Ryerson, U of T, York startup launchpads ranked among top university business incubators, accelerators

​The DMZ at Ryerson University and the York Entrepreneurship Development Institute took the top spots in their categories in the 2018 rankings from Stockholm-based research and advisory firm UBI Global.

Rankings announced Friday by Stockholm-based research and advisory firm UBI Global

"As Canada, we're obviously doing something right," says Abdullah Snobar (middle), executive director of the DMZ at Ryerson University. (Ryerson University)

Toronto is proving to be a hot spot for boosting businesses, with three local incubators and accelerators now ranked among the world's top university-backed launchpads for startup companies.

​The DMZ at Ryerson University, known for supporting Canadian tech startups like marketing company #paid, credit education company Borrowell, and photography website 500PX, has been ranked the top university-managed tech incubator in the world, tying with an incubator from the U.K.

"[It's] a huge accomplishment not only for us and Toronto, but more importantly, for the country — for Canada — as a whole," said Abdullah Snobar, executive director of the DMZ.

"As Canada, we're obviously doing something right... this gives us a chance to get on the international stage," he added.

Another local business launchpad — University of Toronto Entrepreneurship — took fourth place in the rankings, which were announced in Toronto on Friday by Stockholm-based research and advisory firm UBI Global. 

The DMZ moved up from third place in the last ranking in 2015, and it was U of T's first time participating in the ranking program.

In the category of university-linked accelerators, the York Entrepreneurship Development Institute took the top spot, with three other Canadian accelerators rounding out the top four.

'They really helped us shape the business'

Since 2010, the DMZ — which was previously called the Digital Media Zone — has incubated roughly 300 startups that have raised close to $400 million and created more than 3,000 jobs.

Over the last few years, it opened an office in New York City, developed a sales accelerator program, and forged partnerships with banks and companies like Facebook to develop accelerator programs in digital news, financial technology and early market validation for women-led founders. 

Sam Seo largely credits the Ryerson incubator with the success of his tech startup Livegauge, launched in 2013, which provides sensors for marketing events so companies can measure the level of engagement from passerby. The company now has more than $1 million in annual sales.

"I had a business idea to launch, but not really a plan to commercialize the business," he said. "After we got into the DMZ for the first three years or so, they really helped us shape the business."

Analysis looked at funding raised, jobs created

For the rankings, UBI assessed hundreds of programs from more than 50 countries, looking at factors like funding raised by startups, the number of jobs created, and the survival rate of companies.

"By highlighting the impact and performance of these programs, we are not only helping incubators and accelerators to become more efficient, but we are also assisting government officials in developing their respective innovation ecosystems," said Ali Amin, UBI's CEO and co-founder, in a statement.

Canada was among the top five countries represented in the rankings, alongside the United States, Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia.