The distance between the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Waterloo Region is only an hour’s drive. The surrounding regions along the busy stretch and transportation hub of the 401 highway connecting the two cities is now known as The Corridor. With the name collectively referring to the aggregation of technology companies dotted along the way, many which are also flourishing in both city centres at either end, it has cultivated within it a spirit of innovation for future entrepreneurs, technologists, tech products and services.
Inspired by the founders of the early success stories in Blackberry & Open Text, young entrepreneurs have evolved a mecca of next generation technology companies which now call Waterloo Region home. This tech centric community has unique credentials placing it among North America’s most dynamic technology hubs.
The Region is home to a tech startup community affectionately referred to by some within industry as Silicon Valley North. Within the community are some of Canada’s fastest-growing tech businesses. A globally renowned academic institution with an esteemed computer science program in the University of Waterloo, supports technology innovation, along with Communitech, Velocity and the Accelerator Centre associations providing incubator spaces for startups. Advisors and mentors lend their knowledge and their access to venture capitalism, with local venues showcasing the spirited pitches of entrepreneurs, all with the aim and dream in mind to create the next unicorn company.
The urban centre of industrial activity is within the Innovation District centred around the Lang Tannery building. Communitech, Desire2Learn and a plethora of technology companies live in this restored leather factory, with production now focussed on software programming and code, rather than the leather sole products formerly created in the same building by the legacy of the British Empire. The former rubber manufacturing building with a tire history, has become a Catalyst for the Internet of Things (IOT) and companies like Miovision, combining hardware, software and sensor technology, are prospering within this tech community hub.
Entrepreneurialism combined with industrialism within the region, originated with the work of early mercantile traders. Agriculture, farming, mills, textiles and factories, along with the roots of whiskey, spirits, alcohol and beer distilled by craftmasters taking hold of trade despite prohibitions, created a city focussed on manufacturing. Famous brands such as Seagrams Whiskey, while produced locally, were becoming known nationally and internationally, as was Waterloo Region. The new and nascent tech industry in the region, as its predecessors in production and manufacturing, has also now become an internationally known incubator hub. Business and development teams, programmers and software designers, now reside within some of these same historical restored manufacturing buildings working on the next brightest ideas for the future.
The region has not gone unnoticed by larger corporations. Technology giant Google selected one of the old historic yellow brick and beam buildings in the Breithaupt Block, deciding it was the perfect place for its Canadian engineering headquarters; Googlers as they are known, have joined Waterloo’s Region’s Innovation District. The german multinational SAP also calls Waterloo home, Shopify is centred in Uptown Waterloo and the over 17,000 retailers aggregated online by the Faire online wholesale marketplace, are all supported by software developers working within the region.
Shoot for the moon and you will land in the stars seems to be the mantra of the moment for local technology enthusiasts. While some stars may fade and others will burn out, all seem to be working tirelessly with the aim and dream in mind to be one of the brightest by creating the next unicorn company. And this may just be where the next unicorn is born, as Waterloo Region is a place where tech stars seem to be shining brightly.