Ryerson was in a festive mood last night, as the university celebrated the fifth anniversary of its incubator and co-working space, DMZ. No stranger to any event that will have us, BetaKit was on hand to soak up the mood and grab some cake.
The snazzy black and white stylings and fun party favours belied the serious success Ryerson’s incubator has found in year five. The DMZ is ranked #1 in Canada and #5 in the world by the University Business Incubator (UBI) Index, laying claim to over 180 startups incubated, with over $70 million in funding to those startups since 2010. Perhaps most tellingly, Ryerson has launched a total of 7 different zones inspired by the DMZ to serve as hubs for student entrepreneurship and innovation.
At the event, Valerie Fox, Executive Director of the DMZ, gave a passionate and insightful speech looking back over the life of the incubator from launch to now. BetaKit was able to grab her afterwards to get additional perspective on the process.
“For us to start at an educational institution, we had to start outside of that, and then bring it in [to the university],” she said. “By the second year, when we really started having success, that’s when we were able to bring it in. Now, we are transforming how education is done at the university, and that is spectacular.”
While Fox admitted that much of DMZ’s evolution was a product of “doing it, then looking back to see how it had been done,” she was able to provide some recommendations to other incubators, university-based or otherwise. “It must be international,” she said. “You must create gateways to international companies, and have those companies cross-pollinate with the companies that are here.”
— Tom Emrich 🏳️🌈 (@tomemrich) April 15, 2015
The event was also an opportunity for Ryerson to unveil the incubator’s new branding and logo. For most, Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone has always simply been ‘the DMZ’ – a more convenient and somewhat alluring epithet for the incubator. Now, that name is official. DMZ’s Director of Marketing and Communications, Brendan Dellandrea, explained why.
“The reasons for the change are two-fold,” he said. “One, our companies aren’t just about digital media anymore, so the Digital Media Zone name didn’t make sense anymore.
“The second, of course, is that the sophistication of our startups, and the DMZ itself, has come so far. We’ve evolved so much, and we didn’t see ourselves reflected in our old logo.”
The new logo, shown above, lit up every time #DMZ5 was tweeted during the event. Dellandrea noted that it will eventually find permanent residence within DMZ, lighting the path for the incubator’s next five years.