Seeding the Startups

The City of Toronto has a Business Incubation & Commercialization Program to help entrepreneurs start new businesses. The Toronto Port Lands Company provides funds for some of those programs.

We’ve profiled some of the people and startups that have benefitted from the city’s incubation program.

New Musical Talent – Xolisa

Xolisa (pronounced Koh-Lee-Sa and see her at her Instagram) a rising hip hop MC from Toronto who recently went through Canada’s Music Incubator Artist Entrepreneur program. Funded by the City of Toronto and the Toronto Port Lands Company, the program is designed for artists who want to take their careers to the next level – it gives them the skills they need to turn their passion into a successful career.

“I knew that I wanted to move forward with my career, but I didn’t understand the business side of the industry. It was a virtual black hole. Working with CMI has been great because not only do they help you with songwriting and performance workshops, helping you grow as an artist, the main focus is on the business side; royalties, invoicing, how to book a show, where to find a manager, etcetera. The program forces you to venture out of your comfort zone – by the end of it you come out as a totally different person.” Be sure to check out Xolisa’s new album “And Gaps Do Lead To Bridges”.

Read Crowdbabble’s Story
Read OpenSports’ Story
Read Canada’s Music Incubator Story


Andrew Grubb is Chief Strategy Officer for Crowdbabble, a social media analytics company that sits as part of the Ryerson University’s DMZ – one of the leading business incubators for technology startups in Canada.

The city’s Business Incubation and Commercialization Program provides a grant for the DMZ’s Industry Night Program, which puts startups in front of potential investors and customers. The grant dollars come from TPLC funding.

Andrew calls his company a “DMZ ambassador” and he can’t say enough good things about how the incubator has helped Crowdbabble get established.

“They provide us with workspace as well as connections to events, community, as well as potential customers. They bring through lots of interesting potential customers for us, all sorts of people and customers we would never have access to.”

Andrew’s company joined the DMZ in April of 2015. Crowdbabble “helps marketers, whether they be marketing agencies or brand marketers, understand their social presence by analyzing their competitors’ social performance as well as their own, and understanding how their users interact with their content.”

“We can tell marketers what the best time of day to post is, what content is working the best, what their competitors’ customer service response time is on Facebook and how they can take advantage of that, who their brand advocates are so they can reach out to their competitors’ brand advocates for cross-sell opportunities or their own brand advocates to win them for life.”

Some of their clients include Mark’s Work Warehouse, Walmart Canada and advertising agencies Saatchi & Saatchi and Havas.

Learn more at

Read OpenSports’ Story
Read Canada’s Music Incubator Story
Read Xolisa’s Story


Another startup running out of Ryerson’s DMZ is OpenSports, founded by Chris Cheng and James Gibbons. They have a unique product that attempts to solve a unique problem: how do you keep young adults interested in recreational sports?

They have developed an app that connects people, be it for pickup games or more formal municipal programs.

“We build mobile solutions for municipalities and sports organizations,” says Chris. “The premise is really to connect people to play recreational sports. So you think about when we were growing up, we were all playing sports. But as soon as you finish college or university, there’s a severe drop off (in sports participation).”

The OpenSports platform can connect young adults who want to keep playing recreational sports “whether that’s finding a sub, whether it’s finding another tennis partner, whatever it is. It’s just bringing people together.”

The pair of young entrepreneurs are also working with the municipality of Newmarket to showcase to a new generation what the city offers in terms of recreational programs and classes.

“They struggle with reaching a more millennial generation that uses phones for everything and the municipality is still printing leisure guides that younger generations don’t read.”

Learn more about this startup at

Read Crowdbabble’s Story
Read Canada’s Music Incubator Story
Read Xolisa’s Story

Canada’s Music Incubator

A magical place for music sits on Lawrence Avenue, just east of Victoria Park. It’s the home of Canada’s Music Incubator (CMI). The city provides a grant for CMI’s Artist Entrepreneur incubator program and those grant dollars come from TPLC funding.

Vel Omazic is Executive Director of CMI and his organization helps newly established artists learn the ropes about the music business. The Artist Entrepreneur program runs about two months and is quite comprehensive in what it covers from the business side of the music business: marketing, promotion, publicity, funding, as well as exposure to experts in music law, publishing rights and other elements that are essential to sustainable success in the arts. After the initial incubation program is completed, the artists can stay connected to CMI for continued mentorship for as long as they want.

CMI deals with artists from all genres of music – everything from hip hop to flamenco.

“We don’t tell them what to do,” says Vel, speaking about the genres that musicians choose. “They define what success is for them and we help them achieve it.”

And that’s because the business skills artists need aren’t defined by specific genres.

“If you’re running a business, those are universal.”

CMI was started in 2012 by Coalition Music, one of Canada’s leading artist management companies.

More information about the Canadian Music Incubator can be found at

Read Xolisa’s Story
Read Crowdbabble’s Story
Read OpenSports’ Story