Toronto Mayor John Tory painted a picture of Toronto as a startup that prizes diversity as its key differentiator in the innovation space, according to the text of a speech to be delivered at Tuesday’s CityAge conference in San Francisco.
In a speech that name-drops famous Canadians ranging from Drake to Justin Trudeau to Daniel Debow, Tory depicted the stretch of 401 highway between Toronto and Waterloo as one cohesive region that has benefitted from the diversity of its population. Citing Toronto’s motto of “diversity our strength,” Tory opened his speech by telling the story of Wattpad, a Toronto-based startup success that build an online community around fiction writing, co-founded by Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen.
Lau was born in Hong Kong and moved to Toronto at 19 to attend the University of Toronto, Tory said. “Allan and Ivan rented an office space in downtown Toronto where their employees could take transit or ride their bikes to work. They hired a young multicultural staff with a variety of skills, many of whom had immigrated to Canada.”
That diversity of backgrounds helped Wattpad’s platform support 50 different languages and become an international hit, Tory said, with 40 million unique visitors every month and a writing community of 2 million. This is an example of what the diverse population of the Toronto region can help companies that set up shop there achieve, the mayor explained.
He went on to highlight Canada’s recent effort to accept 25,000 refugees, and described Canada’s immigration system as one of the strongest in the world. He linked his point to Silicon Valley by highlighting a report by the National Foundation for American policy that found that half of U.S.-based “unicorns” (privately-owned companies worth at least $1 billion) have been founded by immigrants.
Tory’s speech also mentioned music star Drake, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (“an openly gay women in her sixties”) and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
He also pointed to entrepreneurs that had ventured into the U.S. and then returned to Toronto to create a new company. He cited examples such as Daniel Debow, the founder of Rypple and former Salesforce.com executive, Michael Serbinis, a founding member of Kobo that is now leading up a new healthcare startup named League, and Mallorie Brodie and Lauren Lake of Bridgit, a mobile software app for construction sites.
Tory is in San Francisco with the mayors of Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge to promote the region under the brand of “The Corridor.”