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From Toronto to the Indo-Pacific: DMZ’s global impact


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From Toronto to the Indo-Pacific: DMZ’s global impact

With 40 economies, four billion people and a staggering $47.19 trillion in economic activity, the Indo-Pacific represents a new horizon of opportunity for the world.

You have probably heard a ton about the Indo-Pacific region recently, but if you’re not clear on exactly what’s going on, you’re not alone. So, we thought we’d break it down.

In Canada, the Indo-Pacific Strategy is designed to increase collaboration, expand trade and investment opportunities and support immigration within the region. The Indo-Pacific is made up of 40 countries and is home to six of Canada’s top 13 trading partners. Given its economic potential and growth, it’s no surprise that Canada has been keen to engage with the region. And yes, you guessed it. Their startup ecosystems have seen a ton of momentum.

In line with Canada’s work to foster innovation globally, DMZ encourages its startups to explore new markets and supports global partners in crafting startup support programs.

We decided to sit down with our global offices from the Indo-Pacific to learn more about their markets and what teaming up with DMZ’s HQ has meant for them.


Zone Startups Vietnam, a DMZ-powered accelerator in Ho Chi Minh City, provides hands-on strategic and tactical guidance to Vietnamese startups seeking market validation and customer acquisition.

“Vietnam offers a booming startup ecosystem for companies looking to expand. VC investments have been growing steadily thanks to government tax incentives that help attract foreign investors and companies. Today, the country anticipates VC funding to reach $5 billion by 2025,” said Quynh Vo, Program Director of Zone Startups Vietnam

Fintech, in particular, has seen a 248% increase in startup investment, with retail, health and education following close behind. Plus, their economy is projected to maintain a steady growth rate of 6.5% by the end of 2023. 

“DMZ provided us with the blueprint for startup success. By leveraging their tried and true playbook, we equip startups in the Vietnamese ecosystem with the tools to succeed. We take pride in the community we’ve built, and the startups have been able to support to date,” said Quynh Vo, Program Director of Zone Startups Vietnam.


DMZ is the official Canadian incubator partner for JETRO’s Global Acceleration Hub, catering to Japanese startups seeking expansion into Canada. DMZ supports Japanese startups entering the Canadian market through coaching, mentorship and matchmaking.

Japan offers a globally recognized economy and a corporate landscape eager to collaborate with and invest in startups. Japanese corporations often look to startup solutions to improve their business operations, providing a clear pathway to success for Canadian startups looking to expand.

“DMZ and JETRO’s collaboration has served as a conduit for Canadian and Japanese startups looking to expand, providing international opportunities for Japanese-led startups to be immersed in Canada’s tech ecosystem,” said Saito Takeshi, Executive Director of JETRO Toronto.

When it comes to the most promising opportunities for Canadian startups, the country is hyper-focused on increasing digitization, improving operational efficiencies, reaching Japan’s net-zero targets and supporting Japan’s aging population.

“The key is for Canadian startups to bring innovation that is not yet available in Japan but has been successfully validated in North America. There also needs to be an understanding that the technology or business model may need to be adapted for the Japanese market,” said Saito Takeshi, Executive Director of JETRO Toronto.

Powered by DMZ, Landing Pad Tokyo is a globally connected hub accelerating the capabilities of Japan’s top innovators and helping companies lead digital transformation in the manufacturing sector.

Japan has a long history of investing in the Indo-Pacific. In fact, Japan set a precedent for engaging with the Indo-Pacific, establishing one of the first strategies geared toward the region called the ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific.’

“Working with DMZ has been a driving force for Japanese SMEs. High school students in Japan have been able to participate in their student entrepreneur program, Basecamp, inspiring them to dream big. Their dedicated team with diverse backgrounds broadened our perspectives, unearthed forgotten Japanese values and added immeasurable value to our partnership,” said Chieko Bond, Director of Business Development and Canadian Operations of Landing Pad Tokyo.


StartUp Village and DMZ work together to nurture innovation between Canada and the Philippines, empowering entrepreneurs from both countries to thrive and make meaningful contributions to the global startup landscape.

“Aside from its strategic location, the Philippines offers a lot for startups looking to expand into the Indo-Pacific, thanks to its young and tech-savvy population. With its average age sitting at 25.8 and being the social media capital of the world, startups don’t only have a solid potential user base but a robust workforce,” said Carlo Calimon, President and Co-Founder of StartUp Village.

“The partnership between DMZ and StartUp Village aims to bridge the gap between our two regions, creating a gateway that will help open markets, create an exchange of knowledge and expertise and ultimately create shared successes for both organizations and countries,” said Carlo Calimon, President and Co-Founder of StartUp Village.


The National University of Singapore (NUS) and the NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) program provides aspiring student entrepreneurs with an opportunity to spend 12 months in Toronto, working full-time with a DMZ startup.

“Students get to take on roles ranging from software development and data analytics to marketing and business expansion. By working with DMZ startups, students experience startup culture firsthand and learn from founders directly, inspiring them to create their own companies one day,” said Harpreet Singh, Regional Director (Americas) at NUS Overseas Colleges and Associate Director of the National University of Singapore.

Having ranked 8th globally for its startup ecosystem, Singapore’s desirable and strategic location in Asia’s epicentre empowers enterprises to access the area’s most rapidly emerging markets, such as Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Singapore has gained a reputation for its free-market economy that promotes international trade, business regulations, and market competition. Similar to Canada, Singapore provides visa and economic incentives and support for foreign startups keen to set up a presence locally. 

