This past Thursday, ventureLAB hosted Made In York Region: The Future of Tech to showcase and celebrate the many technologies, businesses, and entrepreneurs this region has to offer. It was the first of what we hope will become an annual celebration.
In Spring 2017, ventureLAB launched its accelerator space at the IBM Innovation Space-Markham Convergence Centre, then a 25,000 square foot innovation hub for tech companies. In just over a year, we’ve expanded our space to 50,000 square feet, 42 tech companies, and several innovation partners that help our companies build and scale.
York Region has a thriving tech cluster that includes start-ups, scale-ups, and global multinationals, but is often lumped into “Toronto” publications, statistics, and reports. Our showcase on October 11 was proof and celebration of York Region’s independent and booming ecosystem.
30 companies showcased their products, technologies, and services, meeting over 250 attendees and engaging in meaningful conversations.
Four panels discussed the history of gender and diversity in tech companies, and how inclusivity in workplaces goes beyond gender; why Toronto created more tech jobs last year than the Bay Area, Washington, and Seattle combined, yet still faces a talent gap; how technology is helping Canadians become healthier; and how tech is making it easier to bring healthcare closer to home.
The keynote panel touched on it all. Jayson Myers (NGen Canada), Sandra Ketchen (SE Health), Rui Wang (York University), and Steve Martin (Pond Technologies) offered thought-provoking and inspiring comments to a packed room on the future of tech, and how we can all shape and create it. This panel of speakers was a tribute to the breadth and vision for the region in terms of building a sustainable portfolio of global competitive companies, small businesses, and global enterprises that build to scale in Canada. Mayor Frank Scarpitti, Mayor of Markham; MPP Michael Parsa, Aurora-Oakridges-Richmond Hill and Parliamentary Assistant to Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade; MP, Leona Alleslev, Aurora-Oakridges-Richmond Hill offered opening remarks for our Keynote Panel, and closing notes were offered by MP Majid Jowhari, Richmond Hill. They spoke in particular about the importance of local small business to Ontario’s economy and Canada’s global competitiveness.
Minister Mary Ng, Small Business and Export Promotion and MPP Billy Pang, Markham—Unionville also showed their support by meeting with companies to discuss their products and vision for the future.
The engagement we saw speaks for itself: tech and innovation do not only live in downtown Toronto. Our companies choose York Region for its robust, innovation economy. Rather than compete with our counterparts in Toronto, Waterloo, or Ottawa, we are excited to complement and engage with the work that other regions are doing.