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OpenCare takes data-driven approach to healthcare access

Toronto isn’t short on talent. Plenty of companies do innovative work in industries like healthcare, environment, and finance, the kind of disruption that that could raise our economic profile. Many brag-worthy people make this city forward-thinking and exciting place to live, and if they won’t humbly brag about themselves – we’d be glad to do so for them. First up, we’d like to introduce you to Nikolai Bratkovski, CEO and Founder of OpenCare - and his thoughts on a recent study from the Fraser Institute on Canada’s standing in universal healthcare.

Inspired by his own personal experiences, Nikolai Bratkovski started OpenCare, the data-driven doctor recommendations engine in 2012 to help people control their healthcare choices. He identified a problem that needed solving when he was looking for a doctor. While he had his own large network of healthcare professionals as a result of his work in the healthcare industry, finding the right provider was far from easy and enjoyable.

Nikolai assembled his team to address this problem that he and millions of other Canadians experience on a regular basis. With patient-experiences at the core, the OpenCare platform makes healthcare more personable and accessible by helping patients to find the best providers in their neighbourhood and to make appointments online.

According Fraser Institute’s International Health Policy Survey of Primary Care Physicians study, Canada’s universal healthcare reputation is at stake. Fraser Institute conducted a series of interviews involving more than 2,000 primary care doctors in Canada and compared results with those in Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Canada performed below average on five of the six of the indicators that measured “access to care”. Another piece of concerning insight, 70% of the primary care doctors admitted to knowing that their patients experience frustrating and lengthy wait times.

“Governments need to better work with and provide relevant incentives to the private sector - to help fix some of these fundamental issues that exist within healthcare,” Nikolai Bratkovsky told YongeStreet. “But some things that need to change to help us address this problem,” suggesting that it’ll take combined efforts from both public and private sectors to move things forward.

OpenCare is a Toronto-based startup with ambitious plans to further expand within Canada and internationally. They are also hiring and so if improve healthcare from a patient-to-healthcare provider standpoint sounds like a good idea to you, please learn about joining their team here.

Imagining the Supercity: KW and Toronto should join forces, according to the new intelligence report

The Waterloo Region has a unique startup ecosystem, but it needs to bulk up to truly gain international attention, claims the new intelligence report released on February 15th 2016 by Entrevestor Intelligence. The report sheds light on the potential of KW-Toronto corridor and its status as an innovation hub – with a focus on the need and significance of building “Canada’s tech supercity”.

“Kitchener-Waterloo is an important linchpin in the most important technology cluster in the country,” said John Ruffolo, CEO of OMERS Ventures, quoted in this report, adding that Toronto is extremely active, and combining it with the Waterloo Region would produce an entity responsible for more than half the VC deals in the country.

Top 5 report highlights:
  1. Velocity, the largest free startup incubator in North America has accepted 163 companies, expanding to welcome even more in 2016.
  2. The Waterloo Region has the second-highest concentration of startups in the world, but it’s not ranked in the top 20 ecosystems.
  3. Bridgit, a construction industry app and one of the region’s hottest startups, recently won the Google Demo Day in Silicon Valley and wrapped up a strong year with plans to expand into the US
  4. Better transportation options between Toronto and the Waterloo Region are sorely needed, but a high-speed train link might still be a decade away
  5. KW and Toronto risk to become a “farm team to the Valley”, but strong fundraising rounds (KIK’s $50M and Vidyard’s $35M), a growing number of exits, and companies like Google expanding in the region are widely seen as good signs for the ecosystem.
Toronto and KW as a hub of corporations, population, capital, talent and active community can be a powerful force in fuelling money into the country. With so many important stakeholders aligned, a Prime Minister who has expressed enthusiasm for innovation and recently visited the new Google’s new Canadian engineering headquarters in Waterloo, and the mayors of Kitchener, Waterloo and Toronto cooperating, Toronto and KW are well positioned to join forces and strengthen the region's global reputation.

