In six years, the DMZ has given over 25 entrepreneurs from around the world an opportunity to learn the ins-and-outs of the Toronto startup community. This past summer, three entrepreneurs from Ukraine and Poland got to join our growing roster of international fellow alums.
The two Ukrainian startups – Adtena and Navizor— were graduates from 1991, the first non-profit incubator in Ukraine. They were offered their fellowships by Marie Bountrogianni, Dean of the Chang School of Continuing Education, in partnership with the Western NIS Enterprise Fund. Tutlo, the Polish-based startup, was recommended by the Warsaw School of Economics, a renown business school that Ryerson has been building academic ties with.
Learn a bit more about our fellow startups below.
What made you decide to apply to the International Zone Fellowship Program?
Andriy: We became one of the winners of a competition at 1991, an incubator in Ukraine, which allowed us to apply for the fellowship program at the DMZ. I’m here for the first time and it’s actually a great opportunity for us to develop our startup for the North American market.
Damian: Our startup is based in Poland and one of the main challenges for many local startups is that we concentrate on our domestic market instead of focusing on the global market. Being a part of the DMZ gives us an opportunity to look at our business from a different angle and to begin thinking about expanding into new markets. There are a lot of experts, mentors and advisors who are able to give us unique advice.
How has your DMZ experience been so far? How has being here helped or influenced your business?
Andriy: It’s great. I made new connections, new friends. I believe it’s helping us develop our business plan and make partnerships – that’s why we’re here and I hope it will continue to be a great experience for us.
Oleksandr: It’s an amazing place. The DMZ is where you can make connections or meetings with any mentor you need and any company on the market. It’s amazing and it’s easy to reach anyone in executive positions I’ve conducted some research already and I’ve learned a lot.
Did you set foot on any tourist attractions in the city?
Andriy: Yes, I visited the Toronto Island with one of my friends from Ukraine. There’s a campsite on the island. So, we made a campfire, ate marshmallows and looked at the Toronto night sky. It was really great. I also visited Wonderland. I rode the crazy rollercoasters. It was pretty cool.
Damian: I prefer sightseeing on a bike so I rode my bike around downtown. I haven’t been to the CN tower… so I plan to go there.
Did you learn anything about Canada that you never knew before?
Andriy: I really do love the natural parts of the city, because downtown is very big, and very crowded. But when you go maybe half an hour from the city, it’s really different and there are a lot of beautiful places where you can just stay and relax. It’s a very beautiful country and I love it!
Oleksandr: It’s my first time in North America, so the first thing I learned is about the people. They’re so open to conversation anywhere, even in the street..
Damian: I really like that the people here are really positive and open-minded. I read that Toronto is a multicultural city, but I didn’t know it could be this multicultural. It’s great!