Going Global: Toronto and Chicago startups share dreams of international expansion

Toronto Mayor John Tory

Last week, 10 startups from Toronto and Chicago pitched their wares as part of an event to help entrepreneurs from both cities break into international markets. Jointly organized by Toronto-based accelerator INcubes, and Chicago’s 1871, the event was the most recent in an ongoing partnership between the two companies (which – disclosure – has seen our very own Tom Emrich bring We Are Wearables to the Windy City), and the first to hit north of the border.

The event featured keynote addresses from U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Bruce Heyman, Google Canada Managing Director, Sam Sebastian, and Toronto’s new mayor, John Tory. The latter impressed the crowed with strong statements on not only Toronto’s role in the startup Canadian startup economy, but also on enacting policy to enable startups – from any country – succeed here.

The startups on-hand covered a variety of verticals, including financial tech, health tech, and IoT (PatientServ, Limelight, nVest, Change Room represented Toronto, while TraknProtect, Georama, Omicron Financial, Buy Side Design, and Dough represented Chicago). While the startup pitches did much to demonstrate the promise of both cities, the true value of the event came from the networking afterwards. After all, the goal was global expansion.

“Going Global was an amazing opportunity to meet with fellow entrepreneurs, investors and senior policy officials from both side of the boarder,” said Jonah Midanik, founder and CEO of Limelight Platform. “The cross boarder connections from this event have already yielded tangible benefits for us.”

Much like Series 401, the network effects of connecting municipalities cannot be understated. However, Going Global’s organizers were keen to present such opportunities as requirements in the new startup economy.

“Toronto is ranked in the top 10 for global startup ecosystems, but our companies cannot focus only on the domestic market. For our companies, global expansion is a necessity, not an option,” said Ben Zlotnick, Founder of INcubes. This sentiment was matched by 1871 CEO, Howard A. Tullman. “It is critical for companies to be globally enabled from the earliest stages of their business development to be successful in today’s economy,” he said.

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys is the Editor-in-Chief of BetaKit and founder of BetaKit Incorporated. He has worked for a few failed companies and written about many more. He spends too much time on the Internet.