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York University's Innovation York Gives Startups a Place to Thrive | York Link Tech Interview

In our lead-up to Collision we asked a few questions to the team at York University - a #YRtech Experience Pavilion partner - that are responsible for leading Innovation York, which includes YSpace, LaunchYU, and Schulich School of Business. We asked about their presence at Collision and the startups joining them, what they are looking to accomplish at the conference, plus what it’s like to participate in York Region’s largest collaboration of tech companies and innovation partners. Here's what they had to say.
MakerSpace at YSpace
The MakerSpace at YSpace in Markham, York Region

This is the first year that Collision, North America’s fastest growing tech conference, is being held in Toronto, Canada. The 3-day event is expected to attract over 25,000 people. The York Link team is excited to bring the #YRtech Experience Pavilion to #CollisionConf 2019 in Toronto! Eight companies and four major innovation partners, plus a few innovation startups from across the Region will be showcasing their technology and even recruiting tech talent along the way. York Region has a thriving tech community with over 4,300 tech companies, the second largest tech cluster in the Toronto area and Canada.

In our lead-up to Collision we asked a few questions to the team at York University – a #YRtech Experience Pavilion partner – that are responsible for leading Innovation York, which includes YSpace, LaunchYU, and Schulich School of Business. We asked about their presence at Collision and the startups joining them, what they are looking to accomplish at the conference, plus what it’s like to participate in York Region’s largest collaboration of tech companies and innovation partners. Here’s what they had to say…

Can you talk a little about how Innovation York supports the local tech start-up community in York Region? And the type of start-ups and technology you see coming through your programs?

Open Work Areas at YSpaceYork University contributes to the dynamic tech start-up community in York Region in several ways including operating a 10,000 square foot facility in Markham committed to supporting entrepreneurs throughout the region. YSpace Markham is a community innovation hub in the heart of Downtown Markham which hosts regular events, workshops, and programs for members of the York Region who are interested in learning and engaging with the local start-up ecosystem.

From incubating up-and-coming technology startups, to hosting pitch competitions, to promoting youth-focused educational workshops, YSpace is helping to create a strong pipeline of entrepreneurial leaders.

As an industry agnostic incubator, YSpace has supported 23 technology startups from the hardware and software space ranging across various industries such as property management, to healthcare, and food and entertainment.

YSpace on-boards companies that are 1 to 2 months from launch with a secured pilot and helps them develop their go to market strategy and their first fundraising plan. Through their influential network of Entrepreneurs in Residence, Venture Capital, angels, and funding organizations, startups can gain access to mentorship and opportunities exclusively available to Campus Linked Accelerator backed ventures.

In addition, YSpace plays a big community role by partnering with local groups such as Startup York and all four local small business enterprise centres to better support ideation companies. They also connect local startups with talent by working directly with a variety of university coop programs and the YRDSB coop program to provide hands on experiential learning opportunities.

~ David Kwok, Entrepreneurship Manager, York University

This is the first year that Collision Conference – North America’s fastest growing tech conference – is being held in Toronto, Canada. What are Innovation York’s main objectives for participating at Collision? Who do you hope to connect with and why?

Schulich Open House Event“Collision Conference is drawing the world’s most impactful dreamers, entrepreneurs, creators and investors together in a single, concentrated moment of opportunity, right here in Toronto. And York University and The Schulich School of Business are ready to seize the moment – to tell our startup stories, showcase our entrepreneurs and spread our vision for the entrepreneurial campus of the future.

Connections and alliances will be made this month that will echo forward in the lives of our students, alumni and our startups for years to come & we can’t wait for the conference to begin so that we can connect our best and brightest to everyone’ who’s coming to Collision!”

~ Chris Carder, Co-Director, Entrepreneurial Studies, Schulich School of Business

Innovation York is bringing a number of exciting startup clients to Collision to help them showcase their technologies. Can you talk about some of your start-up clients participating at Collision and how you are helping them at the conference?

“Our clients are so excited to be part of Collision, the fastest growing tech conference in North America. With the potential to network with over 25,000 attendees, our start-up clients are looking for Innovation York to help them get the most out of the conference.

While we are providing subsidized space we are also helping our clients understand how to leverage the opportunity to network with diverse attendees from all over the world.  We will work with each of our clients to prioritize their goals for the show and perfect their messaging. How they spend their time is as important as just being at Collision.

