Which Canadian city has what it takes to win the title of the next Silicon Valley North?

Almost every major Canadian city has recently made claims that they are becoming the next Silicon Valley North. Some might argue that we should chart our own course, rather than draw the comparison to Silicon Valley. However, it seems like the comparison will continue to be drawn regardless.

Therefore, I see an opportunity to spark a little friendly competition to see which Canadian city has what it takes to claim the next “Silicon Valley North” title for Canada. Of course, this is all in the spirit of showcasing what Canada has achieved to date.

Now, I know that people from Toronto sometimes get a bad rap for being arrogant because we think that our city is the best in Canada. I am also aware that you may be thinking that very thing about me as you read this post. However, I still think that I can make a pretty strong case for why Toronto deserves the title. 

The mobile technology explosion

My first argument in favour of Toronto is the recent explosion of heavy-hitting mobile technology companies emerging in our city. Just last year, Polar Mobile was awarded a contract with Microsoft to develop 500 applications for the Windows 7 phones. 

There are countless other Toronto-based mobile companies leading the way in Toronto. One example is PushLife which is an application for accessing music on your Blackberry and Android phone. PushLife recently partnered with Virgin Media to integrate their app with the existing Virgin mobile music store.

This past summer, the Globe and Mail featured an article which outlined even more killer mobile apps companies emerging in Toronto including Endloop Studios, Five Mobile and NuLayer. They have all recently built apps for very high profile clients.

Social media innovators

Toronto is also becoming a breeding ground for innovators in Social Media. There are a numerous players in this space in Toronto including Rypple, Sysomos and Syncapse. All of these companies have earned accolades in the past year or so for their innovation and leadership in the industry. In fact, Syncapse is already expanding internationally to cities in the US, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Proximity to world-class technology schools

Great schools equal an excellent pool of talent to draw from to feed the emerging technology businesses in Toronto. Therefore, Toronto’s proximity to world-class universities and colleges, that offer innovative Technology curriculums, is the second reason why we have an edge over competing cities. 

The University of Toronto offers a certificate in Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Innovation and Technology in Engineering (ELITE) to help train engineers in Technology to be better prepared for the marketplace.  U of T has also launched a leadership program called the Next 36 which is intended to turn some of their most promising students into successful entrepreneurs. 

Ryerson University is also taking steps develop leaders in the technology space through their MBA program in the Management of Technology and Innovation.   

In addition, Toronto is just an hour and a half away from Kitchener-Waterloo.  The University of Waterloo is probably one of Canada’s most prestigious schools for advancements in computer science. Many University of Waterloo graduates start out their careers with companies like RIM and Google. Many of these companies also have offices in Toronto that are more sales and marketing focused. 

Expansion of the GO Train service

I mentioned in a previous post that the GO Train will soon take you straight from Waterloo to Toronto. This will tie the two cities together in a similar fashion to San Francisco and Palo Alto. Therefore, my 3rd argument in favour of Toronto is our recent transportation enhancements.  Enabling closer ties with an emerging technology center like Waterloo will help attract an even better pool of talent and interest from investors in Toronto.

Incubator and investor growth

There are also a number of incubator programs and a new round of investors emerging on the scene in Toronto. Just before the holidays, the Ryerson Digital Media Zone received a $750,000 grant from FedDev Ontario to support local digital media businesses. Companies like TeamSave and Burstn have benefited greatly from Ryerson’s program.

Other well-known early stage investors and mentorship programs include Extreme Venture Partners. They have developed a program called Extreme University. This program gives technology start-ups the opportunity to gain essential business and management skills, plus receive mentorship from industry veterans. There are other programs like these emerging in Toronto right now.

The game is afoot

There are likely even more reasons why Toronto is evolving into the next Silicon Valley North. However, I think that the arguments that I have put forth already do a good job to sell Toronto as a leader in this challenge. If you think your Canadian city is more deserving of the title of the next “Silicon Valley North,” please let us know why? Game on!