Life is about to get a little easier for entrepreneurs working at Digital Media Zone at Ryerson University and OneEleven in Toronto, as well as Waterloo's Communitech, as the incubators announce a partnership that will provide cohorts access to all three facilities.
With bustling startup communities just a couple of hours across Ontario's highway 401, the new partnership hopes to make the journey a little more productive for busy entrepreneurs, while inspiring further collaboration between the two cities.
"If a company has to waste a couple of hours on the road between Waterloo and Toronto it can blow a whole day for them, so having a place where they can do work instead of setting up at a coffee shop is a lot more productive," said Chris Plunkett, the director of external relations for Communitech. "It also creates more linkages between the Toronto and Waterloo tech clusters."
Mr. Plunkett explains that Communitech has had an informal arrangement with OneEleven for a number of months – one that allows each of the incubator's startups to use the others facilities – but by formalizing the partnership the incubators can better communicate these resources to its cohorts while guarding against misuse.
He adds that while there is a very practical, short-term need for this sort of solution, the three organizations hope it will also allow entrepreneurs in both communities to share ideas, talent and resources.
"You're going to get to know what's happening in the other scene, and for all of these companies talent is the biggest priority," he said. "Waterloo is the epicentre for engineering talent, but we're constantly on the lookout for sales and marketing and more creative talent as well as finance, so having access to the Toronto community will certainly help us and I think the Toronto side will benefit the same way."
The new partnership also helps solidify a growing bond between the two Ontario startup hubs, one that has evolved over the years from a spirit of competition to one of collaboration.
"In Toronto and Waterloo, I think we're both very confident and comfortable in the tech ecosystems we've built," said Mr. Plunkett. "Maybe at one point there was more of a competitive nature, now it's more, 'hey look, we're both taking on the world, how can we help each other do that better?"
Mr. Plunkett adds that while the partnership is focused on sharing office space and resources between the Digital Media Zone, OneEleven and Communitech, there is potential to expand the partnership to other incubators in Toronto, Waterloo and elsewhere in Canada in the future.
"I could see it expanding if ever there was a need," he said. "We'd certainly be open to it."