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Breaking $1 billion in funding: DMZ startups reach a major milestone


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Breaking $1 billion in funding: DMZ startups reach a major milestone

DMZ’s startups and alumni have raised over $1 billion CAD in funding

Note: All figures are reported in Canadian dollars.

DMZ companies have officially surpassed $1 billion in total funding raised. While the DMZ has been supporting startups for the last 11 years, the majority of this funding has been raised by startups in the last five years (over $940 million since 2016).

This milestone is a victory for the entire Canadian startup ecosystem. It’s a testament to the level of confidence that government, investors, and startup support organizations have in Canadian tech founders to lead world-class businesses. It’s true that startups who have proven market traction, strong competitive advantages and IP protection will attract investors. But oftentimes, qualitative traits that a startup has may be even more valuable in the eyes of an investor – like having a solid diverse management team that fosters great company culture or a founder that has tremendous passion and drive to make a difference.

Let’s dive into the numbers to explore tech investment trends over the last decade, from the largest funding rounds to the industries receiving the most investment dollars. 
This major milestone has been achieved through 194 DMZ-supported startups that have received a total of 424 investments from 2011 to 2021. 

The raise that pushed the DMZ to break past the $1 billion mark was Toronto-based Snapcommerce’s recent $107 million raise. Snapcommerce was incubated at the DMZ in 2016. This announcement also marked the largest single funding round on record for DMZ alumni! 

After a year like 2020, with so much uncertainty to navigate, DMZ startups preserved and were able to continue to secure funding. Over $185 million was raised in 2020 alone.

Top 10 startups and top 10 funding rounds

The top ten startups that have received the most investment dollars have collectively raised over $700 million. The top five – Borrowell, Snapcommerce, Sensibill, Ada Support and Flybits – accounting for an impressive $560 million of that. That’s over 50% of the total funding raised by all DMZ startups.

Funding breakdown by stage

These investments come from a variety of funding sources, including equity crowdfunding, government grants, pitch competition awards, and angel and venture capital investments from the pre-seed stage to Series C and beyond.

The sheer number of stakeholders that have played a role in reaching this $1 billion achievement illustrates the importance of industry-wide collaboration and cooperation. 

The way in which this ecosystem plays as a whole determines its success.

Funding breakdown by industry

When breaking down the industries of startups that raised the most money, startups in Financial Tech take the lead. A total of 11 startups representing this industry raised a combined $273 million – that’s over a quarter of the total funding raised by DMZ companies across all industries. The industries that followed were Retail Tech ($213M), Enterprise Tech ($131M), Health Tech ($100M),  Arts & Entertainment ($59M), Marketing ($27M), Education Tech ($32M), Communications ($29M), Consumer Tech ($26M)and Insurance Tech ($25M).

Huge gaps in funding support still exist

The Canadian tech ecosystem has become increasingly competitive – this milestone speaks to the growth and potential of our startups. Yet, startup founders still say that accessing capital is their biggest challenge and roadblock to success.

Seed deals have slowed down significantly in recent years and early-stage financing has become progressively more difficult to secure.

That’s why the DMZ is doubling down on its efforts to help startups in the early stages receive more investment strategy support, access to investors and dedicated fundraising workshops, and mentorship from professionals who specialize in fundraising – especially through our Black Innovation and Women Founders streams to support women-owned and Black-owned startups that have historically been underfunded.

Want to be a part of the next billion? Email us at Learn more about the DMZ’s programming here.

How digital badging gives young professionals a competitive edge

Jumpstarting students’ career paths in cybersecurity with CanHack digital badges

It’s not too late for high school students to register for CanHack 2021 and compete for up to $16,250 in prizes! Learn more

As the years pas
s in a student’s journey through education, they will tackle many great accomplishments: from academic achievements, participation in extracurriculars, competitions, volunteer and community work, involvement in student associations, and so on. Previously, certificates, diplomas, badges and trophies have typically represented tokens of these achievements.

Now, with the global workforce becoming increasingly digital, students need a new way to display these accomplishments. Furthermore, COVID-19 has forced education institutions to rapidly shift to online learning, meaning physical certificates often can’t be provided to add to student portfolios. How do these accomplishments get recognized? 

There’s a better way for students to present these achievements: digital badging.

What is digital badging?

Simply put, digital badging, also known as digital credentials and micro credentials, is a validated online certification of a specific accomplishment or skill. Digital badging provides learners with a bite-sized approach to education, and focuses on the development of a specific skill. When a learner completes a new course or gains a new skill, they receive a digital badge as recognition for their achievement. Unlike physical certificates, badges are designed to be optimized for sharing on social media and professional networks like LinkedIn to help individuals find a job or earn an internal promotion. When an employer or recruiter sees that a potential job candidate has digital badges listed on their LinkedIn profile, it’s a quick and secure way for the employer to understand the certifications and skills the candidate has.

Digital badge benefits: The learner

It is clear that lifelong learning has become an imperative for young professionals to break into today’s rapidly changing workforce. Up-skilling and re-skilling allows professionals (of all ages) to remain relevant and up to speed on the latest trends.  Digital badges helps learners:

  • Become motivated to grow their careers by learning new skills outside of what they have been taught in school.
  • Finesse their own personal brand image and improve their competitiveness in the job market by highlighting badges on social media platforms like LinkedIn.
  • Showcase their soft skills and bridge any skills gap that may exist between academic achievements and job requirements.
  • Demonstrate to future employers their eagerness and ability to acquire new skills.

CanHack introduces digital badging

At the DMZ, we believe it is crucial to empower Canada’s next generation of innovators and provide them with the necessary skill sets to thrive. As the skills gap in cybersecurity widens, we hope to promote cyber literacy while getting students excited about a potential career in the space. We will provide every participant a digital badge, marking their official participation in the third annual CanHack challenge (bragging rights included)! CanHack participants will be able to send a signal of great success to post secondary institutions and future employers, as CanHack’s digital badge will give them a competitive edge. All CanHack badges are endorsed by cybersecurity leaders, Carnegie Mellon University Cylab Security and Privacy Institute and RBC, helping students to stand out!

