DMZ is the companies’ incubator that leads Canada’s technological startups ecosystem. Emerged with the momentum of Ryerson University, it helps startups in incubation and acceleration processes, connecting them with clients, capital, experts and a community of entrepreneurs and “influencers”. Since its foundation in 2010, it has provided coverage to more than 336 startups, has raised almost 475 million dollars in seed funds and has fostered the creation of over 3,000 jobs. They have acquired clients, won awards, grown their teams and developed products and solutions that are positively changing lives and businesses in Canada and abroad. From its headquarters in Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto, it works to create one of the most dynamic disruptive and technological ecosystems in North America.
At the beginning of this year, DMZ has been ranked the top university-managed tech incubator in the world. This has been a milestone in a brief but intense success story of the Toronto incubator. The process of global expansion includes the opening of an office in New York City, the development of a sales acceleration program and the development of partnerships with banks and companies such as Facebook to promote accelerator programs in digital news, financial technology and markets early validation for companies run by women. We have highlighted five startups that have emerged in recent years in DMZ and that have revolutionized their respective sectors and have had a global reach.
This startup’s goal may sound naive but they have invested all their efforts and resources to achieve it: change the world through the use of new technologies. The Toronto startup develops and offers low-cost digital learning tools for low-income communities around the world. Its activity has been extended to countries such as Jordan, Turkey or Syria, where it teaches basic education for young refugees. In northern Canada, the company is connecting communities, which cannot have good bandwidth, by using learning materials that don’t require online connections. Google has valued and recognized the social objective of this Canadian company.
This startup offers Canadians free credit monitoring and better alternatives to access lines of credit. It is, according to its founders, a simple, safe and convenient way to connect borrowers and lenders, which allows customers access to loans with lower interest without having to go to a bank office. It’s, indubitably, the paradigm of the new model to which the banking sector is directed. In fact, Borrowel has already partnered with CIBC, one of the five largest banks in the country, to offer certain services through the CIBC mobile banking app. By using the community and technology’s powers, Borrowell can provide Canadians with better rates, better service and a better customer experience. Since its launch in 2014, it has managed more than 500 million dollars in loan applications and has provided credit information to almost half a million Canadians. It has done so by resorting to sophisticated security measures to protect sensitive information.
It’s one of the best known business success cases within the DMZ. It’s one of the largest and fastest growing photography websites in the world. 500px is a global photographic community that allows users from all over the world to share, evaluate and discover inspiring photographs. The app for iPad 500px is one of the best free photography apps in iTunes. The data speaks for itself: just a month after the launch, the startup had 40,000 contributing photographers, which aroused the attention of many investors. Three years later, 500px closed a series B of 13 million dollars. The success has been such that currently the best-known brands in the world use 500 px to restore images. Each year it posts over one trillion pictures and its app for the iPad 500px has remained one of the main free photography apps on iTunes for almost four years.
SoapBox is born from a revolutionary approach in the business field of human resources: it’s the first employee participation app created for managers, not for human resources teams. SoapBox believes that the key to improving employee participation at work is giving managers the tools they need to manage the conversations they keep on a daily basis in the workplace: individual meetings, team meetings and topical discussions, projects retrospectives and “brainstorming”. Brennan McEachran, a student at Ryerson University when he had the idea to create this software, now provides through his startup service not only to Ryerson but also to some of the most successful companies in Canada and the world, including Indigo Books & Music, Coca-Cola. Cola or BHP Billiton. The software allows the leaders, managers and employees of an organization to collaborate and share ideas and comments through Microsoft-teams, Google calendar or through its independent app. In 2015, about a year after graduating from Ryerson, McEachran was named Ontario’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
AccesNow is an app that uses crowdsourcing to collect and share accessibility information about places around the world. Behind this great social impact project is Maayan Ziv, a graduate woman of the Digital Media Master’s program at Ryerson University who lives with muscular dystrophy. AccessNow, which was founded in 2015, is essentially a website and app that rates the locations based on their wheelchair accessibility. Users can search for specific locations or explore the map to discover which locations have the accessibility features they require. Anyone can add a place to the map, contributing to the project’s mission. AccessNow is a community that empowers itself and feeds through the contributions of its users. What started as a local project has spread throughout much of the world and information from the US, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia has now been incorporated. Maayan’s work has been recognized with a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and a David C. Onley Award for Accessibility Leadership.