Startups in Toronto
Toronto is a vibrant hub for those hoping to start their own business. With thousands of people moving to the city every year, a wealth of talent emerging from universities, and a vast amount of experience from those who have spent years working in specific industries, lots of new ideas are emerging. The Open People Network (OPN), facilitates dialogue between people from different industries with the aim of helping startups in Toronto and the wider region. With help from people who have gone through the process of establishing their own company, OPN provides support for people with ideas. Each month they organize a PitchIt event. This month marked their 20th PitchIt event at the Lodge on Queen in downtown Toronto.
Jeffery Potvin founded OPN and the PitchIt events. A serial entrepreneur with over 20 years in the industry. Potvin began his career at the supermarket chain Loblaws. In his role in the IT department, he came across many startup companies attempting to attract the attention of the retailer. From this interaction with companies attempting to establish a foothold, he became aware of the opportunities and challenges faced by startups. This experience sparked a lifelong interest.
The idea for PitchIt began from discussions between OPN and startups. “We said let’s create a show that will give back to the startup community. And we ran our first show for four startups. 60 people showed up,” said Potvin. The success of that first event inspired OPN to continue this as an ongoing feature. “They said you should do this again. We did one the next month. And lo and behold we are now on our 20th show, 10th PitchIt TO,” Potvin added.
Startup Community Building
OPN’s founder believes that the biggest success of their PitchIt events has been creating a community of people who have an interest in the success of startups. The format of the event is companies pitching their idea to a panel of angel investors. This panel then offers advice to the startups, suggesting changes they could make to help them improve their business performance. In addition, questions and suggestions also come from the audience, which creates an environment for open discussion.
Jeffery Potvin is also the CEO of Hardboot, a custom software solutions company. Hardboot assists with PitchIt events. Mustapha Darbaj of Hardboot believes that Toronto is a vibrant scene for startups. “Hardboot is able to assist with mobile and web development design for startups,” Darbaj said. “We can get involved and help them make their vision come to a reality. Whether it is providing them with the first steps to a wider frame, or actually getting involved with them to the point that we are designing their MVP.”
With the number of startups in Toronto, there exists a multitude of events to promote these business ideas. PitchIt events are unique in that they promote community building over a prize-winning competition. “The difference is that because it is not a contest, people are more comfortable coming in and pitching and everybody seems to want to do it, regardless of their entry level” Potvin believes. “We don’t have a winner because they are all winners.”
OPN believes that their PitchIt events will grow from strength to strength. Furthermore, people who have pitched their business ideas several months ago are returning to provide progress updates. As a result, there is now a regular audience who are following the community of startups in Toronto to see what ideas are emerging.
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