We will also help our clients plan and connect in advance so that they can make the most of their time at the show.  Instead of relying on chance we help our clients focus on their targets and connect with them in advance to drive them to the booth or to arrange specific meetings. No matter the stage our clients are in, they need to prioritize who (both by name and by role) they would like to talk to and what they would like to achieve in that interaction.

In a conference of this size it is easy to let the conference guide the startup instead of the startup guiding the opportunity.  Our seasoned coaches and team members will ensure that all of our startups get the most out of Collision.”

LaunchYU Speaker Series~ Elliott Atkins, LaunchYU Coach, York University & Serial Entrepreneur

Innovation York is one of 15 selected partners within York Region’s #YRtech Experience Pavilion. Why is collective collaboration like this important in supporting the tech local community?

“York Region has a strong regional ecosystem that regularly collaborates to provide meaningful support to the tech community. We understand that it takes an ecosystem to raise an entrepreneur and that no one organization can support the tech community in an effective manner. Government, academic, and non-profit institutions work alongside industry and the investment community to leverage each other’s skills and build upon each other’s work.

York Region’s tech community is vibrant and growing and going global. Coming together for the #YRtech Experience Pavilion is just an extension of what we do every day – Collision is just giving us the opportunity to showcase it on a global platform.”

~ Sarah Howe, Director, Innovation York, York University


David Kwok is the Entrepreneurship Manager for YSpace, York University’s community innovation hub in Markham. In it’s first year of operations, YSpace incubated 23 ventures that generated over $2.3 million in revenue, raised over $1.3 million in funding, and created 71 new jobs.

Prior to joining York University, David held various roles at The DMZ at Ryerson University, ranging from business development to creating programs for incubated startups. His main achievement was building out the DMZ Sandbox program to become a talent and startup development hub for the community.

In addition to this, David has co-founded ZerotoStartup, an educational venture focused on creating curriculum for maker spaces upon graduation from Ryerson University. He is also involved with several non-for-profit organizations including SAGE Canada, a youth entrepreneurial program as an advisor and Pledges for Change, a community-based youth empowerment program as a board member.


Chris Carder is a Serial Entrepreneur with more than 20 years experience in the Digital/Technology Sector and a sought-after Startup Advisor, Investor and Advisory Board Member. He serves as Co-Director of Entrepreneurial Studies & Entrepreneur in Residence with The Schulich School of Business & also serves on the York University Entrepreneurship Council.

Chris is Board Chair of Kinetic Companies (holding interests in startups such as Kinetic Commerce, AdvisorStream, Wirkn, SkyMotion and Massive Damage). He is the past President & Co-Founder of ThinData (Canada’s largest email marketing services provider) – acquired by TC Media (Transcontinental) in 2018. His Volunteer work in the Non-Profit Sector includes serving as Chairman of the International White Ribbon Campaign & he has been recognized as the Canadian New Media Awards Volunteer (and Employer) of the Year.


Elliott Atkins is a serial entrepreneur and educator. He is Co-Founder of Opilio Labs, a smart home technology company and a Professor at Seneca College focusing on Sales, Marketing and Entrepreneurship. He currently helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses as a Lead Mentor at HELIX, Seneca’s on-campus business accelerator and as a coach with Innovation York’s LaunchYU Coaching program.

Elliott founded and built a place-based media business, AddMirror, which has grown to include locations in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. Prior to founding AddMirror, Elliott held sales and sales leadership positions at leading technology companies including Microsoft, Dell and Sprint.
Elliott holds an MBA from the Schulich School of Business and a BASc in Electrical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.


Sarah Howe is a business development professional with extensive experience fostering innovation and developing strategic business operations. Sarah joined York University in 2010 as the Associate Director, Intellectual Property & Research Agreements and became the Director, Innovation York in September 2012. Prior to joining York, Sarah worked at The Hospital for Sick Children in contracts and business development. She has an MBA in technology and innovation management.

Sarah has successfully created an innovation office at York University that provides a myriad of services across the university and has grown the team to 17. She has created and grown a pan-university educational entrepreneurship program, developed and manages two startup accelerators; and developed and manages a 10,000 square foot innovation centre. In addition, Sarah is co-lead for the strategic development of innovation and entrepreneurship across the campus.

For more information about the #YRtech Experience Pavilion: www.yorklink.ca/collision

For tickets to Collision Conference and full details: www.collisionconf.com