Inside the gigantic tech hub OneEleven, which houses 30 companies, a games room and robots
What: Innovation hub OneEleven’s new home base
Where: The fourth floor of a concrete complex at Front and Blue Jays Way
How big: 250,000 square feet for 400-odd employees (and 30 companies)
The idea for OneEleven was dreamed up four years ago. As the policy director for three consecutive Ontario ministers of economic development, trade and innovation, founding CEO Bilal Khan realized that there were only a few companies creating tech jobs and barely any resources to help start-ups grow. “Toronto’s innovation ecosystem was bursting at the seams,” he says. “But the city was doing nothing to develop the community.” As a result, some of Toronto’s brightest tech minds were abandoning the Big Smoke in favour of Silicon Valley.
In 2013, Khan partnered with OMERS Ventures, Ontario Centres of Excellence, Ryerson University and Oxford Properties, which provided 15,000 square feet on Richmond Street to use as a “scale-up innovation hub” for startups—specifically those that had already raised between $1 million and $5 million. Demand grew so quickly that the space was full after six months. They acquired their current space, a former RBC data centre on Front street, six months ago. The bright, open-concept office is designed for maximum collaboration. With only glass walls to separate offices, workers are exposed, and socializing with all the other geniuses is basically a job requirement (events are held weekly to encourage serendipitous meetings and Slack channels connect employees across the office).
Now, Oxford Properties’ five- to ten-year vision is to fill the entire block between Spadina and York with Toronto’s biggest tech companies and create a distinct neighbourhood similar to the financial district. “We’re taking page out of Bay Street in the 1970s,” says Khan. “And giving this area an identity.” The roster of well-known companies that has gone through or are currently in the innovation hub include Wealthsimple, Hootsuite, Tulip Retail and the healthcare booking platform OpenCare.
A wall of fame in one of the hallways has signatures from Justin Trudeau (who came to their launch event) and basketball player Dikembe Mutombo (naturally, his signature is much higher than everyone else’s):
There are 60 board rooms, plus plenty of quiet phone booths for taking private calls (there’s also a meditation and prayer room):
Hallways are named after Toronto streets:
Employees get around on foot, via scooter or virtually using an iPad attached to a wheeled robot. There are also a few Ping Pong tables and a gong that’s rung when one of the companies makes a major sale:
The office also hosts the hottest tech party of the year in their parking lot. This year over 1,000 people showed up to network, listen to tunes and sip craft beer: