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International founders dish their first impressions of Toronto’s tech ecosystem

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International founders dish their first impressions of Toronto’s tech ecosystem

A group of Lithuanian startup founders get real about their preconceived ideas and first impressions of Canada and Toronto’s startup ecosystem during their week-long visit to the DMZ

Last month, 4 rising tech startups from Lithuania embarked on a one-week soft landing program to Toronto called the Canadian Connection Program. In partnership with Pace Global Advantage and the DMZ, the program supported entrepreneurs and business leaders interested in exploring the North American market and gave participants the opportunity to tap into a wider network of investors, customers, corporates, founders and talent.

The Lithuanian visit to the DMZ’s headquarters was productive for the startups – participants took advantage of various workshops and curated one-on-ones with the DMZ’s Program Leads, Experts-in-Residence (EiRs) and Alumni-in-Residence (AiRs). The Lithuanian entrepreneurs walked out of the experience with a greater understanding of the North American ecosystem and its players.

Lithuania blog - DMZ team and visitors mingling

On their final day of the program, we had a chance to sit down with the founders and ask them about their thoughts on the program and first impressions of Toronto’s startup ecosystem. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Toronto is very well-positioned in the North American market.

“I have learned a lot about the close connections between the EU and this city’s ecosystem, especially for medical startups. Toronto is well-positioned in the North American market, which is important because we need to reach the largest user base possible. There’s a great support system here for startups and there are great connections to cities like Boston and New York, which are just a short hop away.” – Urte Steikuniene, Feetsee

“The ecosystem here is booming and attracts people from all around the world to relocate their businesses from other continents.” – Simonas Stankus, Unbalanced

“We are considering North America as our primary market. Through the program, we have realized how little we actually knew about Canada. By being here, we see the ecosystem in Toronto is really vibrant, and a lot of professionals and potential employers are living here. The access to the talent, capital and markets is much higher than you’d expect. It changed my concerns about Canada being the same as the U.S. in terms of work-life balance. It’s much more convenient for entrepreneurs considering relocation here compared to the United States. Being in Toronto was a perception-changing experience because we were too trusting of the assumptions we had developed.” – Vytenis Pakènas, IsLucid

2. There is value in the city’s multiculturalism

“I am very impressed with the diversity and openness that I see in Toronto. I’ve only been here for one week, but I feel like you’re at home almost everywhere you go. The diversity is very inspiring and all-encompassing.” – Urte Steikuniene, Feetsee

“I was especially taken aback by the fact that I have met other medical doctors like myself who have made successful startups here in Toronto. I’ve met other professionals as well who turned to entrepreneurship. That’s not something you see often. My favourite thing about Canada is that everyone is from everywhere. There’s this feeling of being away from home but also at home at the same time. A real melting pot of people and cultures, which is something that contributes to its unique atmosphere.” – Justinas Balčiūnas

3. The DMZ community provides startups with everything they need to grow.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time here at the DMZ. I got in touch with healthcare providers, venture capital funds, and angel investors, and got to know the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Toronto which is booming, energetic and inspiring. Not only am I leaving this program with an excellent portfolio of contacts, but I also leave enriched by hearing other success stories of startups that have entered this environment and have done well. I feel like I’ve learned a lot.” – Urte Steikuniene, Feetsee

“My experience in this program has been great! I partook in incredibly useful workshops and met such great people. Now, I have a much better understanding of what Canada is and what ecosystem it has.” – Simonas Stankus, Unbalanced

“When you enter a new market, it’s important to have the right support system of people who can tell you the truth. We received the right recommendations and connections within the context we needed to make the experience meaningful and actionable. I was touched because the team wasn’t too focused on revenue and speed, but more on care and guidance/growth. When you’re coming in from overseas, you’re being brought into a desert with people you don’t know. But the DMZ is helping turn that desert into a sweet forest with the right connections and resources needed to succeed.” – Vytenis Pakènas, IsLucid

Lithuania Blog - Founder Simonas Stankus pitching

The cohort of participating companies included:

Lithuania blog - isLucid logo
IsLucid
is a productivity hack that specializes in machine learning through transcription. The service transcribes verbal communication in meetings and automatically assigns tasks to employees, eliminating the need to take meeting minutes and ultimately saving time.

Lithuania blog - Feetsee logo
Feetsee
is a FDA-registered product that uses its advanced algorithmic technology, with 95% accuracy, to monitor and measure changes in diabetes patients’ feet. It stores this information in its mobile and desktop software that relays messages to the patient’s care team and physician via alerts.

Lithuania blog - InBalance logo
InBalance
produces electric vehicle charging stations. Their product focuses on energy efficiency and helps fulfill the increased demand for electric vehicle charging without requiring any changes to the current power grid infrastructure, ensuring the sustainable growth of a community-based public charging network.

