Ingredients in Waterloo region’s ‘secret sauce’

Waterloo Region aims to be the second-best place on earth to start a tech business. We believe in this goal because we know something special is going on here.

Kayleigh Platz, storyteller and researcher, Communitech

We have over 30,000 passionate people working in close to 1,000 technology enterprises, with more than 450 of those being active startups. I’m eager to share with you the events and experiences that make this place tick, as well as news about the tech companies of all sizes that call the region home. Working for Communitech, an organization that helps technology companies start, grow and succeed in Waterloo Region and promotes the area as one of North America’s top technology clusters, I get to see all the work, up close and personal. Through this series I’ll be sharing the pulse of what’s happening here, introduce you to some awesome companies, and share advice from our expert community of mentors and entrepreneurs that aim to help companies be successful.

Related Blog: Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone – a different kind of incubator

Waterloo Region believes in hard work – we are, after all, a community founded on a barn-raising mentality and still believe that co-operation is key to a tight and supportive group.  Today, we’re a sparkling hub of innovation, excitement and knowledge, and our rock stars and celebrities are world-renowned big-picture thinkers, inventors, and physicists. Eating lunch beside a game-changer who altered the way the world accesses the internet isn’t a big deal; it’s just part of the accessible charm of Waterloo Region.

There is magic happening in this area, which boasts technology revenue of more than $25 billion with interests ranging from software development, digital media, mobile and wireless, advanced manufacturing, robotics, aerospace and defense, clean and biotech, health, IT services and telecom.  While we aren’t going to give away all our secrets, we do want to share a few ingredients that make up our secret sauce:

Big City Flavour

Waterloo Region’s is located in South Western Ontario, commuting distance from Toronto.  Waterloo Region, however is not a bedroom community, in fact, as of 2011, 31,000 people commute to Waterloo Region daily. We have a growing amount of amazing local events that keep people in town after work hours: MoBeers, a social learning event that combines mobile development content and Ontario craft beers;  Perimeter Institute’s continually sold-out public lectures; Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener + Area, an artist-run organization that brings world-class art to public spaces, packed-capacity music festivals like the Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival and the Kitchener Blues Festival, and the KW Symphony, led by the brilliant and outrageous Edwin Outwater.

Secret sauce ingredient: active and engaged community

Smart People are Everywhere

We have some of the brightest thinkers in the nation calling Waterloo home. In fact, the Communitech Venture Services Group registers two new startups daily. Many of these startups boast young and enthusiastic inventors. Communitech isn’t the only supporter and encourager in the region’s startup scene. We work alongside dynamite teams at the Accelerator Centre, University of Waterloo’s VeloCity, Wilfrid Laurier’s Innovation + Entrepreneurship program and Conestoga College’s Entrepreneurship and Small Business program.

Add in the 40,000-plus students who join us every year thanks to the universities and college, and you’ve got a youthful, inquisitive, and energetic population looking to make a difference.  While we may see more parties than the average town, ours is a vibrant community whose members keep us at the cutting edge and a step ahead of others.

Secret Sauce ingredient: Non-stop learning and constant questioning.

We Drink a Lot

No, Waterloo Region doesn’t have a drinking problem, but we have a ridiculous number of coffee shops and pubs. With so many startups and small businesses in town, this translates into many portable offices, with business deals completed over a cup of java or on a patio. And we are talking a lot of deals. In fact, Communitech saw over $500 million in acquisitions and $84.4 million raised in risk capital in 2011.

We’re not the only place with cafes and pubs, but their abundance hints at the laid-back nature of our cities. We dress casually and prefer to meet outside of cubicles. Taking the business meeting out of a work environment allows for relationships, and not just transactions, to flourish, which helps build a stronger community.

Secret sauce ingredient:  A cup of coffee or a cold beverage does more than keep you hydrated in Waterloo Region.

It’s been said there’s something in the water here. While we do have a lot of water in the region, thanks to the Grand River, I think our tenacious success comes from the people and ideas here.  I encourage you to stop by the Communitech Hub anytime. There is always something happening here, from startup launches to networking breakfasts.

And yes, the coffee is always hot.

Kayleigh Platz
Kayleigh Platz
Kayleigh is a storyteller and researcher for Communitech, with a focus on sharing success stories. Born, raised and schooled in the Waterloo Region, she holds two degrees from the University of Waterloo. Kayleigh is passionate about social media, shoes and coffee.

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