About CanHack

The DMZ at Toronto Metropolitan University, in partnership with the Royal Bank of Canada, have come together to launch CanHack – a cybersecurity student competition to promote cyber literacy and to also address digital skills gaps in the labour market. Participants will learn critical computer security skills, work with experts in the field and have an opportunity to win up to $16,250 in cash prizes for both themselves and the school they attend! CanHack leverages an online open-source computer security platform established by the Carnegie Mellon University Cylab Security & Privacy Institute called PicoCTF. This game-based learning experience creates an interactive and engaging experience where students are tasked with addressing cybersecurity challenges faced by Canadian financial institutions.
Want to learn more about the CanHack challenge and how you can participate? Check out our CanHack page for more information! 

Tackling the cybersecurity gender gap: Empowering women to lead the way in tech

Hear from RBC leader, May Sarout, on how we can close the gender gap and encourage more young women to get involved in cybersecurity


Don’t miss Women in Cyber, an exclusive panel event hosted by CanHack & Hackergal, coming up on November 18. Keep reading for more details.

The gender gap we see in tech isn’t exactly a novel issue. In the cybersecurity field, women only represent about 20 percent of the workforce. The gap has indeed narrowed in recent years, however, the industry still has quite a long way to go to achieve equitable gender representation.

May Sarout headshotThankfully, organizations like RBC have several initiatives in place to ensure we are closing this gap – from educating young women and launching partnerships like CanHack with the DMZ, to looking inwards at the organization’s hiring practices to ensure there are diverse individuals represented in tech and leadership roles.

As the Senior Director of Cyber Security Strategic Partnerships and Innovation, May Sarout is working hard to increase the representation of women in Canada’s ever-evolving tech sector. May’s passion for advancing gender diversity and empowering young women in tech is clear; her involvement in initiatives like CanHack, participation in tech events and speaking panels and efforts to raise awareness for more women-identified leaders in cybersecurity are collectively making an impact to tackle the diversity gap.

RBC CanHack DMZ event

May shared her insights on the barriers for women in cybersecurity and how young women can get a head start on a successful career in the field. We also asked May what advice she would give tech companies on building diverse teams, and how they can be more intentional about implementing inclusive hiring practices.

Here’s what May had to say.


Why does the cybersecurity gender gap exist?


In my opinion, there are three major reasons why there are fewer women in cybersecurity than there should be. First, there is a huge misunderstanding and misconception about the cybersecurity field, and this leads women to shy away from it. Second, there is a lack of understanding of the variety of roles within cyber, which I will speak to a little later. Lastly, when reviewing job roles, women are generally less likely than men to apply for jobs where they don’t meet every single qualification on a job description – making the number of women in an applicant pool even smaller.


How do we address this gap? What can we do to fix it?


I have a few suggestions, and RBC is already working to address all of them. The first thing we can do to address this issue is create programs that are specifically catered to women.

Another thing we can do to address the gap is to invite more successful women role models to share their journeys on speaking panels and events. This allows younger women in the audience to envision themselves in a similar leadership position and reassures them that they too can be successful in the field. Further to that, it’s important the outreach to young women is there so that they are aware of these events and opportunities in the first place.

We need to be sharing more information about the variety of roles in Cybersecurity. The more that women know about available roles, the more likely they may see themselves in a role.

For the young women-identifying innovators who might be interested in exploring a career in cybersecurity but aren’t sure what their options are, what could a career path in this field look like?


There are so many different paths to take!

On one hand, some career paths may take a more technical route. But on the other hand, some Cyber roles require no technical skills. Effective cybersecurity is about more than the technology alone. We need people in cybersecurity that have a thorough understanding of human behaviour and can take a psychological approach to reducing cyber risk.

There are also roles that are involved in the marketing, education and awareness around cyber, and these roles may require little to no technical skills. These roles might require some domain knowledge, but it’s more important the individual has a marketing or communications background than cyber.

Finally, many roles fall in the middle of this spectrum, including project management, business analysis, quality assurance – every cyber organization needs these roles, and these skills can be transferable from other fields in tech. As long as you have the passion for cybersecurity space, you will likely find a role that’s right for you!


How can young women get involved in cybersecurity early?


There are plenty of initiatives that allow youth to have fun as they learn about cybersecurity. CanHack, the initiative we host in partnership with the DMZ, is a great way for young women to get involved early. It’s a fun challenge that helps participants think critically and use problem-solving skills. Hackergal is another great organization that has opportunities designed especially for girls.

There are also lots of business associations catered to women in cyber that you can get involved with, such as Women in Cybersecurity. Leading Cyber Ladies is another one to check out. Take a look at LinkedIn, there are always events going on related to the industry.

The good thing about the days we’re living in now with virtual events is that you’re not restricted to attending events just in your local area. The world has become much more global, and in a way, it’s opened up more doors!

What advice do you have for tech companies that want to adopt more inclusive practices?


Study after study shows that diverse and inclusive teams are more successful. When it comes to diversity, we shouldn’t focus solely on gender diversity. We should look at all diverse talent, whether it’s gender-based, culture-based, age-based, or experience-based.

The advice I would give to companies would be to set certain goals related to diversity and inclusion. Be mindful of what you want to achieve. Declare diversity and inclusion in your performance targets and make sure you track it and measure it on a consistent basis. Diversity and inclusion have to be prioritized.

It’s important to have diversity and inclusion measures within your hiring process. For example, at RBC we ensure that there is diversity in all teams and across all levels of the organization. Hiring managers must report on how many diverse candidates they interview and whether their chosen candidate was a diverse hire.

Beyond setting targets, it’s also important to make sure you have a culture that fosters diverse hiring. If you want to hire more Black, Indigenous, or People of Colour, you must include members of those communities in the recruitment process. This will allow job candidates to see that they have a place in your organization and feel more passionate and confident about the selection process.

