Strengthening the Nodes: The Innovation Highway Explained at Series 401

by Tom Emrich | Startups

When you think about highway 401, traffic and commuting is most likely the first thing that comes to mind. For John Ruffolo, its innovation. CEO of OMERS Ventures, Ruffolo kicked off an event last week called Series 401 which showcased sixteen of the top tech companies along the 401 corridor: GTA and Waterloo Region.

Series 401 is a partnership between Kitchener-Waterloo’s Communitech and Toronto’s OneEleven, a new tech hub created by OMERS Ventures.

Ruffolo says that 90% of the companies OMERS Ventures sees is coming from about five key areas of innovation: Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo. “If we take a look at these areas even further, the corridor between Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto accounts for 50-60% of all the innovation activity happening in this country,” explained Ruffolo.

For Ruffolo, the success and failure of innovation in this country is rooted in how well Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo do within this area. And strengthening these two nodes will start to impact other areas of the country.

“If you get two ends of the nodes very strong and you develop the infrastructure between them, other parts of the ecosystem, like a hub and spoke, will really start to develop. We believe that connecting KW to Toronto is really the source to drive innovation in this country,” said Ruffolo.

Kitchener-Waterloo has done well with clustering over the past couple of years. Communitech, which started in 1997, is now a tech cluster of nearly 1,000 companies that generates more than $30 billion in annual revenue. But Toronto’s innovation areas are fragmented and scattered which is one of the main reasons OMERS Ventures created and situated OneEleven in the downtown core in the same building as Google.

“We want this to be where tech happens. Where the future happens. We will have companies here and training and development. But its really about community building. This will be the place where, serendipitously, people and idea collisions will occur,” Ruffolo enthusiastically told the crowd.

The Series 401 event gave sixteen companies the chance to pitch a room filled with Canadian and international investors. The group represented a cross-section of companies from both Toronto and KW. The selection also highlighted the wide array of different industries being impacted by tech innovation including health, social media, human resources and commerce.  

In attendance at Series 401 was:

  • AvidTap
  • Beanworks
  • BioDiaspora
  • Bionym
  • Chematria
  • Cream.HR
  • Dejero
  • ESL Explorer
  • Finmaven
  • Granata
  • MappedIn
  • Market Clouds
  • Plasticity
  • PumpUp
  • RENOMii
  • Tulip Retail
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

Founded by a group of entrepreneurs in 1997, Communitech is an industry-led innovation centre in Waterloo Region, supporting a tech cluster of nearly 1,000 companies. Communitech supports tech companies at all stages of their growth and development – from startups to rapidly growing mid-sized companies and large global players. A member of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs, Communitech... more

OMERS Ventures
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

We're OMERS Ventures and we are as passionate about your success as you are about your company. We are looking for like-minded partners who have a shared vision of building a vibrant and successful Canadian knowledge economy. OMERS Ventures is the venture capital arm of OMERS, one of Canada's largest pension funds with over $53 billion in net assets. more

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Tom Emrich

Tom Emrich

Tom is a freelance consultant and blogger based in Toronto specializing in mobile, tablets and emerging technology. He has worked with independent developers, major media companies and start-ups on successfully developing, launching and marketing digital products here in Canada and abroad. His professional passion for technology is eclipsed only by his personal obsession with emerging... more

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