Businesses in York Region are on a roll. Home to more than 54,000 businesses providing 654,000 jobs, including 60,000 in tech, the Region is home to two of the Greater Toronto Area’s four major business hubs; and those businesses are flourishing. The Globe and Mail’s second annual list of Canada’s Top 400 Growing Companies released in October featured 23 companies from the Region, including nine tech firms. We caught up with five of the nine to talk about their success, and why York Region is a great place for them to do business.
The companies are unanimous about one reason: it’s all about location, location, location.
When we asked what, specifically, is important to them, each company cited three main factors: proximity to highways, transit and airports, plenty of talent to choose from, and quality of life. Cost and availability of suitable real estate was also a factor for some.
Take, for example, Markham headquartered Book4Time. It offers management solutions for the hospitality wellness industry. Its software as a service (SaaS) online booking tools for spas, along with its marketing and incentive tools and revenue management system are used by hotels and resorts worldwide.
Nima Chadha, Book4Time’s Vice-President of Marketing, said that the company was established in York Region, and its headquarters in Markham currently employs 65 professionals. It also has an office in Manilla, and remote sales reps for Latin America and Europe.
“I think the biggest thing is being located in York Region has been able to separate us from the noise of the downtown Toronto tech hub,” she said. “It’s been advantageous for us; we don’t really have a problem with finding new talent. And it’s been unique for us to have the ability to be outside of that noise, but still be a big player in the SaaS world.”
Markham headquartered Bluewrist creates solutions for manufacturing automation and robotics, as well as flexible 3D vision software. Its products are used by major automotive companies like Magna and Fiat Chrysler, as well as by companies in other industries such as healthcare. The company offers everything from automated parts inspection to robotic guidance.
Bluewrist was founded in CEO Najah Ayadi’s basement in Richmond Hill fourteen years ago, but as he grew the company, he realized that York Region is a good place to stay.
“I found out that York Region, and in particular Markham, is the right area to be,” he said. “There are a lot of high-tech companies around us. It’s very easy to attract employees in this area. And it’s a very nice area to live in. So, after I started the company, we moved to Markham, and since then we’ve been in Markham, and we’re very happy about it. We have a few employees that commute from downtown, however we found that many young engineers and software developers choose Markham as a place to live.”
Carbon60 is a managed cloud company based in Richmond Hill. It offers multiple levels of managed hosting, IT disaster recovery, and website performance testing, as well as consulting services.
Bik Dutta, Vice-President of Marketing and Alliances said, “there’s a lot of companies in the Markham and Richmond Hill area so it made a lot of sense to relocate the company offices to this city,” he said. “There’s easy access to get here from anywhere. Also, from a talent perspective, it is important to be relatively close to some transit options for people that don’t have cars.”
Mobile apps for brands like PayPay, Rogers, Bell, and Shell, and many more have been created by software developers at Vaughan headquartered Clearbridge Mobile. With over 250 mobile app launches that have been downloaded over 300 million times to its credit, the company’s design and development team services 35 of the Fortune 500 listed companies.
For Clearbridge CEO Deepak Chopra, the quality of life the Region offers is hugely important. It’s a much easier commute to Vaughan from anywhere in the GTA – Clearbridge even offers employee shuttles to the Vaughan subway – and allows for better work-life balance.
He added, “Our business thrives on talent; we need great people. We’re in a very competitive market, the people that we have, the people that we need are sought after. York Region has a great talent pool. I think that’s been the biggest benefit is we have a great labor pool we can pursue.”
Vaughan headquartered Kontrol Energy integrates smart energy devices, energy software, and energy retrofits to help lower costs and reduce companies’ carbon footprint. Since the beginning of the pandemic, it has also been developing BioCloud, a real-time analyzer designed to detect airborne viruses which has been designed to operate as a safe space technology by sampling the air quality continuously.
The company was founded in Mississauga, noted CFO Claudio Del Vasto, but was anxious to move to York Region. Accessibility was key – Kontrol is at highway 407 and Keele, so it’s simple to go to downtown Toronto if need be.
“Our culture is casual. It’s tech, so I don’t think the downtown culture would suit us,” he observed. “I think being here, in York Region, you’re seeing more and more and more tech in this part of the GTA. And so, I think we’re well suited to this this environment.”
He went on, “Toronto and the GTA in general, I think, is recognized across North America as a growing technology location. Obviously, you have Silicon Valley. And I think we’re proving to be something like that here in the GTA.”
After speaking with these companies, one thing is clear: success and growth are not tied to one single attribute and characteristic of a company or a region. For these five York Region-based tech companies who find themselves on the 2020 list of Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies they have found the right mix of talent, business savvy, and location that is allowing them to thrive.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lynn Greiner has been explaining technology to non-technologists (and business to technologists) in print and online for more than 20 years in publications such as IT World Canada, The Globe and Mail, the Financial Post, CIM Magazine, CPA Canada, CIO.com, and many others. She has a business degree from York University, and technical credentials from Ryerson and from many years as an IT professional.