Funky art, open concept spaces, post-and-beam structures and messy work stations.
That’s what Brendan Dellandrea says participants of the Toronto Startup Open House can expect when over 100 startup companies throughout downtown Toronto open their doors to the public on Oct. 30.
But it’s the people inside these spaces that will be the real draw, he says. Dellandrea is the director of marketing and communications for Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ), an Open House participant.
“It’s an opportunity to meet energetic, optimistic, bright young people working with really cool technology,” says Dellandrea. “It’s about building a community and creating connections between people.”
Event organizer Satish Kanwar says 120 startup companies have agreed to participate, including names like Betakit, Bitstrips, ScribbleLive, IndieGoGo and Shopify. The latter is an e-commerce startup founded in 2006, where Kanwar is the director of product.
At the time of publication, 2,300 participants have signed up online, 50 per cent of which Kanwar is expecting to be students and recent graduates.
“I think it gives an opportunity for distinct groups of people to talk who would have otherwise never run into each other,” said Kanwar.
The DMZ is also set to be a key player in the Toronto event.
Unlike other startups, the DMZ acts as an incubator and co-working space for entrepreneurs and companies that aren’t big enough to maintain their own business space. Currently over 70 startups call the DMZ home.
“Entrepreneurship is extremely difficult and it can be extremely lonely,” said Dellandrea. “So to have the support of peers around you who are engaged in similar pursuits has a really empowering effect.”
The DMZ plans to host guided tours every 10 to 15 minutes, but Dellandrea said the night is mainly designed to give visitors a glimpse into the life of a startup and meeting the people who are building their businesses from the ground up. Other startups are offering Q-and-A panels and access to demonstrations with products, hardware and software that the companies are working on.
“The life of a startup is all about generating new business and ensuring you’ve got enough new customers that you’ll be able to grow and expand and achieve your dreams,” said Dellandrea.
“Once you have customers, investment will follow.”
Although it isn’t a key part of the Startup Open House platform, Kanwar said there may also be the opportunity to job hunt and share resumes, especially considering the fact that Shopify hopes to double the size of its office by the end of next year.
“There’s just another world and another way to be successful and launch your career that doesn’t have to involve the top four banks and the top 10 financial firms,” said Kanwar. “In other words, welcome to the future.”