Toronto plans week-long celebration of IT industry

The City of Toronto and its surrounding area are home to a wealth of innovative and successful IT firms.
To celebrate those successes, and to attract similar talent, the city is hosting Toronto Technology Week from May 28 to June 1.

Dave Forde, chair of TTW, said the city has long been searching for ways to bring the area’s diverse IT community together. It formed an ICT advisory committee comprised of not-for-profits, schools, government and the private sector, and put together a strategy to help transform Toronto into one of the five most innovative, creative and productive locations for ICT research, education, business and investment by 2011.

TTW, which will feature some 20 to 30 events, doesn’t have a single goal or objective, other than to provide a chance for industry members to network and learn about each other, Forde said. But he expected it will have far-reaching impacts as well.

“Celebrating the successes of local companies keeps them here but it also keeps that global spotlight on Toronto,” said Forde.

Toronto is home to approximately 3,300 ICT businesses that employ about 150,000 people.

It is North America’s third largest ICT cluster (San Francisco and New York are first and second respectively). IT services comprise the largest piece of the industry pie, at 43 per cent, followed by software and system development at 33 per cent. IT is also the city’s fifth largest industry.

One of the testaments to the city’s enduring strength as an ICT hub is the huge number of applicants to Deloitte’s yearly Fast 50 technology awards. The awards program, now in its 10th year, ranks the fastest-growing Canadian tech companies based on percentage revenue growth over a five-year period.

John Ruffolo, national leader, technology, media and telecommunications at Deloitte, said the number of applicants for the awards increases every year.

A decade ago, the GTA was dominated by software firms, mostly in the enterprise space. But that has changed over the last three years or so, he said.

“Many of those software companies that were dominant or around in 1990s either have been sold or are no longer around,” said Ruffolo.  “The newer ones emerging tend to be from the newer sectors, so wireless is becoming much bigger as are the green technologies, and we’re starting to see more digital media type companies.”

Impact Mobile is one such local digital media firm. The company, which was founded in 2002 – a time when there was pretty much nowhere else to go but up, says president Gary Schwartz — provides carriers, global agencies and brands ASP self-service marketing platforms for any aspect of their mobile marketing needs.

“When a consumer needs to reach out to a brand or service we provide the back-end ASP platform to facilitate that for companies like Coca Cola or Universal Press Syndicate,” he said.

Impact, which is in the midst of launching its mobile ticketing platform, has been profitable from inception, said Schwartz, a reflection of its focus on developing products driven by customer demand.

The industry is also supported by a host of associations and organizations, some national in scope, others more focused on local affairs. Some focus on industry lobbying activities, while others, such as the Innovation Synergy Centre in Markham, Ont. provide business mentoring services to help tech startups perfect their business plans and get ready to seek angel financing.

“The tech startups are very good at their technology, but they’ve got their heads down, they’re spending all time on R&D, and they forget the business of running the business,” said ISCM president Bob Glandfield P.Eng. “They don’t take time to understand where their market is. They don’t understand cash flow and they don’t plan their financing, their marketing and cost. So we provide them access to people who will guide them through it.”

For more information on the IT firms and associations that make up the GTA IT industry, please see the April 20 issue of Computing Canada.

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