For Canadian-led startups eyeing the market, Singapore shows high demand in cybersecurity, fintech, and AI, with plans to boost its agricultural sector.

By championing global collaboration, DMZ is fueling innovation ecosystems worldwide, helping more startups succeed internationally and building bridges to connect Canadian startups with the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. 

Learn more about DMZ’s global network and how you can gain a competitive advantage with DMZ in a rapidly changing market by heading to

Unlocking DMZ’s benefits, from a $10K entry grant and travel subsidies to free legal support

Breaking down how DMZ can help your startup’s bottom line. 

As a #1 ranked incubator globally, DMZ has a lot to offer, and we pride ourselves on not only talking the talk
but also walking the walk. We support the most promising and high-impact tech entrepreneurs who have what it takes to scale their businesses. But don’t get it twisted; we know it takes two to tango.

That’s why startups that join DMZ’s Incubator receive world-class programming and services. To us, that means real, tangible support. 

To start, startups accepted into our Incubator program receive a $10,000 entry grant to help kick-start their journey with us. While we know $10,000 can help with product development, a targeted marketing campaign, training and development or new infrastructure, we can also appreciate that $10,000 is a drop in the bucket. 

Beyond DMZ’s entry grant, startups receive personalized support with customer acquisition and fundraising, unlimited 1 on 1 coaching sessions from our Experts-in-Residence, pro-bono professional services, exclusive pitch competitions, access to the Student Work Placement Program, grant research and writing, startup perks and discounts valued at over $1 million, help with SR&ED tax incentives, free financial plan model custom built by a CFO, free UX design support,  24/7 office space and full-service amenities… the list goes on and on. 

So, how do all these program perks support startups with expenses, and —more importantly — how have they empowered startups to level up? We thought you’d never ask. 

Here are just a few ways DMZ’s Incubator can help your startup’s bottom line. 

Explore new markets without breaking the bank.  

Building a thriving business requires startups to go global, and DMZ helps founders cover travel costs for opportunities abroad through Mitacs Entrepreneur International. We’re committed to inspiring our founders to explore untapped markets and have been thrilled to see founders delve into opportunities abroad.

SoftDrive (Incubator ‘22) received $15,000 to travel to London, New York City, Japan and San Francisco to tap into international markets, meet with VCs, secure customers and attend global conferences

Lightster (Incubator ‘23) received $5,000 to travel to London to attend Techspo London and successfully secured a sales-qualified lead.


Fuel your research and level up your product. 

Strengthen your startup’s innovation capabilities through the Mitacs Business Strategy Internship. As a Mitacs partner, DMZ supports founders with the program to harness cutting-edge research to commercialize new products and gain a competitive edge in the market.  

Charmy Pet (Incubator ‘22) received $9,000 to research the health benefits of traditional Chinese herbs for pets, which led to the successful commercialization of a new product line available in over 450 specialty pet stores across Canada today.


Access essential legal services from day one. 

DMZ’s Startup Legal Support gives founders fully subsidized in-house legal services. We know how crucial legal support is for early-stage founders, which is why startups who come to DMZ don’t need to worry about cutting corners and instead can have legal processes in place from the get-go. 

To date, Startup Legal Support has saved founders over $600,000 in legal fees, helping them with legal matters, including corporate cleanups, intellectual property, stock option plans, term sheet reviews, share sales, terms of use, privacy policies, service agreements, customer contracts and more.

SoftDrive (Incubator ‘22) was able to save over $35,000 in legal fees.

XpertVR (Incubator ‘22) was able to save over $28,000 in legal fees.

Leasey (Incubator ‘24) was able to save over $25,000 in legal fees.


Save on startup must-haves.

DMZ’s perks and benefits provide discounts and fully subsidized tools for founders to save money on the essentials. From founder mental health, AWS Credits, financial services and more, DMZ startups receive perks from 170+ service providers worth over $1 million in business savings. 

Sitemax (Incubator ‘25) received $25,000 in AWS credits, allowing them to re-allocate resources to hire a new Business Development Representative for their team.  

Kaitongo (Incubator ‘24) received $25,000 in AWS credits, allowing them to make product enhancements.

Take part in exclusive pitch competitions. 

DMZ Incubator startups have the opportunity to participate in exclusive startup pitch competitions for the chance to showcase their business and secure grant funding. DMZ handed out $65,000 in grant funding to Incubator startups this summer.  

Chexy (Incubator ‘24) received $50,000 in funding, which helped them improve customer experience and expand their landlord offerings. 

Formaloo (Incubator ‘24) received $15,000 in funding to support their continued expansion with the new release of Formaloo 3.0.

Subsidize your team’s wages. 

Members of DMZ’s Incubator program get access to the Government of Canada’s Student Work Placement Program, which allows startups to subsidize student wages.

Lightster (Incubator ‘23) was able to subsidize $20,000 in wages, which covered 3 student placements, one of which did two terms. 

Want to learn more about how DMZ’s Incubator can help your startup through coaching, mentorship, programming and benefits? Head to to learn more and apply today. 

The art of the press release

Breaking down how to craft the perfect press release for your startup.

Ready for a DMZ hot take? Being able to articulate a startup win is just as important as the win itself. Reaching a significant milestone will be exponentially more impactful to your business if you share the success publicly. This is where press releases come in — a strategic symphony of words that transforms startup wins into news. 

