Aayaz Pira, senior vice president of CIBC Digital's retail and business banking division, during the July 6 launch of the CIBC Live Lounge at Toronto's MaRS Discovery District.

Published: July 6th, 2017

Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District has long served as a hub for its many tenants from the city’s startup community. Now the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) has ensured that non-tenants have a place they can work too.

On Thursday representatives from both MaRS and CIBC gathered in the Discovery District’s atrium to announce the official opening of the CIBC Live Lounge, a community hub that will give startups from across the city access to a combination meeting space, workplace, and event space, with free WiFi to boot.

“At CIBC, we’ve benefitted a great deal from the many partnerships we’ve developed with startups over the past few years, and we want the rest of the Canadian ecosystem to win by developing great partnerships as well,” Aayaz Pira, senior vice-president of CIBC digital’s retail and business banking division, tells ITBusiness.ca.

“The goal is to bring that notion of collaboration, partnerships, and co-creation to the rest of the MaRS ecosystem, whether it involves small startups, budding entrepreneurs, or large corporations,” he adds.

The venture is separate from the similarly-named Live Labs, a CIBC division headquartered at MaRS that develops digital banking solutions, is purposely run like a startup – and won CIBC an ITWC Digital Transformation award last month.

In contrast, the Live Lounge has no set mandate and is intended as an open space for hackathons, think tanks, and conferences which is open to the public.

“It’s a great opportunity for CIBC to give back to the community,” Pira says. “Just as much we’re focused on clients in our day-to-day business, we’re focused on building relationships with the community, and this provides a venue for the startup ecosystem which has been so good to us to participate in.”

MaRS president of venture services Salim Teja at the CIBC Live Lounge’s July 6 launch.

Though CIBC is sponsoring the space, its day-to-day operations will be managed by MaRS, Salim Teja, the organization’s president of venture services, tells ITBusiness.ca.

“We often have entrepreneurs visiting the centre and asking if they can hold a meeting, or get some work done, and though we try to accommodate them with some of the tables and chairs that we’ve set up, or the coffee shops that we have, it’s not the same as creating a drop-in space where they can come and work, or hold a meetings,” he explains.

“We’ve also talked about what a great addition to the centre a place for us to hold community events would be,” Teja continues. “CIBC really stepped up as our first partner to co-develop the concept, and we’re ecstatic that it’s finally opening today.”

Among the events already scheduled for the Live Lounge, Teja says, are hackathons, meetups, and breakout sessions.

It will also serve as the new home of the organization’s quarterly MaRS Mornings, in which an entrepreneur is invited to the centre to talk about their journey.

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