We The (Startup) North: Big Ideas in Toronto Tech

By Paul Teshima in Leadership

It has been a fun week up here in Toronto.  As the weather got colder, the tech scene heated up this week.  It is exciting to see that 2nd and 3rd time entrepreneurs are sticking around my home town to do it again, and with bigger and better ideas.  Let’s talk about some of the big ideas I saw this week.

WEDNESDAY

On Wednesday my friend, and fellow serial entrepreneur Mike Serbinis, launched his new company called League (joinleague.com) which is a new solution in the $3.7 trillion (and growing) healthcare space.  League’s vision is to be THE digital platform to empower people to be healthy every day.  Even though 50% of the healthcare issues could be prevented, only 1% is spent on keeping people healthy.  Well League wants to change that. Not a small idea, but Toronto-Tech needs more people willing to make big bets.  In Mike’s launch talk at MaRS he had a great quote which articulates how big idea entrepreneurs think.

“There are some people who live in a dream, and some people who live in reality, and some people who can turn one into the other” – quoted from movie Inception

THURSDAY

On Thursday our own OneEleven accelerator hosted an-invite only founders social in our space in the downtown core.  Over 80 founders showed up for some cold(ish) beer, good food, but mostly just to learn and talk about all the cool things going on in Toronto-Tech.  I found out that in this great class of founders we had raised over 120 million in capital (so mostly seed financing), but also had the experience of over $1.2 billion in exits.  Not too shabby considering that most of the 80 were still working on their first startup.

I bumped into Ali Zahid, co-founder and COO of Vanhawks.  Vanhawks recently raised over $800,000 on kickstarter – nice.  Talk about big ideas, while the rest of us are building software safely behind our screens and keyboards – Vanhawks is setting out to transform Urban Transportation (something we badly need in Toronto) by launching the first connected bike featuring performance tracking, security sensors & interactive feedback to radically change the way you ride.

That means not only are they writing code, but they are sourcing, building and shipping bikes.  But after talking with Ali for a while about their operations, they definitely know their stuff – it will be exciting to see the first bikes hit the streets in the new year – drivers beware!

I then got talking to Kyle Trattner and James Engelsman of Tickld.com, who have quietly (maybe not so quietly) in the last 18 months grown their site of funny, interesting, weird and smart content to a global rank of 1,290 (Alexa.com) for traffic.  Their simple vision to “Spread Laughter and Cure Boredom” has let them go BIG in execution.  After logging in to check it out – I was greeted with this pic – I am seriously thinking of hiring Emerson into my inside sales team – that kid is creative.

FRIDAY

Just as I finished this blog and got back to real work, I am reading through some great feedback from our first wave of BETA uses on Nudge.  It always gets much more exciting when you see real users pushing and prodding your product and asking questions that you never thought of to ask.

At Nudge we also have a big idea: we believe we can bring the business world closer together one nudge at a time.  The explosion of social networks represents the largest opportunity ever for business professionals to grow and be successful in their career. We believe trust trumps content, andyour network is your networth – and by helping people grow relationships from their weak connections we believe we can deliver on our vision.

Toronto-tech is definitely heating up with some big ideas and big execution – why don’t you jump on a plane or hop in a car and come join us!

(editors note – I would wait until May when it warms up 🙂 ).

Paul Teshima
CEO and Co-founder