For those new to the public relations world, a press release is an announcement made on behalf of your company about an achievement or new development. It serves as a tool to communicate the announcement to a wide range of stakeholders: customers, investors, partners and the media. Understanding how to craft a strong press release can be a cost-effective form of marketing, as it can lead to earned media, enhanced brand recognition and improved SEO. However, the media will not jump on every press release you write, and that’s expected! It’s important to note that not every startup update needs a press release.

Here are some examples of when you should write a press release:  

  • Partnership announcements
  • Funding announcements 
  • Product launches
  • Company award or accolade
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Company rebrand

Now that we’ve established the need behind a press release let’s dive into how you can craft your own. 

Define your public relations goals. 

Before you start writing any announcement, define what your broader public relations goals are. While the ultimate goal is to bring attention to your company, you need to specify what you hope to achieve long term. For more support on mapping out your strategy and where you can start as a founder, head to DMZ’s top 4 insider tricks for public relations success

Keep it formal and to the point.

Press releases embody professionalism, so use formal language and factual details. Remember to use plain language and avoid unnecessary fluff. Unlike a blog or social media, press releases are not based on personal opinions and don’t fully leverage your brand voice. Explore the differences in tone and formality for the same DMZ announcement across mediums. 

Utilize the 5W’s.

Use the 5W’s as a guide to ensure a well-structured opening paragraph. This includes the who, what, where, when, and why to provide relevant information and avoid straying off-topic. Readers should be able to identify what your press release is about in the first few sentences. Check out the opening paragraph of a recent DMZ press release

  • On Monday, June 26, Toronto Metropolitan University’s DMZ hosted the highly anticipated Insiders Event at the incubator’s headquarters in downtown Toronto. The exclusive showcase featured a handpicked selection of innovative startups from DMZ’s portfolio, giving attendees the opportunity to hear how they are transforming their respective industries.”

Include quotations.

Including quotations dramatically enhances the impact of an announcement. They can add a human element by sharing an individual’s perspective. A strong quote should highlight why your news is relevant now; think of it as a soundbite media could lead with. Aim to include at least one quote from your team and one from an external organization. See below for an example of a quote included in this DMZ press release

  • “Given Japan’s longstanding reputation as a pioneer in global innovation, it is an honour that JETRO has selected DMZ as its Canadian partner for the Global Acceleration Hub,” said Abdullah Snobar, Executive Director, DMZ, and CEO, DMZ Ventures. “This collaboration is a testament to both countries’ vision to foster business growth beyond borders, and we’re eager to unlock business expansion opportunities for Japanese startups visiting Toronto this month.

Include a boilerplate.

A boilerplate is a short, standardized paragraph at the end of a press release that provides high-level background on your company. Pro-tip: Keep a standardized boilerplate for your team in your shared drive for easy access. DMZ’s boilerplate is at the bottom of every announcement and follows the same format. 

  • DMZ is a world-leading startup incubator based at Toronto Metropolitan University that equips the next generation of tech entrepreneurs with the tools needed to build, launch, and scale highly impactful startups. By providing connections to customers, coaching, capital, and a community, DMZ’s customized approach helps innovators reach the next milestone in their entrepreneurial journey – whatever that might be. Through its award-winning programming, DMZ has helped more than 800 startups raise $2.5 billion in capital and create 5,000+ jobs. Headquartered in Toronto, Canada with globally-accessible programming, DMZ has a widely-recognized international presence with offices in Vietnam, India, and the U.S., and partnerships across North America, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Conclude with a call to action.

Wrap up your press release with a compelling call to action. Consider its purpose: whether you want readers to explore your website, sign up for a mailing list or connect with your team. Here are a few examples of calls to action from past DMZ press releases. 

Startup examples.

Let’s bridge theory and practice by looking at tangible DMZ startup examples and how they leveraged press releases.

Announcing a raise:

Announcing an acquisition: 

Announcing an award:

Looking for more support in marketing and public relations? Subscribe to our TechTalk newsletter and stay informed about the newest startup resources here.

The ultimate startup guide: DMZ’s 5 tips for thriving at Collision

The air in the city is electric with anticipation for Collision, Toronto’s tech scene is about to transform into a vibrant epicentre of innovation and possibility! We couldn’t be more thrilled for the global startup ecosystem to make its way to the city we proudly call home. As longtime Collision-enthusiasts, we’re sharing our insider tips on how to thrive at the 3-day conference. 

From June 26-29, the city will be buzzing with excitement as the world’s brightest minds come together for a week to network, share big ideas and dive into cutting-edge technologies.

Picture this: 40,000+ attendees, 1250+ journalists, 250+ partners and 950+ investors coming together under one roof to reimagine the global tech industry. And the fun doesn’t end there; industry experts tackling the biggest challenges facing our industry today will take the stage to share their insights on navigating uncertainty. 

Amidst all this buzz, DMZ is also gearing up for its most prominent presence at Collision to date. This year, we’re uniting the most fearless and diverse visionaries in the global startup ecosystem to mark the year of the camel startup.

At the fastest-growing tech conference in North America, the opportunities are endless. To help you make the most of your time at Collision, we’ve compiled a handy guide with our top tips for startups. Read on for a download of our top startup tips to get the most out of the week. 

Create a plan of attack

Your time is valuable. Before attending any event, it’s crucial to do your research and plan ahead. When planning your schedule, start by reviewing the various sessions and identifying the ones that best align with your needs.  

You can build a personal event schedule on the Collision app by tapping the  ‘Schedule’ tab at the bottom of the app. Tap the calendar icon to any must-see sessions to add to your own personal schedule. 

