ProductHuntTO Anniversary Highlights Toronto’s Coming of Age
I attended ProductHuntTO’s one year anniversary at MaRS last night, and it was a fantastic event. Over 450+ paid attendees came to the event and celebrated a year’s worth of great ideas, turned into products that people now use. Daryna Kuyla, (Manager, Digital Innovation Lab at Deloitte) was the host and really has been the driving force for organizing the Toronto group, first starting small, then growing attendance, sponsors and now keynote speakers like Simon Vallee (Product at #Slack) last night.
I have had the chance to get to know Daryna and was surprised how all of this is done by the ProductHuntTO team themselves, with no budget, and full-time day jobs. It is their passion for startups, products and also the Toronto ecosystem that fuels them to keep driving this forward. And over the course of one year, they have exposed over 1,000 people to 100+ new products in the Toronto scene.
We Canadians Work Hard, but Learn Harder, eh?
I was lucky enough to be invited to a pre-event dinner the night before and got to spend time with some accomplished entrepreneurs. We talked about startups, of course, cool new products, and also the “tech bubble” everyone is worried about. Despite having 3 (+1 waiting in the wing) unicorns, and over $6B in market cap sitting around the table it was clear (although we apologized for it :), we praise more than criticize. As we went through newer products like x.ai, Spotify, or Zeplin, we highlighted and shared what they did well, instead of dwelling on their faults. I guess you can say we have no ego when it comes to learning from others.
I think this is one of the most critical attributes for a successful entrepreneur, and we Canadian’s have it.
The Ecosystem Has Arrived
There are over 2,000 startups in Toronto today (data from angel.co), which ranks us 6th overall for North American cities. Not only that but there more 2nd and 3rd-time successful entrepreneurs sticking around to continue to build their next great business. People like Mark Organ (Influitive), Mike Serbinis (League) and Carol Leaman (Axonify) just to name a few. And these experienced entrepreneurs are bringing venture from all over the world to Toronto.
In 2000 Toronto’s tech scene was almost non-existent. Today, it’s truly world class. Huge turn-out and great companies at #producthuntTO
— Steve Woods (@stevewoods) August 27, 2015
In fact, Toronto leads all Canadian cities with $157 million (43% of total) in venture raised in the first half of 2015.
Also just like in San Francisco, we are seeing more startups in the downtown core of Toronto, thanks to environments like MaRS and OneEleven. And big names like Google, Facebook, Twitter, AirBnb and salesforce.com have set up their Canadian HQ in the downtown core. Why is that important?
To build world-class products, you need tech density, to drive collaboration, learnings, and competition. This is achieved with an epicenter of tech, and not when spread out at the fringes.
Simon Vallee is a serial entrepreneur (and Canuck), now in Product at Slack, and gave a concise and thoughtful keynote on how to build great products. One of the first things he said was that we shouldn’t try and replicate Silicon Valley, we should find our own way. “Toronto can attract engineers from all over the world”.
But the advice he gave that resonated with me was this:
We Canadians are thoughtful people. We may not be as brash as our southern neighbors, but we do have the grit and determination to succeed. This message was powerful because, in order to continue to succeed in Toronto, we need people to take on big problems. And big problems take time to solve.
Just because you ship it, doesn’t mean it’s a product. Take time to solve a big problem.
And the Big Problem Winner is…
Finally, ProductHuntTO gave an award for product of the year, and it went to Wealthsimple, a startup that has already raised $30+M (seed and series A) with a mission to make smart, simple, low-fee investing accessible to everyone, regardless of net worth or financial knowledge.
I know you are thinking that you will never manage your investment portfolio with a startup, never mind on your mobile device. However, I will remind you that #WeTheStartupNorth entrepreneurs are armed with this great advice:
I couldn’t be more pumped to continue on with our journey @neednudge. Helping people grow the right relationships is hard, but being in Toronto for our 2nd startup, I know we will have a better chance than most.