New angel investor program targets up-and-coming Brampton companies

As Brampton prepares to welcome a new university campus and reshape its downtown core, the city has forged a new partnership to help new businesses connect to an international funding pool.
Brampton city hall, seen here from its garden. The city is launching a slate of programs to jump start entrepreneurship in the coming years. (City of Brampton)

As Brampton prepares to welcome a new university campus and reshape its downtown core, the city is making a major push to grow its startup and innovation industries.

The city has announced a partnership with Cross Border Angels and Experts (CBA) to create a new angel investor network tailored for up-and-coming businesses.

The program, called CBA Catalysts, promises to connect young entrepreneurs with international funding sources. Brampton is providing space for events, but it is not directly funding the program.

The goal is to build and retain innovative businesses in Brampton as the city embarks on an ambitious transformation plan.

"We're trying to lay down the foundation over the next few months and years," said Daniel Bishun, a business advisor with the city's entrepreneur centre. "These startups need investors, mentors and corporations to support this ecosystem."

Brampton is one of three cities around the world, along with A Coruna, Spain and Padua, Italy, to be selected for the program.

"They are small enough, but at the same time, the economic development activity in these cities is extremely dynamic," said CBA vice president Ashwin Sanzgiri, who also lives in Brampton.

"Everything is lined up," he said. "It's just about getting this off the ground as soon as possible."

Brampton resident and CBA vice president Ashwin Sanzgiri helped bring the program to the city. (LinkedIn)

Why Brampton?

While Brampton has lagged behind more traditional innovation hubs like Toronto and Waterloo, business owners say the city is now in a strong position to play catch up.

They say the city offers strong support programs for new businesses, and that the incoming Ryerson University-Sheridan College campus will provide an influx of highly educated young talent. Classes are scheduled to begin in 2022.

"When you go to a place and it's up and coming and new ideas are taking place, there's a lot more opportunities available," said Cliff Benson of VSETA, which provides wireless facility monitoring services.

Benson said Brampton also stands out because it offers local businesses opportunities to help shape the programs and services available to entrepreneurs.

Shaun Ghulam, founder of the web design and branding agency DMinded, opened his business in Brampton despite recommendations to move to Toronto or Vaughan. (LinkedIn)

Shaun Ghulam, founder of the web design and branding agency DMinded, said he chose Brampton despite recommendations from friends to set up shop in Toronto or Vaughan.

"It's not as competitive," he explained. "Businesses here support each other. Everyone understands what we're going through."

"I feel like I'm here at the right time to grow the business," he added.

A new image

Young entrepreneurs say the city's new initiatives may help the city alter its image, which can still be a deterrent to new business owners.

"Their first thought when they're starting something new is to go where the business is already booming, and that would be somewhere like Toronto or even Mississauga," said Ryan Brooks, founder of TDL Ltd., a recording studio and artist promotion firm.

"I think Brampton is kind of overlooked," he added.

Ryan Brooks, 25, said Brampton is beginning to catch up to neighbouring cities like Toronto and Mississauga. (Ryan Brooks)

Brooks, a 25-year-old Brampton native, founded his company in 2016. He says his peers have a desire to stay in Brampton to build their businesses, but need support and programs to succeed.

"If we can just get the things around us that we cannot create ourselves, which is the infrastructure, then the rest should be history," he said.

With a median age at just under 35, Brampton is the youngest city in the Greater Toronto Area.

More change on the way

As the Catalyst program begins connecting businesses to investors, Sanzgiri says the city will have the chance to develop into an international hub in several industries.

His group has identified four areas where Brampton is positioned to grow: advanced manufacturing; food and beverage; health sciences; and information and communications technology.

Along with the new angel investor program, the city has also committed $150 million in funding to the Ryerson-Sheridan campus and a new innovation centre to open in early 2019.

The city also has plans to develop a "massive new Brampton core" in addition to five new city centres which will feature lower rents and nearby housing by 2040.

"There's no way but up," added Denise McClure, Brampton's senior manager of economic development. "We are going to succeed at this."

About the Author

Nick Boisvert

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Nick Boisvert is a reporter and one-man band video journalist based in Toronto. He previously worked for the CBC in Vancouver, Windsor and Kitchener-Waterloo. When he’s not chasing politicians or driving to a crime scene, Nick enjoys cooking, comedy and following the NBA.