Don’t forget to explore the multiple stages and booths across Enercare Centre, including DMZ’s booth (booth E281). Swing by to connect with angels and VCs in the ecosystem and check out our dedicated DMZ stage and startup showcase, win prizes and much more! If you’re lucky, you might also catch a glimpse of a certain 6-foot-tall animal hanging around our space.  

For additional insights, check out Collision’s essential guide, which provides registration information, venue details and travel suggestions. 

Set clear objectives 

Given the scale of Collision, it’s important to define your objectives beforehand. Upon doing your research and planning your schedule, set intentions and determine what you want to achieve from the conference. 

A clear goal could sound something like this, “I will lock in 5 meetings with CEOs who could benefit from my solution and follow up with my pitch deck before July 1.” Put it in writing and commit to it!

Utilize the power of networking 

With over 40,000 attendees and 2,000 startups, Collision offers immense networking opportunities. Be sure to make a list of speakers and entrepreneurs you want to connect with to maximize your time. 

We suggest taking full advantage of this opportunity by checking out the alpha and beta startup sections, actively engaging with thought-provoking speakers and attending educational masterclasses and Q&As. 

Not to mention, DMZ’s booth will feature its very own networking lounge for 1:1 meetings with investors, startups and industry leaders. 

Don’t skip out on workshops 


Make the most of Collision by participating in expert-led workshops. Here are a few sessions that might pique your interest:

  • Metaverse: The road to a trillion-dollar industry

    • Julie and Alan Smithson (Metaverse)
      • Hosted by DMZ – 4:30 PM, June 27th
  • The power of community for your brand

    • Chelsee Pettit (aaniin)
      • Hosted by DMZ – 2:00 PM, June 28th
        * The first 15 attendees will win a limited edited Tkaranto t-shirt from Chelsee’s brand, aaniin!
  • Startup Legal Essentials

    • Allan Goodman (Goodmans)
      • Hosted by DMZ – 3:00 PM, June 28th
  • Is venture capital right for you?

    • Phil Joseph (Rep Matters)
      • Hosted by Rep Matters, at DMZ’s booth – 11:30 AM, June 29th
  • Founder Fireside: Torys and Meroxa

    • Konata Lake (Torys) and DeVaris Brown (Meroxa)
      • Hosted by DMZ – 11:00 AM, June 29th

Oftentimes smaller-knit and more intimate, these sessions will provide valuable insights while giving you a real opportunity to engage with speakers. For more information on the exciting sessions taking place at DMZ’s booth, check out our full schedule here!

Don’t be afraid to tell your story

Collision will attract over 1,250 journalists from prestigious publications such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Betakit, The Peak, The Globe and Mail and many more! Leverage this opportunity by putting your startup front and centre. Media at the event will be wearing a slightly different badge than regular attendees, keep your eyes peeled and don’t be shy to approach them and spark up a conversation. 

Remember to wear your startup swag, bring business cards and have your Linkedin QR code and Collision app on hand so you’re ready to connect. 

By following these five tips, you’ll be well-prepared to maximize your Collision experience. We can’t wait to see you there! 

To find out more information about DMZ and our presence at Collision, visit 

NFTs for dummies: The hype, explained.

A quick crash course on how to use NFTs from start to finish.

NFTs have taken the world by storm. And while celebrities like Snoop Dog, Paris Hilton, Eminem and Emily Ratajkowski have embraced the NFT marketplace with open arms, you may still be asking yourself what the heck is a NFT?

Don’t worry — we are right there with you. 

NFTs have exploded in popularity, but there’s a lot of confusion around what they actually are. 

We thought we’d give a breakdown of what NFTs are, so our community can get in on the craze.

So, what in the world is a NFT?

NFTs, which stands for non-fungible tokens, are stored and secured on the public blockchain. They are unique tokens that cannot be changed, modified or destroyed. 

This means it’s a unique transaction that can’t be replaced with something else. Whereas fungible transactions are interchangeable, meaning you are trading money for the value of something. 

A prime example of a fungible transaction is when you purchase coffee. You pay a barista $4, and you get your latte. 

Non-fungible transactions are like sport trades. The Toronto Raptors traded DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard in 2018, which led to Toronto’s first-ever NBA title. The trade was a one-of-a-kind transaction. 

A computer screen with two people working at it

Where to start.

In order to do anything in the NFT realm, you’ll need to set up a few things: 

  • Crypto wallet: A crypto wallet will allow you to interact with the Ethereum blockchain. There are a ton of Ethereum wallets to choose from, but MetaMask is one of the most widely used wallets.
  • Cryptocurrency: There are a variety of different currencies that exist, and you’ll need to buy them to make transactions. For example, you can easily buy Ethereum directly within MetaMask, or through crypto-exchanges such as Coinbase
  • Marketplace: An NFT marketplace is the only place where you can store, buy and sell your NFTs. The most popular marketplace today is OpenSea. OpenSea also offers an easy process to create your own NFT, which is called “minting”. 

Once you’re set up with a crypto wallet, you’ll need to connect it to your marketplace. Think of this as setting up a credit card on your Uber Eats account.

What kind of NFTs should you buy?

That is completely up to you! NFTs are unique digital assets that you own, so think of it the same way you would a physical collectors item like art or a trading card — just in the digital economy. 

Types of NFTs you can buy include art, GIFs, sports highlights, video game skins and more. 

What do you do with a NFT after you buy it?

Again, that is entirely up to you! Just like you would collect art throughout your lifetime, you can collect NFTs to support creatives.

Some people will hold onto NFTs for potential long-term growth to turn a profit, whereas others actively trade NFTs to take advantage of price fluctuations. 

There’s no right or wrong answer here.

An image of the NFT collection Bored Ape Yacht Club

How much can NFTs go for?

In 2021 the NFT market grew exponentially, with trade volume at nearly $25 billion — up from $95 million in 2020. 

To put it into perspective, a popular NFT collection called the Bored Ape Yacht Club costs about 100 Etherum or over $400,000 CAD today. 

However, just a few short months ago you’d only be paying around 1 Ethereum for the NFT. Of course this is one of the space’s fastest-growing NFT collectibles, but nonetheless gives you an idea into just how much a NFT could be worth.

The future of NFTs

While many believe it’s only a matter of time before the NFT bubble pops, they’re certainly here to stay. Use cases for NFTs go far beyond just digital art and video games, and can translate to legal contracts, proof of ownership, licensing, certifying authenticity and much more.

For example, NFTS can be used for music royalties. Artists could generate royalties whenever their NFTs are traded, sold or bought and regain control over the value of their music. It’s safe to say that as our world becomes increasingly digitized, the need for digital ownership will be a growing need — a growing need NFTs can support.  

Ready to dive into NFTs?

Check out the DMZ’s Instagram to participate in our giveaway contest! 

We’re giving away 2 NFTs minted from a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork that was given to us from our partners at LAPSE Productions and created by Dreamdoodle.

Members of the LAPSE team gifting the NFT to the DMZ
Dario Nouri and Kyrill Lazarov, Co-Founders of LAPSE Productions, presenting their gift to Abdullah Snobar, the Executive Director of the DMZ, and Natasha Campagna, the Director of Marketing and Communications at the DMZ.

You can check out Dreamdoodle’s piece on OpenSea here

Startup legal 101: 8 common mistakes you might be making

Hear from startup lawyers on the top legal mistakes that new startups make – and how to avoid them

This is a DMZ guest blog by Konata Lake and Edward Fan of
Torys LLP

Portrait of Edward Fan in Business wear featuring a grey blazer, a checkered red tie, and a white button-up.
Edward Fan
Portrait of Konata lake in business wear with blue tie, black blazer, white button-up and glasses
Konata Lake


As startup lawyers, we work with founders across all stages of growth — from incorporation, to raising the first funding round, to IPO’ing or being acquired. We provide strategic and legal advice to startups as they grow, giving market perspectives and connecting clients with the broader ecosystem, including VCs and other advisors. 

Unsurprisingly, there are many legal issues that arise as your company scales. While it is your legal counsel’s job to help you navigate those obstacles, it is important to understand what may lie ahead. It is much cheaper and more time efficient to get things right at the outset rather than fixing expensive mistakes down the road.

Let’s walk through some of the most common legal issues that startups face, and how you can avoid them.

#1 – You don’t have the correct legal structure in place

A common question early-stage founders have is whether incorporating their company is worth the money—especially when they are bootstrapping, or in cases when funding is low. The general answer to this question is: yes, it is important to incorporate your startup as soon as possible.

When you incorporate your company, it will help ensure that all the work done is held in and owned by the corporation (reducing potential diligence issues later during funding rounds), and that the liability and risks of operating the business are with the corporation and not with you personally as founders. 

For example, if you are hiring an employee or contractor, you will need to make sure that the IP they create rests with the company and that a formal agreement between the corporation and the employee accomplishes this. To enter into this kind of agreement, you need a corporation. 

Another reason you should incorporate your startup early on is to better attract investment. VCs will expect your company to be incorporated on market standard terms, so being properly set up makes you much more appealing to investors.

When deciding the best legal structure, it is important to determine where you want to operate and whether you have any plans for expansion, as this will determine if you should be federally or provincially incorporated.

person signing contract

#2 – Your startup doesn’t own all its intellectual property (IP)

Not clearly showing that your company owns its IP can be a deal breaker for investors. A significant portion of your startup’s value comes from your IP, and so you should make sure you are the proper owner. This means that your company—not you, your co-founder, advisor or employees—should own all the intellectual property that it is developing, and this ownership should be fully documented. 

Everyone who works for, advises or consults with your startup should sign an appropriate confidentiality and IP assignment agreement. As a founder, you are not exempt from this requirement: you will need to assign all IP, including any pre-incorporation IP, to the company. 

If you started working on your company as a side gig while being employed elsewhere, it is important to ensure that your previous employer doesn’t have any claim over the IP you developed during that time. 

Another mistake is not employing the correct IP protection strategy for the kind of tech you are building. For example, if you have a SaaS business, you are likely hyper-focused on protecting your source code, so you may keep parts of the code a trade secret. This differs significantly from what a D2C eCommerce business selling products through Shopify might consider, which would typically focus more on trademark protection of their brand and products.

#3 – You’re not documenting your equity distribution

One of the most common mistakes for founders, especially in the early days, is to promise equity t
o individuals or companies who are helping the company without properly documenting and tracking it. This can result in a misunderstanding of the company’s ownership should a liquidity event take place. 

To avoid this, it is important to track the distribution of equity. Common documents used for this are employment agreements, board resolutions, and option grant agreements. Equity granted to employees, advisors and consultants is often subject to vesting. Vesting means that equity will be granted/released to stakeholders on a pre-determined schedule, rather than in a lump sum. If an employee leaves before their equity is fully vested, they forfeit any unvested equity back to the company.
signing a contract

#4 – You’re not properly mapping out founder shares 

Founder shares
need to be clearly documented. Don’t assume a 50/50 split or that a verbal agreement is enough. Unfortunately, disagreements among co-founders happen, including issues over ownership which can result in legal action. It is also important that vesting schedules are clearly documented and tracked, and that the recipients of the equity understand what the vesting requirements are. The standard vesting schedule for founder shares is four years with a one-year cliff. This means no shares vest for the first full year, 25% vest immediately following the one-year “cliff” period, and the remainder vest monthly or quarterly in equal installments until all the fourth anniversary of the vesting start date. 

Documents that are often used to show issuance of founder shares include a board resolution authorizing issuance of shares, a share purchase agreement or payment for shares.

You should also keep in mind that any options issued to employees should be properly approved by your board of directors and issued under a formal option plan. All options should be broken down and documented in employment agreements and option grant agreements. The standard vesting schedule for employee options is the same as that for founder shares.

#5 – You’re not complying with securities law

Every bit of equity in your startup needs to be issued in accordance with a valid securities law exemption. This means that, depending on the relevant exemption, you may need to prepare and file certain reports with the securities commission or pay related fees. 

Most startups rely on the “friends and family”, accredited investor or private issuer exemptions; however, it is important to have a solid understanding of what these exemptions entail.


#6 – You don’t consider how your first financing round can impact future rounds

You need to not only consider the legal and economic implications of your first financing round but also how the structure of that inaugural round can impact your ability to close future financings.

You should be focused on what rights are being granted to investors in these early-stage rounds, as mistakes can haunt a company going forward. For example, if you agree to a liquidation preference that is greater than 1x, or if you grant a preferred share class seniority over other preferred share classes, that is likely to be replicated in future rounds. Counsel with VC experience will help you avoid these pitfalls.

woman working in office#7 – You’re complicating your cap table with multiple valuation caps

Adding a valuation cap is a common way to structure convertible securities (convertible notes and SAFEs). Under this structure, investors cannot get less ownership than what’s calculated by taking their investment amount and dividing it by the valuation cap. However, having multiple valuation caps complicates your cap table. 

That is because of a combination of unfair economic treatment of investors and the nuances of corporate law. Your counsel should advise you on how to avoid this issue, or how to resolve it if it’s already happened.

# 8 – You’re not fully complying with employment laws

One of the most common diligence issues we come across is the misclassification of contractors as employees. The contractor versus employee distinction is based on several factors, including the nature of the working relationship, the level of control the contractor/employee has, and ownership of tools and equipment. 

Misclassifying contractors as employees will make you liable to the Canada Revenue Agency for failing to make the proper source deductions. In addition, you may become subject to claims from misclassified employees. 


Are you a startup founder with legal questions for Torys? Reach out to get your questions answered. 


This article appears on Torys’ Startup Legal Playbook: a guide to issues founders face as they grow their company, from ideation to exit. For more actionable insights on operating your startup, raising capital, building a team and going cross-border click here.

Public relations 101: Our top 4 tips for success

The DMZ’s top 4 insider tricks for startup public relations success

Public relations (also known as PR) is a vital component for growth in any startup. PR helps you define your company’s narrative for the world by putting a spotlight on what your business provides as well as your success stories. 

For startups, good PR can drive brand awareness, put your name out in front of potential investors and partners, and help you become an industry leader.

Crafting a successful public relations strategy does not happen overnight. Laying the groundwork for a successful PR campaign takes time and love, which is why the DMZ is here to provide you with 4 of our go-to tips for PR success!


A startup founder working on PR


Ensure your brand and online assets are up to par

Before engaging with the media, ensure your startup is ready to show the best version of itself. That starts with an optimized website that effectively communicates who you are and what it is that you do. It is also important that your company’s social media features engaging content that is appropriate for your target audiences. 

Ask yourself, “Do I have a professional and clean website?” “Do my readers walk away with content that is worth the time they spent reading it?” Crafting a narrative for your brand at an early stage will elevate your media outreach efforts in the future.

public relations newspaper

Maintain a pulse on your industry

Media monitoring is an important part of managing how you, your competitors and/or your industry is being portrayed in the media. Google Alerts is a great free resource to scan the media for recent news and updates in your specific industry. This is one way to easily stay on top of conversations or advancements taking place in your field

Pro Tip: Add your company’s name, key updates you want to follow, and a few relevant competitors, to your Google Alerts.

If you’re setting up alerts for a health tech company, you can include relevant keywords. For example, try using ‘virtual health + Canada’, ‘e-health + Canada’, ‘digital health + launch + Canada’ , ‘competitor 1’, ‘competitor 2’  to keep an eye on industry updates and competitor milestones.

Twitter is also a great channel to monitor since most journalists are very active on Twitter. Not only do journalists amplify their own content, but they are connected to the topics and community that they cover. Take your media list one step further by following your target journalists on Twitter to monitor their content.

Make your media announcements meaningful

Have a story you want to share with the media? This is where media pitching comes in. A media pitch is an attempt to get a journalist or media outlet interested in your announcement so that they decide to cover it. Media outreach is traditionally done via email, but nowadays you can reach out to journalists via social media as well.

Ensure your announcement is newsworthy. Ask yourself these questions before you even begin to think about pitching to the media:

  • What makes my news actually newsworthy? How does it stand out from what competitors are putting out there?
  • Is my news presented in an exciting way that people will get people interested?
  • What’s a timely or enticing narrative you can tie into your announcement to elevate its attractiveness?

