First stop on the innovation hub tour: TechAlliance
Innovation is thriving around Ontario and great companies are emerging all over the province. It occurred to me that I should go around the province (virtually) to look for examples of exemplary startups and to check out the forces behind their success. This post is the first of what will be a monthly series featuring the up-and-coming companies of MaRS’ partners across Ontario.
If you see the words startup, innovation, technology, entrepreneurship, talent, business, education, biotech, digital media, web, networking, economic development, partnerships and collaboration used all together to describe the background of a strong brand, you’re probably looking at TechAlliance of Southwestern Ontario, an organization that has brought all of these aspects together under one roof.
Technology has transformed London’s economy and TechAlliance has played a major role in fostering organic growth for London’s business community. Every single year, great companies start, grow and prosper in this region of Ontario. One company that stands out and is already competing internationally is Voices.com, a website that connects companies with voice-over talent.
Voices.com is an industry-leading website that connects businesses with professional voice-over talent. Companies looking for voices for commercials, educational institutions requiring voices for learning materials and entertainment producers searching for voices for movie trailers all rely upon the Voices.com marketplace to search for, audition and hire voice-over talent.
Voices.com was founded in 2003 by David Ciccarelli, a graduate of the Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology, and his partner Stephanie Ciccarelli, who holds a bachelor of musical arts from Western University’s Don Wright Faculty of Music.
Since 2003, Voices.com has moved up the ladder of success, winning numerous awards, including a 1to1 Impact Award, a CRM Elite Award and a New Voices Award from DigiFest, as well as being named one of Profit’s HOT 50, the magazine’s annual ranking of Canada’s emerging growth companies, in both 2009 and 2010. Additionally, Voices.com was mentioned in the New York Times article “The Do-It-Yourself Economy” by Thomas L. Friedman, the author of many influential books, including The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century.
Very recently, the Globe and Mail chose Voices.com as one of four semifinalists for their $100,000 Small Business Challenge Contest. The company also just won the 2012 London Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Award (Medium Category).
Newsflash: Voices.com co-founders David and Stephanie Ciccarelli are writing a book for the “For Dummies” franchise called Voice Acting for Dummies. Check it out!
Voices.com has been a member of TechAlliance since 2005. The company has grown year upon year and now provides mentorship services to other startups in the community. For example, MaRS used Voices.com as a success story in a video to inspire new entrepreneurs.
When asked about Voices.com, the TechAlliance team said proudly: “They are the perfect example of a client company that started as an idea, grew into a thriving and successful tech company in London, and now participates and gives back to the community as a TechAlliance member.”
So, what is it that TechAlliance does to help companies flourish?
As an Ontario Network of Excellence Regional Innovation Centre, TechAlliance fosters innovation and accelerates growth by providing advisory services, resources, programs and support infrastructure to the tech community in London and Southwestern Ontario. TechAlliance works with startups in the areas of digital media, information and communications technology, life sciences, advanced manufacturing, agri-tech and cleantech, while connecting and partnering with key business community entities to collaboratively boost the region’s economy.
As part of TechAlliance’s advisory services, a team of highly knowledgeable mentors with a wide range of industry and entrepreneurial experience helps startups with business planning, strategic decision-making and investor presentations.
When I connected with the TechAlliance team to get their thoughts, this is what they had to say:
“There are three key pillars we strive toward when working with all of our clients:
1) Helping them grow their idea into a successful business.
2) Encouraging them to stay local.
3) Seeing them through the transition into a supportive and active member of the tech community.”
TechAlliance runs amazing programs, including Entrepreneur 1.0, Founders and Funders, the 60-Second Pitch Competition, StartUp Camp and Entrepreneur’s Toolkit Workshops (via MaRS) to help startups take their businesses to the next level. I love their Breakfast Club, an initiative designed to promote professional development across sectors by utilizing the expertise and knowledge within the community.
TechAlliance also hosts a number of unique events to promote entrepreneurship, connect entrepreneurs with investors, encourage partnerships, foster innovation and also to celebrate success. I encourage everyone to check out a few of their featured events, including London Tech Week, Gearing Up For Growth and the Techcellence Awards.
As members of TechAlliance, entrepreneurs also get access to valuable educational resources from MaRS, such as the Entrepreneur’s Toolkit and Entrepreneurship 101 (through webcasts), as well as funding programs and market intelligence services to help build and grow their businesses.
I believe that if you want to know how well you’ve done your job, you should ask for feedback and comments. So I asked around and found out what the London community thinks about TechAlliance.
“TechAlliance is an excellent educational and networking source, but it has been most valuable as an avenue for London entrepreneurs to meet with other entrepreneurs to share and help grow our businesses.” – Ron Ford, president, AGiiLE Inc.
“We appreciate TechAlliance’s leadership in bringing together the Regional Alliance through which our organizations have developed a strong and active partnership.” – Bob Civak, senior vice-president of business development operations, Ontario Centres of Excellence
The team at Voices.com acknowledges and appreciates TechAlliance’s support and mentorship, and encourages other startups in the area to sign up. Here’s what David Ciccarelli, CEO and co-founder of Voices.com had to say about TechAlliance:
“Having been on both sides of the fence – both being mentored and providing mentorship – I heartily recommend TechAlliance to help you get your business off the ground.”
There are many more amazing companies and innovative ideas out there in the region of London that are being mentored and fostered, and that are getting ready to create jobs, grow the economy and compete worldwide. Let’s all congratulate and support them in every way we can!
Vijender is the Manager of Online Content at MaRS. He helps entrepreneurs get the online resources they need to grow their companies by project managing and marketing the Entrepreneur's Toolkit. See more…