"The new Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation Centre will allow Trent students to have access to community resources on campus that will both bring awareness to entrepreneurship opportunities as well as implement skills training,” adds John Knight, Manager, Research Partnerships, Trent University.
Since opening in 2016, VentureNorth (270 George St. N.) has emerged as one of the most important buildings—”spaces” is perhaps a better word to describe it—in Peterborough, standing tall in the heart of downtown and symbolizing the city’s path as an innovative, entrepreneurial destination to encourage startups and existing businesses to grow and thrive.
Housing the likes of Innovation Cluster, Peterborough Economic Development, JA Peterborough, Community Futures Eastern Ontario, Peterborough & The Kawarthas Tourism and now Community Futures Peterborough, the VentureNorth hub has become a gateway to growth and networking for multiple startups and entrepreneurs, and those visiting or considering relocating to Peterborough. Not to mention it’s just a stone’s throw away from the business-growth, community-minded DBIA and Peterborough Chamber offices.
“We have been very excited about the success of the hub,” VentureNorth Co-Founder Paul Bennett tells PTBOCanada. “Now, Peterborough has a true one door location to start/expand/help a business grow and succeed. What we have seen in the last couple years has been amazing. The success of the Innovation Cluster, PED and JA has been inspiring. With Community Futures joining EOCFDC as part of the VentureNorth team, the sky is the limit for the future of entrepreneurship in our great community.”
The hub—which overlooks both the downtown and Otonabee River—took inspiration from similar successful models in Waterloo (Communitech), Toronto (DMZ) and Oshawa (Spark). But it has now forged a unique identify itself, fuelling an ecosystem of local leaders and innovators with its own “all-inclusive” ethos of offerings and organizations—a concierge service, if you will, to experts with a wide range of subject experise in various areas with a want to help you succeed.
”When the concept of VentureNorth was first envisioned, the goal was to bring all these great organizations together to help entrepreneurs and showcase the competitive advantage that we believe Peterborough has—the people and the place,” Bennett tells PTBOCanada. “We have an overwhelming supportive community and a way of life that is truly second to none. Once people are able to experience living and working in this great community, the roots get planted very quickly.
Indeed, collaboration has been a key ingredient in building momentum in Peterborough for forward thinkers and progress. Breaking down silos (something that can prevent you from thinking outside the box, excecuting on ideas, and just getting stuff done) has shed the barriers to growth, innovation and beta testing.
Growth can be accelerated here as Peterborough—with all the amenities of a big city but a small town feel—is primed to become an entrepreneurial region. It has great support partners at the hub and beyond, and Trent University and Fleming College are absolutely key ingredients and partners in training students and talent, many of which will stay here (retention is key) and become entrepreneurs and leaders.
The concept of VentureNorth from the get-go was to create an ecosystem where entrepreneurs and business people can connect and work alongside each other in open concept spaces to drive success and thrive. Startups and organizations can grow and succeed when they work side-by-side—learn from each other, motivate each other, push each other.
That is happening at VentureNorth, and indeed this hub—itself a startup still in its infancy—has been so successful that it is encountering a problem many startups face: running out of space. “Our struggle moving forward is that we don’t have any more space to offer,” Bennett tells PTBOCanada. “We have had many private businesses (local and from outside town) show interest in being part of this exciting ecosystem, but we don’t have anything to offer them.”
In response to this, the VentureNorth founders have begun planning a second phase to their vision for the building (see renderings above and below), which would bring much needed expanded space along with further aesthetic exterior and interior upgrades to a hub that has a contemporary design and feel.
“The idea would be to extend the same overall concept that was started with VentureNorth but expand to include some exciting private businesses and a banking partner,” Bennett tells PTBOCanada. “Much the way that Communitech in Waterloo expanded, we want to see VentureNorth expand and bring a great deal of life to our business sector downtown. This will hopefully spur more residential demand and supply in our core to see a new level of vibrancy in our downtown.”