A startup team brainstorming PR

Be purposeful about crafting your media pitch

When it comes to media pitching, try to pitch journalists with a background in your sector. In the industry, this is called pitching to journalists with relevant ‘beats’. 

Avoid spraying your announcement to all journalists from major outlets. It’s important for you to take the time to research journalists who are writing about your beat and provide them with new perspectives or advancements in the space.  

Further, avoid attaching additional documents — unless absolutely necessary —within your pitch email. The less the journalist has to click through, the better. 

Never underestimate the power of your networks; remember to leverage them when amplifying an announcement. Provide your partners with the tools and assets they need to amplify the announcement, like social media sample posts, key messages, graphics, etc.

woman working on PR strategy
Final considerations

When looking at public relations as a strategy for your startup, ask yourself, “What is my goal in gaining PR?” Is PR a vital component of your growth because it can lead to more customers in your funnel, or are you viewing media exposure as a vanity metric? 

Oftentimes, founders look at media coverage as a silver bullet for non-related issues they may face:

  • An article in a major publication will help us acquire investment 
  • Having more “As seen on” logos on our website will help us close deals 
  • My competitors are featured in the news, so I should be too 

This is not PR as a core strategy, but the need for PR driven by fear: fear of not getting investment, losing deals, or dragging behind your competition. This is often why most startups’ PR efforts fail because it is not viewed as a means to an end, but the end goal itself. 

Understand that if you are looking at PR as a strategic objective, you are committing to focusing on it just as you would if you were to begin fundraising, hiring, or growth. Part-time focus will give your startup part-time results.


Looking for more PR or marketing support? Check out our programs for more insights into the support we provide our founders.

These young innovators are redefining what it means to be studentpreneurs

Meet DMZ’s Basecamp winners

From student to startup founder, the DMZ’s student incubation program, Basecamp, helps young entrepreneurs create tech solutions to growing social and economic gaps in society.

Over the course of the summer, 22 student-led startups had the opportunity to develop and market their business idea, receive one-on-one industry mentoring, and attend expert-led workshops to gain a better understanding of the Canadian tech ecosystem. 

Bringing their innovative business ideas to life, it was another successful summer for the books! 

From edtech, artificial intelligence to cryptocurrency solutions, participating companies were anything but juvenile. 

Today’s students are digital natives. With more resources and tools available than ever before, there is a new wave of studentpreneurs who are punching well above their weight and developing unique solutions to a handful of society’s biggest challenges. 

Wrapping up the 8-week program, participating teams had the opportunity to pitch their startup ideas to a panel of judges for the chance to take home one of five grants — designed to help startups launch into the next phase of their growth — of up to $5,000 CAD.

So, who were the top winning teams of the DMZ’s Basecamp, and how are they redefining what it means to be studentpreneurs? 
mindful minutes image
After learning that only 8% of people who set goals actually achieve them, Dev, Urvush and Adisha knew there had to be a better way for people to stay accountable and accomplish their goals.

Dev Parekh

Mindful Minutes is a personal development platform that helps individuals achieve their short and long-term goals by leveraging community and group accountability.

“The Basecamp program provided us with a lot more goodies than we had expected! Over the course of just 2 months, we were able to gain valuable startup knowledge, incredible mentors and a community of like-minded motivated entrepreneurs!

The program has definitely enhanced the way we run our business, and connected us with important people and necessary resources needed to succeed.” The team plans to use their winnings for marketing, referral programs, incorporating their business, and research and development.

Urvish Patel

As leaders of a personal development startup, the team at Mindful Minutes truly understands the importance of a balanced lifestyle. 

“While taking care of your business, remember to take care of yourself. While there may be certain weeks that you need to put in the extra hours and effort to make something happen, always remember that burnout is real and can happen to anyone. Learn how to pace yourself!”

While running your own startup has a lot of perks — like being able to work at your own pace, and being your own boss — Mindful Minutes highlights that working for a startup requires a lot of commitment and grit.

Adisha Shankar

“Contrary to what some people may think, founding your own startup can easily require more from an individual than a 9-5 grind. Nonetheless, it is definitely a rewarding experience to witness the growth of Mindful Minutes.”

Mindful Minutes plans to establish a referral program to help them scale, and are developing their platform. They hope to reach a couple hundred members by year end to start making an impact on their users’ personal development.

Keep up with Mindful Minutes on Instagram!

“While taking care of your business, remember to take care of yourself. While there may be certain weeks that you need to put in the extra hours and effort to make something happen, always remember that burnout is real and can happen to anyone. Learn how to pace yourself!”

site scope image

Andy Xu

SiteScope provides AI and computer vision applications for safety and automation in the construction industry. They offer two solutions: hardhat detection and traffic control automation.

“As first-time entrepreneurs, our team has grown significantly throughout the Basecamp program.

We really enjoyed the legal, incorporation and leadership workshops. Our Basecamp mentor throughout the program was perfect — she answered all our questions, and played a critical role in SiteScope’s pitch deck development. We couldn’t have done it without Ingrid Polini and the entire DMZ team!”

Tom Pruyn

SiteScope plans to use their winnings to develop a hardware prototype.

While the Basecamp program wraps up with a demo day, SiteScope encourages all future participants not to treat the program like a competition. 

“As students, we can get pretty competitive, but networking and sharing advice with the entire cohort made the experience so much more rewarding. Take the opportunity to learn and share your knowledge with others.”

Vraj Patel

While many believe studentpreneurs live and breathe for ‘grind culture’, SiteScope emphasized that their fellow founders genuinely cared about their product and embraced work-life balance.


