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Toronto’s booming tech sector is ready to take the next step

The Toronto Region Board of Trade (TRBOT) celebrated its 175th year anniversary at a gala dinner last Thursday by bringing together the Greater Toronto Area’s (GTA) best and brightest. Notable influencers, business leaders and politicians, including Toronto Mayor John Tory, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, George Cohon, founder and senior chairman of McDonald’s Canada, his son, former CFL Commissioner and Chair of Toronto Global, Mark Cohon, and League and Kobo founder, Michael Serbinis, reflected on the city that was, where it is now, and predicted what will happen next. It was an inspiring evening; most importantly it was forward-looking.

What makes Toronto different?

Father and son duo, Mark and George Cohon, shined a light on the immense growth experienced by the region over the past 50 years, and looked at what is next for the vibrant and innovative city. Through his work with Toronto Global, the younger Mr. Cohon talked about the gifted and diverse talent pool the GTA possesses and the global imprint that these cultures represent. With the intersection of the region’s dynamic cultures, the capacity for innovation, creativity, and collaboration is continuing to grow, making it one of the most progressive and innovative places in the world. By virtue of all of this, it is a hotbed for technological disruption.

What is Toronto’s vision?

Now this is where Michael Serbinis comes in. From winning gold in high school at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair to rooming with Elon Musk and working at Zip2 to eventually founding DocSpace, Kobo Inc. and League Inc., Mr. Serbinis has made a career of disrupting through the tech sector. Most importantly, the Ontario native has been a huge proponent of the region’s emergence as a competitor to Silicon Valley. His decision to return to Toronto and found Kobo—the digital reading company that eventually sold for $315 million to Japanese conglomerate Rakuten in 2009, and League—a digital health and wellness platform that continues to grow at an exponential rate—are a testament to his vision for the city. He believes in the people of the GTA, that they have what it takes to compete on the global stage with innovative solutions to address most, if not all, of the world’s growing pains. But he, like many of his peers, believe there’s much to be done, still, to achieve that.

So how do we take advantage of our budding environment?

It starts with changing the attitude of Toronto and the region’s business and political leaders. Investing in the people who live and work in the city and region; investing in local technology, in local IP and R&D, and more importantly partnering and buying from peers. Convincing the largest technology companies, such as Amazon and Google, to bolster their operations in the region is certainly an effective way to showcase talent. True growth, however, will come from fostering an environment for the region’s thinkers, innovators and disruptors that challenges them to fail and dream big as entrepreneurs. Mr. Serbinis believes it is through this and backing through institutional investment that Toronto, and more broadly the Canadian tech sector, will position itself as a breeding ground for cutting-edge technology that continues to disrupt the status quo.

Toronto has what it takes to become the global leader in technology

And here’s the message that resonated from all speakers at the gala—it is up to everyone, from the business community and government to keep up the momentum and take advantage of all that Toronto, with its diversity, talent and creativity, has to offer.

Are you an investor? An innovator? A business leader? And someone who is ready to think big? Driving awareness and building relationships with the right people might seem like a daunting task. Talk to our Technology, Investor Relations or Public Affairs teams to find out how we can best position you to engage with the right people in this evolving landscape.