Meet the new generation of tech entrepreneurs that are making waves
Toronto-based tech incubator, the DMZ, is helping the next generation of rising entrepreneurs and startups take their businesses an accelerated step further
For early-stage technology startups looking to achieve market validation, having the resources and connections to accelerate success on the global stage is immeasurable.
Just ask Sarah Rennick. Comparing her experience building two startups – one with and one without the DMZ’s growth Incubator program, the co-founder of Alli Therapy says it’s a big differentiator: “You get used to grinding things out on your own, which takes time, but with the DMZ there’s a second set of eyes from a mentor in any area that you may potentially be stuck on that really lets you iterate faster. By helping us find the right audience and nailing down our message, we’ve been able to double our revenue each month.”
Headquartered in Toronto, the DMZ offers various programs and services that equip the next generation of rising entrepreneurs with the tools needed to build, launch and grow their businesses. Connecting founders to customers, coaching, capital and a community, the DMZ assists in everything from personal founder development to ideation and scaling. To date, the world-leading incubator has helped more than 500 high-potential startups raise $1.24 billion in capital and create 4,200-plus jobs.
Recognizing that startups with early traction require customized support, especially in a pandemic, the business incubator revamped its model to offer an extended 18-month program tailored to serve the unique needs of each innovator.
“Typically, the one-size-fits-all approach for large cohorts leaves a lot of founders at a disadvantage because you’re not really helping the individual accelerate to become a competitive high-growth potential company,” says Abdullah Snobar, executive director of the DMZ of the program changes. “[Accepting] no more than 15 startups in a cohort means we’re putting all of our focus behind those companies. In addition, this means a higher number of DMZ staff can support each founder and we can cater to the specific needs of every startup, regardless of its growth stage.”
Snobar also highlighted that in order to create a competitive and self-sufficient startup landscape, the ecosystem needs to support the development of early-stage startups. Resources and business support can significantly improve a startup’s trajectory, helping founders build a strong foundation.
In addition to addressing common challenges faced by early-stage founders, including marketing strategies to attain product-market fit, expansion and fundraising, the DMZ’s international partnership network also helps startups expand to new markets and connect with more customers, partnerships and investment opportunities globally.
Current Incubator member Zach Sheng attributes the access to the DMZ’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, a fleet of in-house subject-matter experts, to the accelerated growth experienced by CharmyPet, a startup he co-founded in 2020. The program emphasizes individual-level mentorship, which most incubators and accelerators lack. Founders are given access to a global roster of top tech talent, mentors and investors, like Rokham Fard and Dr. Ehab Bazan, dedicated to helping the best startups rapidly scale their business.
“In just three months, the DMZ has helped us build the connections with the best people in the industry in what would take my team and I years to build,” says the fourth-year Ryerson undergrad. “Overall, it’s been a rocking start. The new Incubator model is truly customized with one-on-one sessions between founders and mentors that are helping us grow.”
More than a tech incubator, the DMZ has introduced other programs that assist innovators through the entire entrepreneurial journey. For example, Bootcamp supports founders like Sheng earlier this year before they are ready for the Incubator. They have also expanded programming for underrepresented innovators, including Black and women founders, who typically have additional obstacles when growing a business.
“Being able to incorporate our business in Canada was one of our biggest achievements with the DMZ so far,” shares Jayme Hoyte, co-founder of SmartTerm. The DMZ’s stream of globally accessible programming, including its equity-based program dedicated exclusively to women founders, has helped the Trinidad-based business expand into the North American market.
“The Incubator is super and made that process a lot more seamless,” Hoyte continues. “They’ve given us insights in setting up a Canadian office, navigating the business process and laws of a new country and pushing our service platform forward globally. It’s really a hands-on program where you meet other female founders and have additional support that I’ve really benefited from.”
With the DMZ helping early-stage founders succeed in the startup ecosystem, there’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur.
“Having a startup isn’t for the faint of heart,” Rennick remarks of the Incubator experience. “It has only been a few months, but it’s been cool going through this with a cohort of other people who are essentially in a similar stage in their startup life. We can talk about the highs and the lows, learn from each other – which is virtual during the pandemic, but I look forward to working together in the DMZ space. With things being so isolating right now with the pandemic, having support from others has been monumental. I already feel a strong sense of friendship from everyone who’s in the group. There’s the social aspect and the professional resources that we get from mentorship, webinars from different experts and it’s great.”
Ready to join the September 2021 Incubator cohort and scale your startup? Applications are open until July 31, 2021. Click here for more information on the DMZ’s programs, eligibility and how to apply head.
Join us for a TL Insiders Fireside Chat with the DMZ on July 7, 2021.