How does your team at RBC take measures to address the gender gap issue that exists in the cybersecurity field?

The purpose of the Cybersecurity Strategic Partnerships and Innovation team is to be a major catalyst in growing and lifting cybersecurity talent, thought leadership and innovation in Canada. We do this by growing the cybersecurity talent pipeline, training programs, advocating for diversity and increasing diversity of available talent, increasing interest of future generations in cyber.

First, we’re addressing the cybersecurity gender gap through RBC’s internal recruitment processes. This is prioritized for all areas of the organization at the Executive Committee level. Our Senior Vice President of Cyber Security is a woman – Laurie Pezzente (who has won Canada’s Most Powerful Women – Top 100 award, among several other awards). Additionally, two of the four Executives reporting to our SVP are also women.

RBC is constantly being recognized for its diversity and inclusion initiatives. It’s not just cybersecurity, either – RBC is focused on promoting diversity in all fields.

We partner with organizations like Ryerson and the DMZ on initiatives such as the Cybersecure Policy exchange and CanHack. We’ve also built the RBC Women in Cyber stream within the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst.

This year, for CanHack 2021, we set specific targets to increase women’s representation.

Not only will CanHack be offered to Canadian students coast-to-coast, but CanHack 2021 will also be special in that DMZ will run women-only workshops on a number of cybersecurity topics to support women in STEM, and work with organizations like Hackergal to inspire and recruit more female participants to the challenge.

Calling all Canadian high school teachers and community supervisors! Would you like to learn more about CanHack and other cybersecurity opportunities for women?  

Register here to learn more about the 2021 CanHack Challenge.

Join us for the Women in Cyber panel, hosted by CanHack & Hackergal on Wednesday, November 18 at 5:00pm. Register here.

 The panellists will share their experiences as women who are making an impact in the field and address how to collectively create better pathways for women in cybersecurity in Canada.  

Questions related to CanHack? Reach out to Naveed Tagari at

The difference a decade can make: DMZ turns 10


10 years, 477 startups, 4,142 jobs created, $916.4M raised and counting…

2020 marks a huge milestone for the DMZ. It’s a big anniversary – we’ve officially been around for a decade. We’ve transformed from a small student coworking space to a world-leading incubator-accelerator, and to celebrate this birthday we’re taking a trip down memory lane to reflect on the accomplishments, challenges and victories the DMZ has seen since our inception. Most importantly, we want to highlight the people who have pivotal roles in shaping what the DMZ is today. 

We’re giving away a Nespresso machine + more to celebrate 10 years!

Check out the DMZ Instagram to participate in our trivia and giveaways over the next two weeks. Starting on Wednesday, September 16, we’ll be giving away a brand new Nespresso Vertuo Coffee & Espresso Machine, exclusive DMZ swag and a copy of the #1 Bestselling book Good to Great by Jim Collins. Since you’re already reading this blog, you’ve got a head start – you may just find some trivia questions here! Follow us now to ensure you don’t miss a post.

DMZ’s biggest milestones over the last decade

year 2010 in block letters
The DMZ is born. 

A student founder from Soapbox pitched an idea to Sheldon Levy, Toronto Metropolitan University’s then-President. The student needed support in developing an idea for a new startup company and couldn’t find the help they needed on campus. Sheldon Levy saw the potential to create an innovative space for students to work on new business ideas, and together with co-founders Valerie Fox and Dr. Hossein Rahnama, the Digital Media Zone was born! 

year 2011 in block letters
Open for business. 

Within one year of opening, the DMZ had already garnered significant interest within the entrepreneur ecosystem. In 2011, the DMZ’s first Executive Director and Co-Founder, Valerie Fox, made a decision that would transform the Digital Media Zone: opening our doors to founders outside of the Ryerson community. As the number of founders joining the DMZ grew, the physical space grew with it and expanded two extra floors to accommodate incoming companies.

DMZ Co-Founder, Dr. Hossein Rahnama was the first to commercialize his research at the DMZ and founded Flybits – a startup that went on to become one of Canada’s top AI companies.

year 2012 in block letters
Royalty arrives at the DMZ. 

It’s true! In 2012, His Royal Highness Prince Charles paid a visit to the DMZ while on a Canadian tour. The Prince made his way through the DMZ’s offices at Yonge-Dundas square and student entrepreneurs were given the opportunity to showcase their companies, drawing the royal member’s attention to the talent and innovation being incubated at the DMZ.

In 2012, Carrie-Ann Bissonnette, Manager, helped build processes and rigger that shaped the foundation of the DMZ in its early days.

year 2013 in block letters
A new investment arm & visit from Justin Trudeau. 

As early-stage DMZ startups began transforming into high-growth companies, Toronto Metropolitan University launched Ryerson Futures Inc. (RFI), a for-profit investment arm and startup accelerator that could provide companies with seed financing to help them grow to significant value. This year, we announced RFI’s rebrand to DMZ Ventures.

In 2013, the DMZ received yet another high-profile visit. This time, it was Justin Trudeau that stopped by to get a tour of the newly-expanded, five-floor DMZ incubator during his federal Liberal leader election campaign that year.

year 2014 in block letters
Launch Zone opens. 

Now known as DMZ Sandbox, the former Launch Zone opened its doors in Ryerson’s brand new Student Learning Centre as an on-campus space to help students looking to explore the world of entrepreneurship. More than six years later, DMZ Sandbox continues to help the next generation of aspiring entrepreneurs turn their ideas into real businesses.

$63.1M capital raised by DMZ startups in 2014

year 2015 in block letters
New name, new leadership, new global title. 

2015 marked a turning point for the Digital Media Zone. Over five years, the technology being incubated at the DMZ shifted and the majority of startups were no longer considered to be within the digital media field. The Digital Media Zone announced an official rebrand to “DMZ”, signalling it had become sector-agnostic. 

