Western partners on Toronto base for entrepreneurs

It’s the “home away from home” Western entrepreneurs need to compete across Canada.

Last week, Western, along with partner institutions the University of Toronto and McMaster University, launched ONRamp, a collaboration and co-working space on the Toronto campus catering to entrepreneurs and their startups.

ONRamp boasts several flexible shared workspaces, meeting rooms, board rooms and event spaces, across three floors and 15,000 square feet of the Banting Institution on the U of T downtown campus, directly across MaRS Discovery District. The facility brings together entrepreneurs from members of the Campus-Linked Accelerator (CLA) program – including Western’s Propel and McMaster’s Forge.

“Having a presence in Toronto is paramount to the long-term success of any Canadian business, and will allow our startup companies at Propel to take advantage of the amazing programs and resources available through the University of Toronto,” said Ian Haase, Western Director of Entrepreneurship, who heads Propel. “Propel will also leverage the space to engage and stay in touch with our alumni entrepreneurs, many of whom are working in Toronto after graduation.”

Originally started as a conversation more than three years ago, the breakthrough came when space popped up in the Banting Institution. It was a perfect opportunity for Western entrepreneurs, as well as an institution ready to make a statement on a larger stage, said Peter White, Executive Director (Government Relations and Strategic Partnerships).

“It is important on a number of levels,” White said. “It shows our partners at the federal and provincial level that entrepreneurship is an important part of Western and allows us to showcase opportunities for them and how they can invest in what we’re doing.”

Western has invested in the three years in the joint venture, which will provide resource space to Western entrepreneurs when they are in Toronto, as well as presentation space for up to 75 people.

Many of Propel’s entrepreneurs are from the GTA, and so when home on break, or over a long weekend, their work need not slow down thanks to this new space, Haase continued. Be it working space, or meetings with the extensive Propel network of entrepreneur mentors and investors, these important conversations will have a convenient space to happen away from campus.

“I have been in this game long enough to know that no matter where you set up shop as an entrepreneur – be it in London, or Hamilton, or anywhere else in Ontario – you have to have access to Toronto. It is critical. This is an important partnership for our entrepreneurs,” Haase said.

Propel officials are eyeing a November event in the space.

“Entrepreneurs will find a way – always. But this partnership will extend their relationship with Propel even further, by giving them what they need in Toronto, and eliminating the need to partner with other programs to get the space and resources they need to be successful,” Haase said.