The report sought out the views of Communitech President and CEO Iain Klugman, Kik CEO Ted Livingston, OMERS Ventures CEO John Ruffolo, and Google Canada Managing Director Sam Sebastian and Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, Tim Jackson, the EVP Corporate and Community Development and Lead Executive at the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing and many others. Please read the full report here: http://entrevestor.com/images/uploads/Entrevestor_KW_MAR2016_Digital.pdf

University of Toronto creates position for first research chair for investor rights in North Americ

As interest in startups and entrepreneurship grows, so too does the interest from investors grow with it. As Shopify’s IPO last year shows, startups can be high risk, but they can also have potentially high gains.

So it’s fitting that the University of Toronto has established North America’s first research chair for investor rights, officially called the J.R. Kimber Chair in Investor Protection and Corporate Governance, which is named after the author of the Report of the Attorney General’s Committee on Securities Legislation in Ontario that laid the foundation for Canada’s modern securities regulatory regime.  Taking the position will be Anita Anand, a corporate law and governance expert.

One of the purposes of securities regulation is to ensure that investors are protected; currently, the University says, Canada’s securities regulatory system has historically been criticized for ineffectively deterring financial market abuses, and isn’t set up to address the rise of equity crowdfunding. Anand says that she will be examining the concept of investor protection from the standpoint of both investor rights and remedies.

“Regarding startup and early stage firms, one of the key issues is whether there are sufficient investor protection mechanisms in place for retail investors when they are investing non-public companies,” says Anand. “These companies do not typically compile the comprehensive disclosure that public companies issue. Therefore, when discussing issues such as crowdfunding, for example, regulatory oversight  becomes ever so important in terms of investor protection.”

Anand’s research expertise focuses on capital markets regulation and corporate governance, capital-raising techniques, and systemic risk, as well as legal ethics and the corporation. She served as the academic director of the Centre for the Legal Profession, and in this role has led the development of its new Program on Ethics in Law and Business.

She says that Canada’s securities regulatory system is in the midst of change, as there is currently a proposal to create a cooperative regulator on the table. “One of the advantages of the proposal is that securities regulation will be streamlined across a number of provinces and therefore investor rights are more likely to be consistent across these jurisdictions,” she said. “One area in which reform is needed  is in the area of enforcement; in particular, there is a need to harmonize enforcement regimes across provinces. I will continue to research the costs and benefits of an alternative, streamlined enforcement regime.”

Ryerson University and St. Michael’s hospital announced 20-year partnership for innovative solutions

Ryerson University and St. Michael’s hospital announced 20-year partnership for innovative solutions

Ryerson University and St. Michael’s hospital are formally launching a 20-year partnership to research and develop innovative health-care solutions, and support startup biomedical companies seeking to improve patient care

A 22,000 square foot lab called iBEST(the Institute for Biomedical Engineering, Science and Technology) will house Ryerson University researchers, while Ryerson’s healthtech incubator, called the BioMedical Zone (BMZ), will house startups directly adjacent to iBEST. Startups working out of the BMZ will work in the software, information technology, wearables, sensors, and medical devices sectors, and will under the same model as the DMZ.

“St. Michael’s Hospital and Ryerson University are downtown neighbours with long-standing connections, including internships and other educational opportunities,” says Dr. Arthur Slutsky, vice president of research at St. Michael’s hospital. “These new projects build on that relationship, bringing together Ryerson’s engineering and science strengths with St. Michael’s research and clinical expertise.”

Both spaces will be perched atop the hospital's Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science, and the open-concept space is meant to facilitate brainstorming and idea-sharing across varying industries.

The Biomedical Zone provides a combination of business and clinical development and support. Some of the current ventures already in the Biomedical Zone include companies exploring assistive devices for the mobility impaired and improved sanitization for portable healthcare electronics.

