My recent trip to Toronto & what I observed
I was struggling to wrap my head around the fact that Toronto is the 4th largest city in North America. Yes I could see all the head spinning skyscrapers, the never ending streets (yes the streets of Yonge and Queen I’m thinking of you) and the vibrancy of the restaurants during lunch period! What I hadn’t done, until the other week (and it being my 3rd trip to Toronto) was to venture underground!
And boy did it all make sense!!! The PATH, as it is known, is like a second city under the city itself! It provides an incredible hustle and bustle of people going about their daily business, getting from A to B, complete with fully-fledged food halls & an assortment of retail stores, all found across a 29km network of underground tunnels. In fact it connects almost all of the city's skyscrapers making it possible to spend your entire day warm and dry even if the weather is bad. Needless to say I got lost both times I ventured down and almost run over, someone say #pedestrianrage!!
Aside from this discovery there were 3 other key takeaways I took from my trip:
1. Toronto is a hive of talented tech activity
There is a thriving start-up and emerging company sector that seldom draws enough attention from international media, let alone makes it to Irish ears. Companies like publically-traded Guestlogix, established in 2002 and dominating the onboard travel retailing solutions sector has a market capitalisation of $110 million; content engagement platform developer, ScribbleLive, created in 2008 has raised $23.9 million in funding; Kobo, an e-reader platform developer, earned $315 million cash from its acquisition by Japanese giant Rakuten back in 2011; and Ryerson University's business incubator, the DMZ, in the heart of Toronto is accepting dozens of new start-ups every month.
2. Irish Co.'s in Toronto
Irish companies are also punching above their weight in Toronto, for example Fenergo (a provider of client lifecycle management solutions) are providing software solutions to BMO Capital Markets and Scotiabank. Whilst Multihog is manufacturing in Ireland and selling snow clearing machines to Pearson International airport. YES an Irish company is selling equipment to clear snow in Canada!!!
3. City Vibe
For all its financial hub and growth there is still a quaintness to the city that I loved. The preserved old red brick buildings, the converted distillery buildings, the cute, almost homemade looking bars around Ossington (where it seems compulsory to wear a torque hat!!), to the quirkiness of Kensington Market, Toronto certainly has a lot going for it!
It is interesting to note that there are lots of similarities between Ireland and Toronto. Well maybe we dont have the skyscrapers or underground tunnels (that we use) but we do have a thriving tech hub, we are a 2nd home for many Canadian companies and there is lots of charm and quaintness to be found in Irish cities. Find out more about two such cities, Galway and Dublin.
As Ireland continues to see strong interest from Canadian companies using Ireland as a base to scale internationally, be it through the establishment of a European HQ or Development Centre, I look forward to ongoing exploration and connections with the city of Toronto and beyond! And watch out Toronto tech companies, a whiskey tasting will be coming your way later this year! Email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Twitter @idaemergebiz to find out more.
Til next time Toronto