In July 2015, the DMZ saw another big change – Abdullah Snobar took over the role of Executive Director.  From the start, Abdullah invested in rebuilding the DMZ so it offered more functional workspaces, better communal areas to host events and investor meetings, and home-like amenities to build a comfortable environment for founders spending long hours on their startups. Under Abdullah’s leadership, the DMZ began putting dedicated resources into expanding its program team. DMZ’s offerings expanded to include more hands-on coaching, vibrant community events, support with customer acquisition and giving startups better access to capital. Revamping the program structure and creating a “founders first” environment ultimately led the DMZ to earn the title of the top incubator in North America by UBI Global!

$68.2M capital raised by DMZ startups in 2015

year 2016 in block letters
The first Advisory Council. 

As the DMZ continued to evolve its growth strategy, its next big move involved launching the first Advisory Council in 2016. Formed to help build the strongest startup community in the world, the Council members would go on to promote the DMZ in the broader business community and advise the DMZ on matters such as strategic direction, international growth, fundraising, industry trends and more. To this day, our Advisory Council nurtures the DMZ’s connection with the business community.

$77.1M raised by DMZ startups in 2016

year 2017 in block letters
DMZ opens a leading growth accelerator. 

In 2017, the DMZ launched its very first accelerator cohort to help entrepreneurs innovate faster and achieve hypergrowth. Three years and 13 cohorts later, the DMZ’s most competitive program has received world recognition.

That year, DMZ also gave Canadian tech startups a new place to call home south of the border and opened a new office space in the heart of New York City’s financial district, making the DMZ the first Canadian university incubator to open an office in the U.S.

$168.6M raised by DMZ startups in 2017

year 2018 in block letters
#1 in the world. 

In 2018, UBI Global ranked The DMZ as the number one university-based incubator in the world. UBI Global is a leader in performance analysis of business incubators around the world. The Stockholm-based research organization looks at over 20 key performance indicators to determine rankings.

That’s not all for 2018! DMZ was given yet another prestigious title by Waterstone Human Capital and was named as one of Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures, affirming the DMZ’s core values as an organization: -‘equity over everything’, ‘founders first’ and ‘be great’.

$197.7M capital raised by DMZ startups in 2018

year 2019 in block letters
Game-changing programs and work culture. 

Last year marked another year with many firsts for the DMZ. In 2019, we launched two brand new programs that both took a customized, founders-first approach. The first, DMZYYZ, launched a two-week soft-landing program that gave elite international entrepreneurs a personalized ticket into the North American market, fueling business integration with other global markets. The second being the Black Innovation Fellowship – a first-of-its-kind initiative in Canada aimed at breaking down barriers Black founders face, helping them scale their companies to the next level.

$189.1M capital raised by DMZ startups in 2019

year 2020 in block letters
10 years, 477 startups, 4,142 jobs created, $916.4M raised in total.

Between a global health crisis and economic downtown, it’s no secret the last six months of this year have brought pain, heartbreak and struggle for many in our community. The business landscape, in many ways, has completely transformed – but as a result, we’ve found some powerful silver linings.

The DMZ community thrives off of building strong in-person connections, but moving to a virtual environment has opened new opportunities for our startups and programs. We’ve been able to connect more extensively with founders, partners, and opportunities around the world. Virtual programming has allowed us to expand our offering to international companies, and we’re now serving (and accepting applications from) startups worldwide.

In the last six months alone, we: transformed our programming to run our Incubator and Accelerator virtually, helped international companies integrate into the North American market through the DMZ YYZ program, launched the #HackTheCurve challenge, hosted government calls advocating for startup COVID-19 support, had several student entrepreneurs go through our Startup Certified and Basecamp programs, provided dedicated programming for Black entrepreneurs (Black Innovation Fellowship Pre-Incubator) and women-led startups (Women Founders Fast Track pilot), joined industry leaders to establish the Innovation Economy Council, launched DMZ Innisfil to drive innovation in rural Ontario, introduced new international programs (shh… stay tuned!) and announced DMZ Ventures – a move that allows us to offer a full spectrum of startup support at every stage – from business ideation to investment.

That’s just a quick snapshot of what we’ve got going on – it’s been a busy year, but we won’t stop here.

DMZ’s vision is to see a world powered by ambitious entrepreneurs. In these times, we pledge to do whatever it takes to help our tech startups push past barriers to growth and transform into world-class organizations. 

Thank you to everyone who’s helped the DMZ become what it is today – the late Raymond Chang, Valerie Fox, Dr. Hossein Rahnama, Sheldon Levy, and Mohamed Lachemi, current President and Vice-Chancellor of Toronto Metropolitan University, just to name a few. An immense thank you to all of our incredible startup founders and their teams, all of our coaches, advisors, partners, and staff – cheers to the next decade of building great Canadian tech companies.

We can’t wait to see what the next 10 years hold.


Are you a startup founder interested in learning more about DMZ’s programs? Reach out at!


CanHack: Why young innovators should consider a future in cybersecurity

COVID-19 and the talent shortage in cybersecurity skills

If changes in technology, growing risks of data overload, and increased usage of Cloud platforms have not already overwhelmed organizations’ IT and cybersecurity teams, they certainly will now. 

COVID-19 has forced a large portion of Canadian employers, from government departments to private sector companies, to make a sudden switch to a remote working model (and for some, a permanent switch). The transition to operating in a remote format has brought about new implications for how organizations will maintain cyber safety since employees are now working in absence of companies’ usual security measures (firewalls, safe IT systems, etc.)

Furthermore, it has highlighted the greater need for more cybersecurity skills in the workforce. Talent shortages have long existed in the cybersecurity landscape, and we can only expect these skills gaps to widen even further as the new reality of remote working sets in. 