Lithuania blog - Ligence logo
Ligence
employs machine learning algorithms and deep-learning technology to determine functional and structural aspects of a person’s heart through ultrasound images. Their current focus is reducing human error in detection and diagnosis and improving their measurement accuracy.

Want to act on the Toronto FOMO and get involved? Founders looking for international expansion support can learn more about the DMZ’s global offices at dmz.to/global, and partners interested in developing a soft-landing program in Toronto at the DMZ can reach out at dmz@ryerson.ca.

How the DMZ is making it possible for founders from anywhere around the world to start and build a global business

5 continents, 40 countries, 1000 startups and growing…


While the DMZ’s roots may have originated in the heart of downtown Toronto, our presence today is felt
globally

We’ve transformed into an international powerhouse by revolutionizing the global startup ecosystem and empowering our startups to break into global markets and produce results worldwide.

So, how exactly have we created our international ecosystem of DMZ-powered hubs? 

We’re glad you asked. 

By championing global collaboration, we have created a vast network of satellite offices and international partnerships. 

Today, entrepreneurs from around the world have the ability to access DMZ programming, but with the networks that have a deep understanding of their local ecosystem, country and economy.  

When asked to raise the bar, the DMZ didn’t just think bigger — we thought global.  

DMZ programming is making it possible for any entrepreneur from anywhere around the world to start a business. We have had the privilege of supporting founders, and the trailblazers who support them from over 40 countries, including Egypt, the United States, Haiti, Brazil, Czech, Turkey, England, China and much more. 

We recently caught up with some of our founders from around the world to learn more about their local ecosystem and how the DMZ community is helping them reach global success. 

AMMAN, JORDAN

The DMZ supports programming for women entrepreneurs for Jordan’s Company Start-Up Program, which provides university and college students with hands-on experience and practical training in business and product development and management. 

Luma Al Adnani is the CEO and Co-Founder of Adam Wa Mishmish, an educational cartoon created for children to learn and love the Arabic language. A graduate of the DMZ’s ‘Launching Economic Achievement Project for Women in Jordan’ and the DMZ’s Bootcamp — Adam Wa Mishmish is currently a DMZ Incubator company, signalling its significant growth these past few years.

Luma Al Adnani. CEO and Co-Founder of Adam Wa Mishmish

From day one, Adam Wa Mishmish has been an international business. With arabic-speaking people all over the world, those living outside of the Middle East are Adam wa Mishmish’s target users.  

Luma explains that a majority of the startups in the Middle East strive to make it on the global stage, and being accepted into the DMZ Incubator program was a dream come true for the company. 

“Limiting oneself to one ecosystem, city, country or region is a disservice. Our team is thrilled to be a part of the Incubator program, as it will allow us to better understand our target markets. 

The DMZ team and mentors have opened us up to entirely new ideas. With their help, we’ve been able to organize ourselves, set goals and achieve them. We know we are better equipped to handle whatever the future holds in store for us, and achieve global success.”

“Limiting oneself to one ecosystem, city, country or region is a disservice. Our team is thrilled to be a part of the Incubator program, as it will allow us to better understand our target markets.”

HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM

Zone Startups Vietnam operates under DMZ Ventures and is an international startup accelerator program empowering Vietnam’s tech leaders.

Anthony Ho is based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and is the Founder and CEO of EI Industrial, Vietnam’s first B2B e-commerce platform for construction. 

After living abroad and working for multinational tech companies, Anthony realized Vietnam had what it takes to be a competitive tech ecosystem and was determined to contribute to the country’s technological revolution. 

Anthony Ho, Founder and CEO of EI Industrial

Vietnam’s startup ecosystem has only recently begun to flourish. Anthony highlights that 5 years ago, there was no mention of startups in the business world — the ecosystem was nonexistent. 

“Today, it’s a different story. The startup ecosystem has developed quickly, with various organizations looking to boost the startup community. We’re really beginning to thrive, as more and more Vietnamese startups achieve success.” 

Anthony stresses the importance of harnessing a global mindset as an entrepreneur, and credits the DMZ community for helping him expand his network and connecting him with international and regional venture capitalists to help fuel his company. 

“I joined the DMZ community in July of 2020, after a business model restructuring. I can confidently say that without this community, I would not be where I am today with my business — and for that, I’m grateful.”

 

INNISFIL, ONTARIO

In partnership with the town of Innisfil, DMZ Innisfil is a collaborative program designed to help entrepreneurs succeed personally and professionally.

The Co-Founder and CEO of Opsware, Peter Barbosa has a proven track record as a serial entrepreneur and specializes in regulatory technology and data privacy. His company, Opsware, is a no-code data privacy technology platform built for modern enterprises. 

