people I never talked to before.”

Now talking comes naturally to Major and he volunteers with the organization to help “solopreneurs” and other small businesses find a “home,” a community with familiar faces.

“It’s been incredible and people find the community of great value,” he says.

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