Waterloo recognized as a startup haven

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Recognized for its access to great talents and pioneering endeavors and ideas, Waterloo was ranked 16th on a list of the world’s top-20 ecosystems for startups.

The report was released by businesses startup Genome and Telefonica Digital, which are based out of San Franciso and Spain, respectively.

Steve Farlow, executive director for the Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship at Wilfrid Laurier University agreed with this assessment, as the region’s values and resources have played a vital role.

“The biggest single reason is that entrepreneurship is valued in this region, its part of the heritage, part of the culture,” Farlow said.

“The original founding of this area was based on entrepreneurs and families and prominent businesses made this area what it is.”

Schools have recognized the relevance of entrepreneurial work and have been creating resources for student entrepreneurs to have access to.

This is part of the ecosystem, a term that is used to describe the startup business community in Waterloo.

“The ecosystem here includes business community, the municipal and federal governments are very supportive of entrepreneurship in this startup culture in many ways and then of course the education community, which is Laurier, the University of Waterloo and Conestoga College,” Farlow added.

Farlow acknowledged that WLU created a program called Laurier Launchpad that is based at Communitech Hub, which allows entrepreneurs to connect with law firms, accounting firms and mentoring programs.

Mayor Brenda Halloran credits the Accelerator Centre and Communitech Hub for their unique support mechanisms, education and leadership development tools for entrepreneurs for their continuing successes with their startup businesses.

“These resources include hosting startup camps, providing intense discussions on business issues or developing marketing and development skills,” Halloran said.

“We facilitate connections for startups through learning and networking and we provide access to thought leadership with other local companies at various levels of management.”

Over 800 tech-sector companies got their start over the last ten years in the Waterloo Region and Halloran discussed a strong and healthy growth in this specific sector, as well as in other business sectors such as digital media, financial and health sciences.

“Our ‘holistic approach’ to startups includes knowledge-based support, opportunities for investment and access to monies and clustering, all in the physical office space startup companies need to develop and grow,” Halloran said in regard to how startups can continue to be successful.

“This holistic approach will grow in the years to come, which will continue to support the needs of the startup community.”

Alexander Marshall, founder and chief creative officer for branding agency George Briggs Media, began his entrepreneurial work when he was 16. George Briggs Media, which builds advertising campaigns for businesses through film, received a plethora of support from the resources offered in the community.

“Communitech was one of the best offerings that I had because I was given mentorship, support and it gave us the opportunity to expand our network beyond just Laurier,” Marshall said. “A lot of it has been from the Waterloo community and the amazing entrepreneurship environment and ecosystem that is present here.”

However, Marshall added that there are still improvements that can be made for startups in Waterloo.

“One of the things that is lacking in Waterloo is the creative industry,” he explained.

“[This] is something that we facilitate but it also gives us a challenge in terms of finding the best people in the industry in order to facilitate campaigns for our clients.”

“There is no real arts education in Waterloo or in the K-W region. I think what it has to come down to is having more commercial lifestyle that has to appeal to people above 24 and more infrastructure that wants to attract the local talent,” Marshall added.

While Marshall has had to make sacrifices in order to launch George Briggs Media, the experiences that he had received through the Waterloo resources and community have founded his company into what it is today.

“Its all about finding that thing that you really love that’s going to make you lose sleep over and in essence it shouldn’t feel like work, it should be like you’re solving a problem,” he concluded.

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