Haven’t we all been told we’re all just one person away from a life-changing opportunity? But how and where do you find that person? Starting up can be challenging and lonely, but many start-up founders swear by their networking efforts to make things easier!
Networking is not just about meeting people and exchanging contact details; it’s about planting relationships. Start-up founders find solace in knowing others are sailing in the same boat; they share, deliberate and learn from each other. Some start-up founders hit the jackpot with customers, clients or even funding deals through networking! And some founders forge friendships that last them a lifetime!
The Ontario Start-Up Landscape
Canada has quickly cemented its place in the global panorama as a powerhouse for start-ups. With over 95,000 start-ups being established annually, approximately 85% of the Canadian workforce is employed in small to medium-sized businesses. The Canadian government is boosting the start-up ecosystem in the country in various ways, including start-up tax benefits, entrepreneurial immigration programs, grants and funds!
Ontario is one of the fastest-growing Canadian provinces. With regions like Brampton, Toronto and Mississauga leading the way for start-up growth. Ontario is home to many start-up incubators, accelerators, VC Networks, and more, making it an intelligent starting point for young companies. Manufacturing and FinTech start-ups are just a few industries developing dense clusters in the province.
Free Start-Up Networking Events in Ontario
Thanks to the buzzing start-up ecosystem in Ontario, there is no dearth of networking opportunities for founders. There are speed events, workshops, seminars, talks, panel discussions, sessions and more – yes, networking doesn’t just look one way. Since the pandemic forced us to work from home for two years, networking can also look like a Zoom meeting! This has undoubtedly eased the path to networking for the remote entrepreneur and the introvert entrepreneur too.
As a new start-up founder, it’s up to you how you create opportunities when you meet people. Here are some popular organizations and communities that host events just right for someone at your stage.
41 George Street South, Brampton
The Brampton Entrepreneur Centre is an official central resource for small businesses in the City of Brampton. Brampton is the youngest city in Canada, with an average age of only 36.5 years. The Brampton Entrepreneur Centre’s highly active community hosts multiple weekly offline and online events.
Their events range from seminars to workshops on digital literacy, merchandising, public relations, industry trends and more. They bring together industry experts and fellow entrepreneurs to share insights, debate and analyze relevant topics.
The best part about Brampton Entrepreneur Centre events is that they have event calendars planned months in advance. Many of them recur, so if you miss one this month, you may be able to find the same event again next month! Some of their upcoming events are:
A free seminar for business owners to learn about the relationship between business structure and tax benefits.
Event Date: Wednesday, October 19, 2022
Event Host: Jacob Angemeer, Parter, Speciality Tax & Tushar Goel, Senior Manager
Event Registration Link
1500 Matheson Blvd, Mississauga, ON
Jelly Social is a community based in Mississauga whose sole purpose is to help start-up founders who are Black, Indigenous & People of Colour. Their ‘village building’ mantra has struck a chord with over 4000 entrepreneurs in Ontario. They regularly organize and host mixers and networking events that bring together people from all the verticals of the start-up ecosystem. Funders, investors, mentors, and founders from diverse ethnic backgrounds use Jelly Social as a stepping stone to start meaningful interactions.
Jelly Social hosts themed networking sessions like ‘Meet your Mentor’, ‘Mompreneur Spotlight’, and ‘Create Collabo’s’ that recurs monthly. You can find the full list here.
Innovation Complex, 3359 Mississauga Road, Mississauga, ON
ICUBE is the perfect place to network for social entrepreneurs in Ontario. Located in Mississauga, ICUBE boasts partners like the Institute for Management and Innovation and the University of Toronto, Mississauga. If you’re an early-stage start-up wanting to make a difference in the world, you will likely find the tribe here. ICUBE has weekly events designed to support your social entrepreneurship journey.
Some of their upcoming events are:
One out of 12 workshops with Redbird Circle shares the various taxation and accounting structures required for an Indigenous Business in Ontario.
Event Date: Tuesday, October 18, 2022
Event Host: The University of Toronto and Redbird Circle Inc.
Event Registration Link
Looking to learn how to conduct research? Want a demo of the best research tools available? You’ll learn that and receive guidance in finding the information needed to validate the main areas of your business.
Event Host: Catherine MacGregor, Finance Learning Centre Liaison Librarian at the University of Toronto Mississauga
Event Registration Link
Paid Start-Up Networking Events
If money is not a limiting factor for you, then Ontario also hosts some of the biggest conferences for start-up founders that attract entrepreneurs from around the globe. These events can cost a couple of hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars to attend.
Toronto Event Hub is a Toronto-based event company that hosts different types of mixers. Their Professionals and Entrepreneurs Social Mixer is perfect for the entrepreneur who likes to keep it fun and casual. Their events are generally hosted at swanky bars or restaurants.
Since they host only 2-3 types of mixers, the Professionals and Entrepreneurs Social Mixer is also one that recurs often. You can attend the next one here:
Event Date: Thursday, October 20th, 2022
Event Host: Andrea Lo, owner of Toronto Event Hub
Event Registration Link
CIX Summit’s key agenda is to curate the best tech start-ups and investors. Their 2022 event on November 1-2 in Toronto includes big names like Benoit Veronneau from National Bank Financial Corp, Martin Basiri CEO of Applyboard, Jonah Midanik from Forum Ventures, and Navaid Mansuri, CFO of Dialogue. 71% of this event boats VP to C-level executives, so you can be sure that you would be interacting with the creme de la creme of the tech world. But it’s not just all talk; it is known that deals take place at CIX Summit!
Politico called Collision Conference ‘The Olympics of Tech’. It is a renowned tech conference that brings the best in tech from all over the world to Toronto. 1000’s of start-ups participate, and the event gets immense media coverage. International investors attend to find the next big tech start-up. Some of the speakers from their 2022, fully sold-out event include Nicholas Cary, Co-Founder and Vice Chairman of Blockchain.com; actor Lupita Nyong’o, Tope Awotona, Founder of Calendly, and Andrew Reed, Partner at Sequoia Capital.
Collision Conference 2023 in Toronto has already opened Pre Registration for 2023. You can pre-register here to grab 50% off on the ticket: https://collisionconf.com/flash-sale
What are you waiting for? Put yourself out there!
Networking is not just an activity but also a valuable skill for new start-up founders. Start small or go big, but get practising now. We hope this guide has given you a few ideas for networking events in Ontario, but we encourage you to be proactive and seek out additional events that match your industry or the start-up stage.
Do you want to move your start-up to Canada?
BHive is a start-up incubator always looking for innovative and disruptive start-ups from around the world. If you want to start your own business in Ontario, contact us and find out how!