Peter Barbosa, Co-Founder and CEO of Opsware

Peter highlights that data privacy is a global problem companies are trying to tackle. Although laws typically emerge at a state or federal level, a new wave of emerging privacy laws will apply to companies around the world.

“By 2023, 65% of the world’s population will be covered by modern data privacy laws. That’s up from 25% today.”

Peter attributes Opsware’s global presence to DMZ Innisfil’s support. “Working with Jelmer Stegink and the broader DMZ team really helped us improve our pitch, and gave us a network of like-minded entrepreneurs who are also driven to have a global reach.”

“Working with Jelmer Stegink and the broader DMZ team really helped us improve our pitch, and gave us a network of like-minded entrepreneurs who are also driven to have a global reach.”

 

MUMBAI, INDIA

Operating under DMZ Ventures, Zone Startups India is a partnership with the Bombay Stock Exchange in Mumbai focused on startups operating in a variety of industries. 

Sonam Srivastava is the Founder of Wright Research,  an investment advisory and research firm that uses quantitative research and machine learning to create stable investment options that generate consistent profit in all markets. Featured in the Association of International Wealth Management of India’s top 100 women in finance, Sonam is passionate about quantitative investment management. 

Sonam Srivastava, Founder of Wright Research

The investment space in India is being revolutionized through AI and quantitative research efforts. Located in the financial capital of India, Wright plans to leverage the recent growth in capital markets to go above and beyond for their consumers.

Sonam strives to create products with global audiences in mind at Wright, and plans to collaborate with global investors in AI. 

“I think the opportunities for quantitative research are endless, and there is a global market to tap into.”

With the support of Zone Startup India, Wright has been able to expand their business by acquiring new licences. “We’ve gained a lot from the mentorship and community at Zone Startups India – their guidance has helped make our lives easy.”

 

SOUTH KOREA

The DMZ supports the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), helping the next generation of South Korean entrepreneurs. Designed by the DMZ, their 12-week program supports entrepreneurs’ soft-landing in the Canadian market.

Hobin Kim is the Founder and CEO of Ationlab, a lifestyle design company committed to social impact missions and supporting sustainable projects. 

Hobin Kim, Founder and CEO of Ationlab
Hobin Kim, Founder and CEO of Ationlab

Ationlab was first introduced to the DMZ through KOTRA’s AI Open Innovation program in 2020. Hobin explains that the program provided him with an inside look at what entering the Canadian market would entail. 

“Risk management is a must for all businesses, and entering new markets through trusted institutions, like the DMZ and KOTRA, reduces potential risk drastically and allows founders to find suitable markets.”  

Hobin highlights that the DMZ provides a strong community of mentors, helping international startups break into the North American market. 

“The DMZ allowed us to tap into a community of great business professionals, such as their Entrepreneurs-in-Residence and DMZ staff! Startups seeking global success are equipped with essential business programming in areas such as business strategy, marketing, and pitching — everything a startup needs to enter the North American market.”

“The DMZ allowed us to tap into a community of great business professionals, such as their Entrepreneurs-in-Residence and DMZ staff! Startups seeking global success are equipped with essential business programming in areas such as business strategy, marketing, and pitching — everything a startup needs to enter the North American market.”

TOKYO, JAPAN

Powered by the DMZ, Landing Pad Tokyo is accelerating the capabilities of Japan’s top innovators and helping companies lead digital transformation in the manufacturing sector.

Shin Takeuchi is based in Tokyo, Japan and is the CEO of Nissin Inc, a manufacturing company that makes and sells production equipment using plasma and power supply technology. 

Shin Takeuchi, CEO of Nissin Inc
Shin Takeuchi, CEO of Nissin Inc

As new business models begin to emerge in Japan as a result of COVID-19 and information technology becomes a necessity, the sale of semiconductors and telecommunications devices have skyrocketed in the country. 

While Takeuchi explains this has been great for business, he also highlights how supply chain problems are beginning to arise.  “Our next generation of entrepreneurs will need to step up and put forth innovative solutions to keep up with the demand of device manufacturing.”  

With digital transformation accelerating at lightning speed, gone are the days where businesses can focus on a single market. 

Takeuchi emphasizes that operating with a global mindset is imperative, especially as we begin to look past the pandemic. 

“Borders are beginning to fade, and with widespread access to the internet, businesses need to think bigger. Being a part of the DMZ community has opened up several doors for us, as we’ve been able to connect with Canadian startups to share lessons learned and gain valuable market insights.”

“Borders are beginning to fade, and with widespread access to the internet, businesses need to think bigger. Being a part of the DMZ community has opened up several doors for us, as we’ve been able to connect with Canadian startups to share lessons learned and gain valuable market insights.”

 

Want to know if there’s a DMZ-powered hub in your region?
Learn more about the DMZ’s global footprint at
dmz.to/Global