“It’s patients who will benefit most from the new partnerships at a time when medicine and technology are both advancing rapidly. Working together, iBEST’s biomedical researchers, clinicians and engineers will come up with new approaches to solving problems and take these discoveries to the patient bedside for evaluation,” says Dr. Slutsky. “The Biomedical Zone is an incubator that will support entrepreneurs, students, clinicians and other innovative thinkers as they develop cutting-edge technology and other products to address today’s global health-care challenges.”

Who’s hiring in Toronto? Samara Canada, LOFT community services, Sensibill

Samara is looking for a communications manager

Samara Canada, a non-partisan charity dedicated to reconnecting Canadians to politics, is looking for a communications manager. Working with the managing director and executive director, the communications manager will be a persuasive and strategic writer that will plan Samara’s communication materials, support Samara’s public relations activities and oversee the ongoing development of Samara’s web properties. Applications are due February 29.

LOFT Community Services is looking for a general accountant

LOFT Community Services is seeking a general accountant to provide assistance and analysis for its accounts and transactions. The accountant will receive and review rent transactions, analyze and prepare a vacancy report for management and also do any ad hoc analysis and reports that occur throughout the year. The applicant should have Level 1 or 2 of CPA and actively pursuing the designation, have two years of experience in a general accounting environment and knowledge of of legislative and insurance requirements for nonprofits. Applications are due February 12.

Sensibill is looking for an intermediate software developer

Sensibill is looking for an intermediate software developer with at least four years of experience in the IT industry and experience in software development areas like back-end API services. The developer will be responsible for actively testing Sensibill’s software product, writing automated test cases and software development in Sensibill’s technology stack which includes Node.js, Angular JS and Bootstrap. The application deadline is ongoing.

Toronto surgeon performs Canada’s first upper limb transplant

In a procedure lasting 14 hours, a multidisciplinary team has completed Canada’s first upper limb transplant.

The surgery was led by Dr. Steven McCabe, director of the Hand Program at the University of Toronto division of plastic and reconstructive surgery, and included a team of 18 surgeons from both the University of Toronto and surrounding hospitals working on attached a forearm and hand matched from a donor to a patient who had been evaluated as a suitable candidate.

McCabe stressed the difficulty of the procedure but expressed optimism about future widespread use. “The procedure requires planning and co-ordination among many people. The surgical procedure itself is technically difficult and requires a team. The post surgical care is intense and there is the possibility of failure at any step along the way,” said McCabe. “We have the ability to do this type of transplant for patients who could be benefitted by it and anticipate there will be more patients in Canada. There are also other types of transplants such as transplantation of the face that are becoming feasible and we anticipate these will be available in the future.”

The 49-year-old patient, who has not been identified to protect her privacy, lost her arm below the elbow in an accident several years ago. She’s currently going through rehabilitation with a custom made splint and motion of the joints to avoid stiffness. The procedure, including pre-transplant, transplant and post-transplant phases for immune suppression and the prevention organ rejection, has been ongoing with cooperation from UHN's Multi-Organ Transplant Program, Toronto Western Hospital's Hand and Upper Extremity Transplant Program, and the Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN) that oversees the organ donation process.

“Recovery of function after upper extremity transplantation relies on nerve regeneration, and these nerves grow down the transplanted limb at a rate of about one millimetre per day,” said McCabe. “The muscles of the forearm would be the first to regain motion, perhaps a few months after surgery, but the ultimate functional recovery could take two years as the nerves make their way to the small muscles of the hand.”

Dr. McCabe was also part of the surgical team in Louisville, Kentucky that performed the world's first successful hand transplant in 1999. To date, over 110 hand transplants have taken place worldwide in more than 12 countries.

Social Sciences and Humanities research council announces first recipients of its new pilot program

In a move to bring social innovation research to the 21st century, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council announced the first recipients of its new Social Innovation Fund.