These are exciting times for VentureNorth, which is helping put Peterborough on the map right up there with other Canadian cities like Waterloo that have fully embraced the innovation and tech economy. They are willing to play the long game to execute on their vision for building our innovation economy.
To further engage the community about VentureNorth and its promising future, there will be an Open House and Christmas Party on December 4th that the public is welcome to attend, where they can check out the building and see some of the exciting new businesses showcased in the Innovation Cluster showcase. More details will be coming on that soon.
Many of us can work from anywhere nowadays, laptop and cellphone in hand. As with most freedoms, sometimes the flexibility of contemporary work can leave us craving structure and community. While working at home or in a coffee shop can be a delight, other times it is fraught with distractions. That was the experience of Janet Howse, winner of the 2013 Bear’s Lair and owner of The Work of Art, a start-up that markets adaptable art products for people with dementia and their caregivers.
Howse joined Hatch Ptbo, a new coworking space located in St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church (120 Murray St.). “Being a small independent start-up can be a lonely business," she says. "I tried working at home but the pull of my domestic life and lack of human interaction impaired my focus. I came to Hatch in June of 2013 to try it out. I have been here nearly full time ever since. Being a one woman show, I have really benefitted from sharing resources and skills. The space is beautiful, full of light with soaring ceilings. I feel good every time I walk through the door.”
Inspired by the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto, Hatch Ptbo is the grassroots creation of many local community builders. Opening its doors on May 31, 2013, Hatch Ptbo is an architectural beauty—a professional office filled with natural light, and a warm and welcoming space. Now a COIN social enterprise, it strives to be a dynamic entrepreneurial community which exists to promote creativity and innovation for the benefit of the community of Peterborough.
The office space is run on a membership basis with various options. Some members keep a permanent nine to five schedule, while others drop in on nights and weekends to enjoy a productive space. Office sizes also vary, with some members taking over entire rooms, and others simply using a desk and a chair; meeting rooms, lounge area, and kitchen are shared. All memberships include access to Wi-Fi, meeting rooms, kitchen, office equipment, and best of all, coworkers.
Current members include for-profit start-ups, small non-profit organizations, and freelancers who do everything from programming, graphic design, and cartography to book writing and organic farming inspections. Jo-Anne Green, Employment Development Officer, is the sole staff member running the Peterborough office of Kagita Mikam, an Aboriginal training and employment non-profit: “I really like the open concept space because I like the commotion of people around me and the chance to network and bounce ideas off others," she says. Previously, Green felt isolated in a rented basement office.
For home-based businesses, budding entrepreneurs starting out, or non-profits with short term projects but no more desk space, Hatch Ptbo is a smart option. Its flexible memberships are affordable and low commitment. Shared space is not just about economizing and maximizing space, but also about becoming part of an inspiring community that allows you to function at a higher level.
The video streaming service Netflix has announced Super HD, which will bring 1080p video to subscribers. They have updated their "Open Connect" delivery service to allow internet providers even higher content than previously available.
To see the higher quality content, you will need...
- an internet service with 5 Mb/s download
- one of the supported devices (Netflix Super HD will be available on PS3, Wii U, Windows 8, Roku, Apple TVs, with 1080p, and select smart TVs and Blu-Ray players with more devices coming soon)
- A compatible internet provider
Netflix offers internet providers a "caching applicance" to allow quick streaming, however not all providers currently have one. Cogeco here in Peterborough offers Super HD. Check with Netflix's Super HD webpage to see if the service is available to you and let us know in the comments section if Bell and Nexicom offer it as well.
This looks to have been announced just in time for the Netflix exclusive shows House of Cards with Kevin Spacey (February 1st), Eli Roth's Hemlock Grove (April 19th), and the return of Arrested Development (May). Not much content is available in Super HD just yet, but Netflix will be rolling it out over time.
You can sign up for a free one-month trial of Netflix. A regular monthly fee of $7.99 will apply after that.
[Contributed by PtboCanada's Evan Holt]