By Mark Smyka
Last week, Toronto became the 16th major urban centre in the world to join the NewCo Festival family, recently completing a day-long NewCo Festival that drew nearly 700 first-time registrants and 38 NewCo host organizations.
The event, sponsored and presented in Canada by national advertising agency Cossette, featured host companies representing a wide spectrum of interests, spanning everything from the tech world, to start-ups, health care, culture and education, travel and public service.
NewCo Toronto hosts included such leading-edge organizations as: G Adventures, a pioneer in the adventure travel space; League, a state-of-the-art health and wellness platform; SickKids, a world-leading children’s hospital; and Soulpepper, an innovative theatre company that is pushing the boundaries in live theatre production and development.
Similarly, the festival attracted a broad cross section of participants from across business, technology, the venture capital and investment community, education and the political sphere, according to Valerie Swatkow, Cossette Executive Vice-President in Toronto and one of the principal organizers of the event.
“As a first-time event, participants were signing up without fully understanding what to expect,” explains Swatkow. “But then, when they went into the experience and got to hear the stories of these amazing organizations in such an intimate and up-close way, many were blown away. One of the out-of-town universities that attended is planning to send a bus-load next year.”
Swatkow was particularly pleased with the strong support that the Toronto NewCo Festival received from both the Toronto municipal and Ontario provincial governments. Toronto Mayor John Tory, provincial Premier Kathleen Wynne and Minister of Economic Development Brad Duguid all attended a special pre-event VIP kick-off party for 350-plus people at Cossette’s Toronto offices.
“Both Toronto and Ontario are actively reaching out to the tech community and promoting Toronto and the province as an attractive home for these industries, and The NewCo Festival provides a great opportunity to showcase the incredible success stories,” adds Swatkow.
In fact, Cossette plans to expand NewCo next year to include the Kitchener-Waterloo area, a municipality within an hour’s drive of Toronto that has earned a reputation as a tech hub in Canada and there are further plans to bring the NewCo experience to Montreal and Vancouver as well.
“We couldn’t be happier with the response and support that we received for our first Toronto NewCo Festival. We expect to double the size of participants and host companies next year,” says Swatkow.