The Community and College Social Innovation Fund will provide $15 million over three years in support of social innovation research projects at colleges and polytechnics, which are meant to address poverty, community safety, and local economic development. Colleges and polytechnics can partner with community organizations and businesses to apply for funding of up to $200,000 for collaborative projects.

Toronto-area colleges, which are among 27 funded research projects, that received funding include Humber College, Sheridan College, Conestoga College, and George Brown College. The latter college is has received funding for projects that include using digital technology in children’s literacy development; promoting empowerment of postsecondary students with disabilities using online and mobile social media technology; using technology to help in holistic crisis planning for at-risk youth in Ontario; and education strategies for victims of torture and political oppression.

“Technology has transformed how we participate in the fundamental aspects of our daily lives and activities. Connecting virtually is one of the ways we now engage with others in the world,” said Charles Aninyam, who is working on the project to promote empowerment of postsecondary students using mobile technology, about his project. “With the SSHRC funding we have received, we plan to build a self-sustaining internet-based platform that will provide post-secondary students with disabilities access to information, resources, and opportunities to connect, to build online social communities and to network with individuals they may or may not ordinarily be involved with through traditional (and physical) relationships.”

Aninyam will also use the funding for the project’s evaluative component spanning three years, which will determine whether the research is on the right track, and will train postsecondary education students in the areas of advance digital design, graphic design and research. “Given the influence and role tech plays in shaping our understanding of the world and how we feel about ourselves and others, we believe that it is important for those of us in education to harness the capacity tech holds to connect students with opportunities, to reach new audiences, and embed positive imagery of persons with disabilities.”

Who is hiring in Toronto? YWCA Toronto, The Working Group, Dignitas International

YWCA Toronto is looking for a manager of finance

YWCA Toronto, an organization dedicated to promote economic security and equality for women, is looking for a manager of finance. Reporting to the director of finance, the manager will be responsible for financial recording and reporting, budgeting cash flow, and assisting in the implementation of financial policies. The ideal candidate should have an accounting designation such as Chartered Accountant, five to seven years of finance experience, and comprehensive knowledge and experience with the nonprofit sector. Applications are due February 1.

The Working Group is looking for a front-end developer

The Working Group in Toronto is looking for a strong front-end developer to join its growing team of software developers in downtown Toronto. TWG promises an environment where developers can grow and build their skills through collaboration with senior management and a friendly office environment with flexible hours. They’ve also got perks like $1500 towards the computer setup of the developer’s choice and a kitchen stocked with tasty snacks. There is no fixed application date.

Dignitas International is looking for a communications and marketing manager

Dignitas International, a medical and research organization dedicated to trying to solve global health challenges, is looking for a communications and marketing manager to work with the marketing director on an integrated communications strategy. The manager will be responsible for seeking out media opportunities for spokespeople and providing oversight for brand management guidelines. Applications are due February 8.

Princess Margaret Cancer Centre Researchers uncovers method to trick cancer cells to stop growing

While undergoing research on an anticancer drug targeting colorectal cancer cells, researchers at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre found something surprising. The researchers discovered that the drug can actually trick the cancer stem cells into responding as if they had been infected with a virus, which in turn, limit the cancer cells' ability to multiply.

The findings were published academic journal Cell, and for Dr. Daniel De Carvalho, lead researcher on the project since its start in 2012, the finding is significant as colorectal cancer recurs in 50 percent of patients and is among the top three leading causes of cancer-related deaths. “We work with DNA methylation inhibitors, such as azacitidine and decitabine, both of which affect DNA methylation have already been approved by the FDA for use in myelodysplastic syndrome, a form of blood cancer,” Dr. De Carvalho said. “We are very interested in the ability of epigenetic agents to identify markers that are found mainly on cancer cells. Epigenetic drugs track down cells that have a lot of epigenetic markers, which are more likely to be cancer cells, whereas chemotherapy kills proliferating cells first, regardless of their epigenetic markers and regardless whether they are tumor or normal cells.”