CanHack 2019
Our solution: CanHack

At the DMZ, it’s our job to not only help startup founders accelerate their business growth but to also empower Canada’s next generation of innovators who aspire to make a real difference. We develop and execute initiatives like CanHack, our student cybersecurity competition organized in partnership with RBC, to promote cyber literacy and to also address digital skills gaps in the labour market.

DMZ is launching CanHack for a third year. Thanks to continued support from RBC, the program will continue to redefine how secondary education engages with cybersecurity skills and will introduce a brand new cohort of high school students to the challenge. As both partners leverage their strengths to break new ground together, the overarching goal will be to encourage more students to think about pursuing a future career in cybersecurity and computer science. This year, instead of the fall of 2020, the program will begin in Spring 2021 to give teachers more time to onboard their students. (continue reading for more details regarding the new 2021 program date).

How CanHack works

CanHack leverages PicoCTF technology, an online open-source computer security platform established by the Carnegie Mellon University Cylab Security & Privacy Institute. This game-based learning experience creates an interactive and engaging experience where students are tasked with addressing cybersecurity challenges faced by Canadian financial institutions.

The competition and program format allow young innovators to be immersed in a fun and stimulating environment where they gain critical computer security skills, work with experts in the cyber field and compete for cash prizes. Best of all? The program is completely virtual and no prior experience in cybersecurity is required to participate. 

CanHack’s accomplishments to date

Since launching in 2018, CanHack has already:

  • Helped over 4000 high school student participants gain valuable knowledge and experience in cybersecurity
  • Worked with 91 schools in 2019, and 76 schools in 2018
  • Distributed $6500 in competition cash prizes to students and $9500 to schools to help integrate more technology into student lives

CanHack 2019 winners of cybersecurity skills competition
What’s to come? CanHack 2021

As partners, DMZ and RBC have forged a number of firsts in the Toronto tech community over the course of this relationship. CanHack 2021 will be a natural next step for this partnership in empowering a stronger, more vibrant cybersecurity landscape within Canada.

“Cybersecurity has become a major and critical element for all organizations with the acceleration of cybercrime, and the evolving threat landscape.  Expansion of digital services driven by the challenges of COVID-19 and need for the mass enablement of a secure remote workforce, cyber skills have become a key resource to nurture and invest in,” said Matthew Tim, VP Cyber Technology Office at RBC. “By partnering with DMZ and sponsoring initiatives like CanHack, RBC is investing in the future of cybersecurity by encouraging greater participation and interest from the young adults in high schools across Canada. We would like to promote greater involvement and interest in cyber as a career to narrow the skills gap.”

In an effort to increase program accessibility Canada-wide (and plan around COVID-19), we’re taking CanHack virtual this year with all workshops and sessions available online for students and teachers to engage with. In coordination with proper health and safety guidelines, we anticipate running in-person and virtual info sessions and workshops in Fall 2020. The CanHack Challenge Launch Event for PicoCTF will then take place in March 2021.

Besides offering programming to students coast to coast, CanHack 2021 will also be special in that DMZ will run female-only workshops on a number of cybersecurity topics to support females in STEAM and work with organizations like Hackergal to inspire and recruit more female participants to the challenge.

Hear from CanHack participants

A student’s perspective

“CanHack 2019 was very enjoyable for me. I got to learn more about cybersecurity and the different specializations within it, and technology in general. The competition gave me a good chance to compete with my friends and it was actually fun to play the game, see the campus of Ryerson as well as the downtown area. During the cyber expo day, I learned a lot about other people’s experiences and why each company was partnered with the event. I learned that as companies move into a more digital world, they need a good cybersecurity foundation, especially since there is more and more criminal activity around the cybersecurity field. I also listened to a 16-year-old entrepreneur and how she is using technology to change the world. Overall, CanHack was a great program to play in and I hope they can continue to do what they do in the future!”

– High school student from Middlefield Collegiate Institute

An educator’s perspective

“For the last two years, Clarkson Secondary School has taken advantage of the amazing opportunity provided by the Ryerson DMZ and RBC to learn about computer securities. This program has become a mandatory component of the computer science courses for students in grades 10 and 11. Prior to taking part in this event, students in my classes would have had very minimal exposure to cybersecurity or even a linux shell; now students get a full two weeks where they are exposed to this content. There is no way that I would have been able to create anything close to the PicoCTF competition on my own, and it is only through the partnership with the Ryerson DMZ and RBC that Clarkson Secondary School students get this experience.

CanHack allows students to develop a set of skills that goes behind technical know-how: teamwork, collaboration and leadership skills. Additionally, students have become significantly more aware of the impact that cybersecurity has on their daily lives. While the obvious benefit is to students who will study computer science and computer engineering once they leave high school, even students who will major in social sciences are now looking at laws and ethics around computer technology and cybersecurity. I want to personally thank the Ryerson DMZ, RBC, and their sponsors for allowing the students at Clarkson Secondary School to take part in this event over the last two years. Students now come into my classes asking when the competition will start every September.”

– Matthew Arduini, Curriculum Head – Mathematics, Computer Science, and Business, Clarkson Secondary School

CanHack 2019 helping youth get cybersecurity skills
With RBC’s diverse support and DMZ’s relevant programming, combined with the growing demand to bolster digital literacy in cybersecurity among Canadian youth, CanHack 2021 will be positioned to be a top challenge in Canada.

For high school educators across Canada who are interested in bringing more cybersecurity education and opportunities for students into their schools, you can learn more about the format of the program by reaching out to us at

For high school students looking to gain knowledge and experience in the areas of cybersecurity and computer science, stay tuned for more information on CanHack 2021!

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

Cinchy helps healthcare and financial service industries accelerate response to COVID-19

DMZ alumnus, Cinchy, is using Data Fabric technology to help Canadian banking and healthcare sectors unlock IT efficiencies and address the immediate impacts of COVID-19

Congratulations to the company on their recent announcement of securing $10M in Series A funding to support growing demand for Data Fabric Technology!