“As students, we can get pretty competitive, but networking and sharing advice with the entire cohort made the experience so much more rewarding. Take the opportunity to learn and share your knowledge with others.”

skilly iamge
Skilly is an ed-tech company that makes learning and teaching more accessible for people around the world. Their app allows individuals to trade skills for skills they want to learn — all for free.

Luke Galati

“Our Basecamp experience was amazing! 

The DMZ’s Basecamp helped us foster an understanding of the business principles within the tech world, and we’ll be able to apply these learnings in our future!

We were surrounded by talented students who were hungry to grow their businesses, and learn from the DMZ team and the Entrepreneurs in Residence. Our mentor, Ayodele Pompey, was such a positive influence, and inspired us to be the best professionals that we can be.”

Skilly plans to use their winnings to develop their MVP. With their user experience and user interface designs for their app underway, their next step is to build the product and then launch. 

Ayesha Azad

Skilly encourages other inspiring studentpreneurs to start their ventures as soon as they can.

“Find people who can support your vision, and build with like-minded people who want to achieve the same goal. Keep progressing, however you can. As long as you keep moving forward, you’ll reach your goal.”

While juggling school and a startup can be challenging, Skilly believes that studentpreneurs don’t need to choose between their education and business. 

“We believe that it’s possible to be ambitious and change the world, while still fulfilling the goal of getting your degree and graduating with your peers.”

Skilly is looking to hire a Chief Technology Officer to help bring their product to life. They also look forward to continuing their growth as a company with the DMZ Basecamp Fellowship.

“Find people who can support your vision, and build with like-minded people who want to achieve the same goal. Keep progressing, however you can. As long as you keep moving forward, you’ll reach your goal.”

Designed exclusively for fashion professionals, RESERVE is a B2B marketplace that features retailers and independent designers for commercial designer rentals. A stylist’s best friend, RESERVE saves time, money, and stress by providing an online directory of designer items available for rent and delivering apparel directly to fashion shoots.

Omar Abul Ata

“As a solo founder with a non-technical retail background, Basecamp was an integral part of my journey. 

From learning about fundraising cycles to understanding the mechanics of how a startup is run, Basecamp has allowed me to progress myself and my confidence as an entrepreneur.” 

RESERVE plans to use the winnings to secure their website domain and social media handles. Omar also hopes to use the funding for their launch campaign’s digital marketing, which includes partnerships with micro-influencers, retailers and independent designers.

Omar highlights there are only so many hours in a day to get work done, and encourages other studentpreneurs to readjust their priorities if the hustle comes at the cost of mental and physical health. “Treat the process like a marathon, not a sprint.” 

Although studentpreneurs may sometimes look like they have everything figured out, Omar underscores the importance of resilience and how every day is an opportunity to learn something new and overcome challenges. While some days will be better than others, a startup’s ability to learn and overcome adversity is far more telling than its solution alone. 

“Being in a startup is like being in the middle of a mosh pit at a heavy metal concert — it’s total chaos. However, that is also the beauty of it, as an entrepreneur you have to learn to trust the process.”

RESERVE looks forward to completing their MVP, and their beta launch to onboard their first batch of rentees and renters. By late November, RESERVE plans to have a soft launch exclusively for Toronto.

Keep up with RESERVE on Instagram!

“Being in a startup is like being in the middle of a mosh pit at a heavy metal concert — it’s total chaos. However, that is also the beauty of it, as an entrepreneur you have to learn to trust the process.”

Are you an inspiring studentpreneur looking for support to help build your business idea? Follow the DMZ on Instagram and X to stay up to date with all of our student programming!

Our commitment to creating an equitable future for Black founders

Last week, I released a statement voicing the DMZ’s support for the Black community and our commitment to strengthening Black entrepreneurship in the tech ecosystem.

To enact real change for an equitable future, it is our responsibility as leaders in this space to do more than just express our support. We must action it.

Here are the first steps we’re taking to uphold our promise to our action: 

  • Recruit more Black founders: We pledge to recruit 30 new Black founders by May 2021 through our Black Innovation Fellowship (BIF) Program (up from 10 BIF founders last year).
  • Expand programming and resources: Since launching the BIF program in May of 2019, we have identified opportunities for widening our programs to support aspiring Black entrepreneurs that have not yet established market traction. Yesterday, we launched a free two-week bootcamp open to pre-incubator stage Black founders around the world to get their tech-business ideas validated. Full details and the application for this bootcamp can be found at
  • Giving back to the community: Each year, DMZ staff are encouraged to spend up to 40 hours volunteering in the local community in lieu of regular work hours. Starting today, we are asking staff to take paid time off to volunteer with the Black community on initiatives that will drive impact on things such as racial justice, equity, supporting Black owned businesses and many more. 

A prosperous economy is one that fosters diverse perspectives and actively removes barriers for those hindered by systemic discrimination. 

Black founders, we pledge to help level the playing field and clear the pathways to your entrepreneurial success.

Abdullah Snobar
Executive Director, DMZ
CEO, DMZ Ventures

COVID-19 Response DMZ Free Virtual Workshop Series: Topics and Dates

We’ve created a virtual workshop series to help startups navigate tough business decisions and also recognize growth opportunities during a time of uncertainty.

You do not want to miss what these subject-matter experts will be sharing! All workshops are free to join and are intended for tech founders.

Upcoming workshops:

Stay tuned for new workshop announcements.

Note, once you register for a workshop the link to access it will be sent to you prior to going live.

In case you missed it:

Find all of our workshop recordings here.

Have a question? Email us at

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