The team found that these DNA methylation inhibitors make cancer cells more likely to attract immune cells, and in a phenomenon he calls ‘viral mimicry’, the drugs then trick the cancer cell to look like a cancer infected cell. “Combining epigenetic therapy with immunotherapy, where the brakes of the immune system are released, will probably improve patient response. We are currently starting trials to test this hypothesis.”

“By targeting colorectal cancer stem cells with a new anticancer agent, Dr. De Carvalho has succeeded in limiting the ability of these cells to grow and maintain tumors,” said Dr. Katie Wright, senior manager of Research Communications at the Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division. “This novel approach could potentially complement therapies for more effective treatment of other cancers.”

For 2016, Dr. De Carvalho is excited to continue research and hopes that this basic discovery will eventually improve patient care. “We are continuing this work in multiple fronts. First, by doing clinical trials to evaluate the synergistic effect of epigenetic inhibitors with immunotherapies,” he said. “We are also evaluating the effect of epigenetic therapy on the T cells. T cells are the ‘soldiers’ of the immune system. We want to know whether we can make these soldiers stronger by using epigenetic therapy.”

University of Toronto professor develops new ultra-sensitive blood test

One of the biggest keys to preventing or treating cancer effectively is rapid detection and diagnosis; for the two of four Canadians that will have cancer in their lifetime, detecting it early can mean the difference between life and death.

Dr. Shana Kelley, a professor from the University of Toronto’s faculty of pharmacy, has discovered a tool to make diagnosis easier. Currently, doctors employ surgical procedures to extract samples from tumors that are then tested to determine the type of cancer a patient has, a process process that is both invasive and time consuming.

In contrast, Kelley has developed an extremely sensitive blood test that uses sensors on a chip to detect cancer mutations. “Dr. Kelley’s new blood test using microchips to detect cancer mutations has the potential to transform cancer screening. Finding cancer before symptoms are noticed greatly increases the chances of successful treatment.” said Dr. Katie Wright, Senior Manager of Research Communications, Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division.

The development is based on recent research that show that significant levels of cell-free nucleic acids (cfNAs) are present in the blood of cancer patients, and contain the potential to reveal the mutational spectrum of a tumor without the need for an invasive sampling of the tumor. Currently, conventional means of using these samples requires differentiation between the nucleic acids that originate from healthy cells and the mutated sequences shed by tumor cells, which can take time and is often complicated by excessive handling.

With Kelley’s chip-based technology, the test would not require sample purification, and would be capable of detecting the presence of mutations within 15 minutes. The same day that she published her findings in Nature Chemistry, Xagenic Inc., a molecular diagnostics company developing the lab-free Xagenic X1 platform, announced the exclusive acquisition of this technology.

Who’s hiring in Toronto? The Drake Hotel, Egale Human Rights Trust

The Drake is looking for a programming assistant

The Drake Hotel is looking for a programming assistant to help it support the ongoing development of cultural initiatives across all of its locations. The assistant will have to scout and generate leads for cultural programming events, manage the expenses of these events and coordinate the safe movement of art between events. Besides having a keen interest in the arts and culture scene of Toronto, the programming assistant should have a postsecondary education — preferably in an arts related discipline — demonstrated research skills, and experience in administration in a multidisciplinary cultural institution.

Egale Canada Human Rights Trust is looking for a training and curriculum developer

Egale Human Rights Trust, a national charity promoting human rights based on sexual identity and gender orientation, is looking for a training and curriculum developer. The developer will be responsible for conducting environmental scans of emerging research while also consulting with LGBTIQ2S communities, leaders and allies across the country. The ideal candidate should have a strong familiarity with these communities, a graduate degree in education and experience working for a nonprofit. There is no fixed application date.