Cinchy’s Data Fabric technology is being used to unlock efficiencies so that banks and healthcare providers can deploy real-time solutions with existing or even reduced IT budgets. How can the tech community and public sector work together to accelerate the delivery of new customer and employee solutions without compromising on data privacy? Keep reading to find out.

More applications mean more data silos

Today, there’s an app for everything – meaning there’s also a data silo for everything. Do you ever feel like your business is drowning in complexity? The proliferation of new applications poses huge problems for organizations of all kinds, across all sectors. As explained by Cinchy CEO, Dan DeMers, data integration can easily consume 50% or more of the delivery budget for new solutions. In an IT model where we are constantly doing this, data integration grows more and more complex over time, and this simply isn’t sustainable for organizations. It’s a waste of time and money.

How data should work

So, how does Cinchy’s technology solve this issue for organizations? Cinchy believes there is an inevitable future about how data should work, and it involves shifting to Data Fabric technology.

Cinchy is an enterprise-grade Data Collaboration platform that merges data management, data protection, and data governance capabilities under one umbrella. It is Data Fabric technology that delivers the data management layer, and it is used to connect data from apps, as well as new data created directly in the fabric, to form a sort of internet of data tables. One of the key benefits of this architecture is that it removes the need to make data copies (a.k.a. integrations) when launching new solutions. Instead, data is “linked”, and this process actually gets faster and more efficient as the fabric powers more solutions. Think of the Data Fabric as generating a network effect for IT delivery where more projects translate into faster and cheaper delivery, not rising costs and complexity.

Why has Data Fabric been gaining so much traction recently? The reason is that organizational leaders are being asked to deliver solutions faster than ever before without being given additional budget or headcount. Therefore, they have been searching to find technologies that increase both speed and efficiency while not putting data privacy and protection at risk. As you might guess, the list of software categories capable of delivering all of these outcomes is short; Data Fabric technology has quickly risen to the top of the list.

Connect, protect, collaborate

Society is moving to a future where data owners, whether individuals or businesses, will demand more control over how their data is used. With conventional approaches, data is effectively managed by making a lot of copies, and, once copied, full control is simply no longer possible. All this changes with Cinchy’s Data Fabric design, where data owners (whether employees, customers, or supply chain partners) are able to grant access permission to fellow fabric users to see, change, approve or delete their data. With no copies of data to chase and protect, these controls become universal in nature and can be set all the way down to a single cell of data.

For large, highly-regulated organizations, the fabric acts as the secure, real-time engine for the delivery of unlimited new solutions with embedded data protection. Again, this not only enables secure, cross-team collaborations but actually accelerates and improves the organization’s IT delivery process. That’s the way it should be.

COVID-19: making a difference across industries in the months to come

During this time, organizations need to meet the sudden demand from employees and customers for new solutions to their needs. In the new COVID-19 world, it’s important that organizations not only address these demands quickly but find ways to do so that are hyper-efficient. For Cinchy’s enterprise and public sector customers, their platform supports this incredible challenge and even provides a competitive advantage when business returns to a focus on growth.

Helping Canada’s financial sector do more with less

All areas of financial services heavily rely on data as a key asset in the delivery of their digital transformation strategies: from paperless banking and accelerated loan approvals to remote staff management and increased service personalization.

There is now more data, and more types of data, than ever – making it more difficult to manage. This is where Data Fabric technology will play a key role in helping the financial sector respond quickly to new demands from customers and employees alike. Banks will need to harness data in the most effective way possible to accelerate the delivery of new solutions for remote workers, secure office spaces, and the and fully-digitized customer experiences. Canadian banks can leverage Cinchy and reap the benefits of its Data Fabric design to achieve data centricity and accurate data extraction for successful decision-making. Data Fabric will be the answer to helping the economy bounce back.

Powering secure, real-time healthcare solutions

The ongoing healthcare crisis raises important questions about the use of personally identifying information (PII). For example, should citizen GPS and Bluetooth location data be used to help augment contact tracers in their incredibly important work to track viral transmission and reduce spread? How can the technology community and public sector work together to respond to the current situation and help society be more proactive when addressing future outbreaks?

COVID-19 has highlighted the need for public health agencies to move beyond legacy data management systems based on Data Sharing/Data Integration and explore new approaches such as Data Fabric technology that improve data protection and IT solutions delivery. These new approaches will support the rapid delivery of large scale solutions ranging from augmented contact tracing to intelligent PPE inventory management, front-line worker support, and secure vaccine research collaborations.

Click image to see expanded infographic.

Cinchy’s Healthcare Data Command Centre solution uses Data Collaboration and Data Fabric technologies to help healthcare providers leverage data from sources like legacy healthcare systems, hospital apps and databases, mobile phone apps, laboratory research, third party PPE inventory systems and more. By drawing this data into a central, secure Command Centre where owners retain full control of how their data is used, public health agencies can quickly develop the data models required to deploy the real-time solutions that are so urgently needed in order to address the crisis.

Cinchy believes that it is imperative that public and private stakeholders join forces in order to take advantage of connected Data Fabric design – a made-in-Canada innovation that can be used to help address a global problem without compromising on data privacy or data protection.

Interested in learning how your organization can benefit from Cinchy’s platform? Reach out to the Cinchy team and book a demo here.

How PocketHealth is fueling healthcare innovation, attracting investment and scaling company growth despite COVID-19

PocketHealth’s patient-centric product introduces a new way of thinking in healthcare and has been instrumental in keeping hospital departments afloat during the current COVID-19 crisis.

The company recently announced a $9.2M raise in funding – while it seems hard to believe a startup could be pursuing growth and attracting investment in this environment, PocketHealth isn’t at all surprised that demand has skyrocketed.

Healthcare institutions have traditionally been slow to embrace innovation. However, Rishi Nayyar, Co-Founder & CEO of PocketHealth, explains that many have had no choice but to adopt new technology in hopes of relieving burdens on resources.

