Digital Media Zone at Ryerson University Celebrates Successful Past and Promising Future

DMZ describes 2013 as its “best year yet.” 48 startups joined DMZ in that time, and its startups and alumni raised more than $24 million combined in seed funding from various sources, including DMZ Investments, a seed-stage fund established by Ryerson University for-profit entity Ryerson Futures.

123 startups have joined the DMZ since its launch in 2010, creating more than 900 jobs, according to DMZ, and 70% of those companies “are still flourishing or have been successfully acquired.”

“There’s no one factor that accounts for our startups’ success, but rather a mix of advantages that help companies thrive,” says  DMZ Executive Director Valerie Fox. “These include the best advisors, hosting hundreds of industry and government tours per year, and a strong culture of openness and collaboration among entrepreneurs.”

“The calibre of ideas and talent coming out of the Digital Media Zone is very impressive,” notes Alex Baker, Partner at Relay Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm focused on mobile computing and an investor in DMZ Investments. “When home-grown companies can draw international attention, customers and funding, everyone wins.”

Some of DMZ’s more successful startups include medical engineering research and development corporation Bionik Laboratories, online video interview screening platform Kira Talent (who raised $2 million from venture capitalists and angel investors), and Greengage Mobile, makers of a mobile platform that enables and rewards positive environmental, wellness, and community behaviours, (and who recently announced a $1 million funding round).

But perhaps the most prominent company is Toronto-based alumnus 500px, who closed an $8.8 million Series A funding, hired 30 new people, launched a partnership with Bing, and achieved the one-to-five million download category in the Google Play store, all in 2013.

In 2014, DMZ says will “focus its priorities on more exponential learning, growth and success for itself and its companies.”

“In 2014 we hope to explore more corporate partnerships and relationships with other incubators, more international outreach and collaborating with new Ryerson zones being cultivated in specific areas such as fashion, design fabrication, food and social innovation,” explains Fox. “All together this means a richer, more developed entrepreneurial ecosystem that will help create greater economic and social impact for Toronto, Ontario and Canada.”

Photo: DMZ