The Jane Goodall Institute is looking for a community engagement coordinator

The Jane Goodall Institute, working towards wildlife research, is looking for a coordinator of community engagement. The coordinator will be key to supporting JGI Canada’s youth education program, called Roots and Shoots, and will attempt to engage JGI’s use base on social media channels. The applicant should have at least two years of experience in the nonprofit sector, extensive experience using social media and demonstrating experience in managing a team of volunteers. Applications are due January 22.

TD Bank offering customer service through Facebook Messenger

TD Bank announced that it would now allow customers to access customer service through Facebook Messenger. TD Bank is the first bank in the world to offer such a service.

Between 6:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m., customers can search for TD on Facebook—both online and mobile—and begin a conversation with a TD live agent regarding their accounts. Theresa McLaughlin, incoming chief marketing officer of TD, said that the move is meant to acknowledge a growing demographic of people who prefer the convenience of accessing services online. As 16 million Canadians use Facebook, making customer service available through the platform just made sense. TD Bank already also has customer service agents available on Twitter.

Fans and followers engage with us on social to see how we support communities; understand products and services available to them; and also ask for help and advice,” said McLaughlin. “Increasingly, Canadians are become more mobile savvy and this recent launch is part of the journey to ensure we’re delivering comfortable and convenient experiences for our customers any way they choose to connect with us.”

This isn’t the first time that TD has entered the mobile and online space. The bank, earlier this year, introduced customer service through texting and a live chat feature on the bank’s official website.

It is also part of TD Bank’s overall strategy to get ahead of financial technology (FinTech) startups that are disrupting traditional bank; throughout 2015, the bank has fostered a culture of innovation with steps like opening an office in Waterloo and partnering with FinTech startup Flybits. “TD has developed an innovation ecosystem that allows us to bring best-in-class digital experiences to our customers that fit with our promise of delivering comfort and convenience no matter where, when or how our customers choose to bank with us,” said McLaughlin. “We've done this by collaborating with start-ups and looking at innovations throughout the marketplace in order to find those that elevate the digital experience by creating more intuitive, personalized digital experiences that make our customers' lives simpler.”

University of Toronto researchers show how Canadian data can be vulnerable to US state surveillance

While Edward Snowden leaked documents exposing the wide breadth of National Security Agency surveillance in 2013, the repercussions of those documents still inform conversations around online privacy concerns. And University of Toronto researchers have created an interactive database to show how NSA surveillance can even have an impact on Canadians.

The IXMaps database helps Canadians understand how their internet traffic moves—specifically, it helps Canadians understand how certain traffic routes, known as boomerang routes, move data into the United States and into the jurisdiction of the NSA before the data returns to Canada. The tool is funded by the .CA Community Investment program, which is dedicated to funding initiatives “keep Canadians at the forefront of the digital age,” according to its website.

“IXmaps highlights just how much of our Canadian web traffic is unnecessarily being routed through the U.S. and back againwithout our knowledge.  The biggest concern about our data moving into the NSA's jurisdiction is that Canadians do not have the same protections from NSA surveillance that Americans do, so our information is more vulnerable.” says Laura Tribe, digital rights specialist at Open Media. “ And as the Snowden revelations have highlighted, the amount of information being shared between the Five Eyes governments (Canada, U.S., U.K, Australia and New Zealand), means that our information doesn't likely stop with just the NSA.”

Many of the major Internet providers in Canada have networks that favour north – south connections, pushing Canadian data flows toward key American routing hubs in New York, Chicago, Seattle, or California, and popular sites like Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Amazon leaves Canadian data vulnerable to American mass surveillance.

For Canadians looking to protect their privacy online, Tribe recommends services like VPNs or a Tor browser for protecting internet activity, PGP for a secure way to encrypt emails and secure instant messaging services like Signal. “Also, being aware of just how much information we are putting online, and what that information can say about us is crucial,” Tribe adds. “I frequently hear the argument that ‘I have nothing to hide, so I have nothing to fear’ as justification for indifference about digital privacy. But when people are faced with the offline equivalents of that argument, such as removing all of the curtains from their windows and the doors from their homes, they quickly realize just how much we really do value our privacy.