PocketHeath has completely modernized how sensitive medical imaging is shared between hospitals, imaging clinics, doctors and patients. The platform has stopped patients from making unnecessary hospital trips and being exposed to potential risk, and given institutions more resources to deal with COVID-19 screening and other related activities.

We caught up with Rishi to pass along our congratulations on the company’s raise and to learn what’s next in store for the company given the news – which includes big plans to scale.

Check out our Q&A with Rishi below.

Tell us about how you and your brother co-founded this business together.

The idea for PocketHealth began with a simple experience that my brother, Harsh, had while he was working in the Bay Area in Silicon Valley. He was playing tennis and sprained his ankle quite badly. He was required to get an MRI and an X-ray, and when he was done with that MRI, he was handed two CD-ROMs.

The thought of receiving CDs back then, which was in the mid-2010s, was quite absurd – especially considering the work he was doing in the Valley. At that time, he was an early engineer at a startup that eventually got acquired by Google. He was working on app virtualization: streaming large quantities of data to mobile devices all around the world, gigabytes of data. Meanwhile, in healthcare, hospitals and imaging centres had these small image files being placed on a CD-ROM to give to a patient. This patient was, by definition, sick. They’d have to come to the hospital, pick up the CD-ROM and then drop it off at their doctor’s office to continue their care. Harsh thought, why is this a primary way that imaging records are released? That’s something that stuck with him. He called me and said, “Look, this is a problem and we can build the tech to solve it.”

Time passed. The startup he was working at got acquired by Google. He eventually left Google and I left my job where I was working in banking. We saw an opportunity to create a cloud platform that would completely change the healthcare industry, and that’s when we started PocketHealth.

Can you tell us more about PocketHealth’s product?

PocketHealth is a cloud platform that allows hospitals and imaging clinics to share imaging records virtually with patients, physicians, and other hospitals and clinics. From the patient’s perspective, PocketHealth allows them to access and control their medical imaging records in the palm of their hand, in full diagnostic quality, and then share it with any physician in the world – instantly.

What has PocketHealth’s journey looked like since graduating in 2018?

The DMZ helped us ensure we had the systems in place to grow responsibly. We were surrounded by companies at the same stage of growth, and we were able to learn from these companies and the mentors. When we hit hyper-growth upon graduating, we were prepared.

We grew our product scope, significantly enabling hospitals to not just share with patients, but to also receive imaging inwards. Those products made a great impact in the market. It allowed us to grow our client base significantly – to the scale we’re at today.

In the early days of this pandemic, did you have any worry that it could negatively affect your company?

No, we knew from the beginning, especially working in health care, that COVID-19 would dramatically increase demand for PocketHealth. Burning CDs was no longer an option. COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the need for hospitals and clinics to modernize the way they share medical imaging. There are still patients who need imaging, who need to undergo diagnosis, who need treatment, and they require a copy of their exam to further their care. However, requiring patients to come on-site to pick up a CD is just not possible anymore.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic increased the demand for a product like PocketHealth?

We’re having Directors of medical imaging and CEOs of hospitals calling us saying, “We needed this yesterday”. We’ve increased the number of sites deploying on our platform by over 300 percent monthly as imaging clinics and hospitals across North America grapple with this problem.

We’ve been advantaged: one, we have a product that is extremely strong in the market and is patient-centric, and two, we’re built for rapid deployment. We’ve been able to go live at a hospital in days or even hours. From an I.T. perspective, it’s unheard of – to completely switch how you perform a job function or a data-release function in such a short amount of time.

It was recently announced that PocketHealth secured $6.5 million USD ($9.2 million CAD) in funding. What does this first round of funding mean for the company?

This capital will allow us to scale our team significantly. We are hiring across all teams: customer success, sales, marketing and engineering. We’re hiring a mission-driven team to achieve our expansion goals. We want to reach out to the millions of patients that we haven’t touched yet, as well as thousands of hospitals and clinics where we aren’t deployed yet.

What does the future look like for PocketHealth? What are the company’s next milestones?

We’re trying to attract top talent in all of our roles who care about the problem that we’re trying to solve. We know that we have a platform that is unique in the market, that has this amazing ability to resonate with patients and with the providers. We’re driven to expand PocketHealth beyond the scope where it already is. We’ve been able to get this far as a mission-driven, but bootstrapped, company. We’re excited to see what the next phase brings. We think it will bring more patient centricity, more patients who are empowered and involved in their care, and hospital departments that aren’t burdened with the inefficiencies of slow and outdated imaging release systems.

We have some exciting deployments outside of our traditional geographic markets that will be announced soon. This is definitely a global issue. We know that patients’ desires to be in touch with what’s going on in their bodies are universal. It transcends geographic and political boundaries. The product and infrastructure we’ve built it on is designed to scale globally very quickly.

What advice would you have for founders who are riding out the current pandemic?

Focus on the fundamentals. If you’re around right now, there is some value to your product. In bull markets, there can be a tendency to run a lot of experiments and expand your scope beyond your typical value proposition, but I would advise you to get to the basics. Think about why people purchase your product. How does it make them feel? How does it change their lives? Double down on that. That’s where you’re going to get the highest return. Look inwardly and create a focal point for your team to work towards. That will give you the best shot of weathering this storm ahead.

If you have the skillset to help PocketHealth advance their mission, they want to hear from you! Take a look at PocketHealth’s website to learn about the benefits of working for this high-growth company and the current job openings available.

Questions? Let us know at

Will Koffel Talks About How to Make Difficult Tech Decisions at Your Startup

On October 4, 2019, Will Koffel will take to the stage as keynote speaker of this month’s First Fridays, presented by Google for Startups in partnership with the DMZ.

As Google Cloud’s Head of Startup Ecosystem for the America’s, Will Koffel has been leading technology-focused startup teams for over 20 years. His keynote talk will be focused on the topic “Making Tech Decisions”. In advance of the event, we sat down with Will to ask him some questions.

DMZ: Will, can you tell us a bit about your professional background and how you became involved in the startup ecosystem?

Will Koffel: I’ve been deeply embedded in the startup ecosystem my whole career. While completing my Computer Science studies at MIT in 1998, I joined the founding engineering team at Akamai Technologies, experiencing the original dot-com boom (and bust!) from a front-row seat. I’ve been a 6-time serial CTO and startup founder since, and I’ve worked with hundreds of startups as an advisor, investor, mentor, and consultant. My most recent startup, Qwiklabs, was acquired by Google Cloud in 2016. I was then presented with the unique opportunity to work at Google and help build and support the startup ecosystem I’ve been passionate about for 20 years.

DMZ: In your leadership role at Google, what are you currently focused on achieving or advancing?

Will Koffel: We believe that Google Cloud offers the best suite of infrastructure and services for most early-stage startups. We’re focused on raising awareness of Google Cloud and its unique offerings for early-stage startups (like superior developer experience, DevOps with Kubernetes, BigQuery and other data tools, Firebase mobile, and top ML/AI solutions).

One of the key ways we do this is by partnering with accelerators and incubators like Ryerson DMZ, who refer startups directly into our program, pre-approved for up to $100,000 in Google Cloud credits to start building.

We’re also committed to working with startups to remove barriers they may face by providing technical expertise, community networking events, introductions to other teams at Google, and by increasing their visibility in the ecosystem. First Fridays is a great example of this.

DMZ: What are the most important challenges and opportunities facing startups today, especially when it comes to agile product development and technology decisions?

Will Koffel: Many of the challenges that startups face haven’t changed since I was getting started in the 90s, like how to hire great talent, how to close that first critical enterprise customer deal, and how to decide where to focus limited resources in a seemingly endless backlog of feature requests. Each of those topics warrants a separate interview of its own!

When it comes to selecting technology, startups face a wide assortment of choices. They are trying to choose from among the many open-source tools, the landscape of inexpensive and polished API-first services, and from multiple great choices for fully-managed public cloud infrastructure and advanced machine learning/AI solutions.

The biggest challenge for early-stage startups is uncovering the best practices for how all these tech puzzle pieces fit together. Deciding where to adopt cutting-edge tech, and where to anchor on tried-and-true approaches has never been more difficult. The tech choices many startups make today represent a bet they’re placing on the future of their product and business agility, so getting good advice from a tech lead, their community, and their vendors is paramount.

DMZ: What can attendees expect to learn during your First Friday keynote talk, “Making Tech Decisions”?

Will Koffel: I’m so fortunate to work in ecosystems all over the world, and Toronto is one of my favourites, where we see great engineering expertise, plenty of investor attention, and emerging companies creating real value. We’ll be digging into some of my favourite themes and practical advice, including Developer happiness, offloading the undifferentiated heavy lifting, opportunity-driven development, and maintaining technical optionality for the future.

We’ll also discuss anything that attendees want to explore! There’s plenty of time for Q&A, which is always the best way to surface the shared issues that are top of mind for startup founders and tech leaders.


First Fridays Canada is presented by Google for Startups. Visit the website for more information and to sign up:

About Will Koffel:

Will has been leading technology-focused startup teams for over 20 years, as a serial venture-backed CTO, founder, and application developer. In addition to his operating roles, Will has served as an advisor, consultant and mentor-in-residence for many Boston area startups. He joined Google in 2016 by way of a startup acquisition, and is honoring his startup roots by bringing the best Google Cloud solutions to great early-stage companies. Will received B.S. degrees in Computer Science and Music Composition from MIT. He lives with his family in greater Boston.

Three takeaways from our newest program, DMZYYZ

The DMZ is giving international entrepreneurs a chance to experience Toronto’s growing tech ecosystem with the launch of our newest venture, DMZYYZ.

The two-week intensive soft-landing program aims to help growth stage startups integrate within the Canadian ecosystem.

Last week, we wrapped our first cohort comprised of nine companies from seven countries. Visiting entrepreneurs flew in from Lebanon, Hungary, Chile, Jamaica, Norway, Brazil and Uruguay.

A day within the first week of DMZYYZ consists of intensive-programming, back-to-back workshops and desk time to debrief about the information you’ve consumed.

In the second week, participants get VIP access to a world-class tech conference. This cohort gained access to Collision, the largest and fastest-growing North American tech conference. Their participation resulted in locking in 20+ potential customers, hiring talent from Toronto, and pitching to global partners.

Here are the top takeaways from the startups’ time at the DMZ.

Challenge your assumptions

“A lot of my presumptions about product changed significantly after being a part of this program. Defining the right MVP is important to gain quality customer retention, and the entrepreneurs-in-residence at the DMZ helped refine that,” reflects Hussein Salman, Founder of FindANurse, a Lebanese startup aiming to change the face of caregiving within the MENA region. “As a reputable university-backed accelerator with a large community, being part of this program has given me the confidence to now build necessary relationships with potential investors.”

Make meaningful connections

The DMZ is a place that is filled with opportunity – be it from workshops to investor meetings and connections to serial entrepreneurs. “The calibre of network within the DMZ community is huge. The amount of knowledge transfer that happens within the conversations you have is close to none.” Zoltan Czikos, Co-Founder of Hungarian-based startup, Neticle says. The startup aims to boost business decisions with automated text-analysis.

Create global impact

Through worldwide perspectives during the DMZYYZ program, companies were able to learn more with a growth mindset and feel empowered. “We built something on a small island and were looking for the feedback that we got at the DMZ. The thing that stuck out to me the most is that you can make a global impact no matter where you’re from. The ability to bring a fresh perspective to highly regarded individuals within Canada, empowers me as an individual as well.” Conrad Mathison from It’s Pixel Perfect, a Jamaican based startup, aimed at helping brands stand out in the digital space through creative content.

Applications for our second cohort of DMZYYZ are now open. Apply here.

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