Who’s hiring in Toronto? Iamsick.ca, Ontario Institute For Studies in Education, Wychwood Open Door

Iamsick.ca, a Toronto-based startup that helps Canadians access effective care in their area, is looking for an account manager. With three years of experience in sales and marketing and proficiency in graphic design software under their belt, the account manager will be responsible for engaging potential clients. To do this, the manager will create sales and service presentations, handle sales and client support interactions and uncover the needs of health providers to inform the continuous improvement of Iamsick.ca products. Applications are due January 6.

The Ontario Institute for Studies in Higher Education is looking for a senior web/mobile solutions developer. The Institute is looking for an applicant with at least a university degree in computer science and five years of experience in systems analysis and programming of complex web and mobile data-driven applications. The developer would be responsible for working with the team to design, development, documentation and implementation of data-driven web and mobile applications. Applications are due January 10.

Wychwood Open Door, a charity organization that provides food and support to the homeless in the St. Clair West neighbourhood, is looking for an administration manager. The manager will be responsible for preparing grant proposals, coordinating with partner organizations to create a community network of social services and providing human resource administration duties. The successful applicant should have experience with working with homeless or individuals with mental health issues, strong writing skills and a postsecondary degree in a related field. Applications are due January 29.

TechToronto takes over City Hall to kick off 2016

TechToronto took over City Hall last night for a sold-out event that featured a speech by mayor John Tory, raising hopes that startups can create a booming ecosystem in the city.

Speaking to a crowd of 400 entrepreneurs who filled the Council Chamber - many of them visiting City Hall for the first time - Tory said he wants Toronto to be seen as a “beacon of innovation.” That end-game would see tech, startups, and small business as a key driver of Toronto’s economy and contributing to Canada’s success globally, much like Silicon Valley in the US.

Tory reiterated his support for ride-sharing service Uber, holding it up as an example of the need to encourage ‘disruptive’ technologies. He vowed make the much-touted idea of a Kitchener-Waterloo / Toronto tech corridor into a reality.

But before this can happen, there are big hurdles to confront, he said: most notably, companies leave Toronto - and Canada, altogether - because they can’t get financing.

“Sometimes it feels like everyone is moving to the Valley -- are we stupid to stay here,” said  Matt McCausland, co-founder of Sam :) app, who is best known for his work building ScribbleLive. “It was symbolic to have the community come into council chambers. It shows the city is behind us .”

Some companies are staying home and finding success, said Upverter founder, Zak Homuth. He described the gruelling process of getting his company off the ground -- a classic startup story of working out of his parents’ basement, leveraging credit cards and government grants. He was blunt in his assessment of their need to stay in the GTA. “If we were anywhere else, we’d be dead.”

TechToronto co-founder Alex Norman believes the city’s support is more than just a goodwill gesture: Tory sincerely believes in, and wants to work with, Toronto’s tech community. “Historically the tech community doesn’t get a lot of attention. It shows they’re actually trying to make a change.”

The challenge is put this attitude into practice with policy that’s actionable, said Jeff Ruby, CEO and founder of health innovation company, Newtopia. He agreed with Tory’s suggestions to help keep startups in Toronto and grow the ecosystem, including offering companies rebates for leasing vacant real estate space. Ruby said the city needs to do a better job of marketing startups both within its boundaries and on the world stage. “Attracting funding, recruiting, finding office space, connecting to others [in the community] -- these are the bonds the city can really help with.”

The monthly TechToronto meetup is designed for Toronto's technology community to meet, learn from each other, and launch initiatives to raise awareness of the community’s contribution to the city. It is organized by TechToronto.org, which has successfully grown to approximately 7,500 members, making it one of the largest technology-focused meetups in North America. Organizers announced that the meetup will expand to Vancouver for the first time, on February 23rd.
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