The Past and the Future of Silicon Halton

One of the things I’ll be focusing on over the next couple of years is the growth of the technology industry in Halton region. When I founded Silicon Halton with Rick Stomphorst and Reema Duggal in 2009, I believed there were hundreds of technology entrepreneurs and companies in Burlington, Halton Hills, Milton and Oakville. And, that there were thousands if not tens of thousands of technology professionals that called Halton Region home. 

The challenge in 2009 was no one new this!! There was no catalyst to bring Halton based technology ventures and people in and interested in technology together. A catalyst that could, in part, mobilize people and motivate organizations to meet, learn from each other and grow. Grow their knowledge, networks and ventures (of all sizes). 

A catalyst that could evolve into a tech community and perhaps even become a cluster. 

While there were some amazing  leaders creating and building technology ventures and tons of technology professionals (and future tech stars) there wasn’t anyone that I could see that had the time to build the technology industry in and for the region. So, Rick, Reema and I decided to create grassroots technology community and we called it Silicon Halton. 

Meetup #1: The Most Important Meetup

So, we got to work on the Silicon Halton experiment! At that time “meetups” were the new thing. Instead of “events” people would self organize get togethers at coffee shops. 

Our first meetup took place at Williams Cafe in Oakville (now a restaurant). We used the LinkedIn meetups app (no longer available) with no idea whether anyone would register let alone attend. But, fifteen did and that was encouraging to say the least! 

Silicon Halton Meetup 1

Picture: Silicon Halton Meetup #1 2009.

I met some amazing technology professionals and entrepreneurs … some of which I’m honoured to say became clients of my agency and more importantly people I’m proud to know and to continually be in contact with. Meetup #1 was a success and it spurred us on to have a second one! I can only guess what would have happened if no one showed up… maybe SH would have never happened.

What Two Members Said

I think it was the third or fourth meetup that had significant impact on me as well. The focus of that meetup was to ask members what the future of Silicon Halton would look like. Two things stood out more than anything for me. The first was how collectively SH members could and should work together to “build our house” which is a great analogy for building our local technology industry. 

The second was making Halton Region a fertile ground for youth to develop their business and technology skills and remain here, or come back, to start technology ventures and their careers. 

Their Words Converted into Action

I’m gratified to see key people helping build our house particularly those that are leading our peer2peer groups.The Silicon Halton TU20 program has grown from one event five years ago to a range of events and engagement opportunities for youth in Halton. 

SH Leads

I’m encouraged by the support we’ve received, and given, to economic development teams at Town of Oakville, City of Burlington and Town of Milton.

Now What?

So, we’re ten years into this community experiment! The technology industry has changed both here in Halton and globally. 

In Halton, we’ve seen Geotab grow into the global leader in telematics. We’ve seen and welcomed Haltech, TechPlace and MEVIC to the ecosystem. Heck, we even took a crack at creating a Silicon Peel! 

Globally we’ve seen the mass market of technologies especially mobile devices, social network platforms and on the business side cloud based technologies. New emerging technologies, there are too many to list, represent opportunity for SH and our technology cluster. 

So, what’s next for Silicon Halton, me and you? That’s a great question! I’m giving this some thought this summer … but I know a key thing we all have to do is work together better and more often. 

I don’t know if it’s a Canadian thing or not, but we seem to go our separate ways and “do stuff”. There are attempts to “work together” but they start and stop with events about working together as opposed to well … actually working together! 

This needs to change and working together needs to become second nature. The future is collaborative work, collaborative partnerships and collaborative economic development and venture building. 

What do you think? What could be our next headline in the news? Contact me directly or join me in discussing this in our LinkedIn group.

SH Coverage 2011 Toronto Star

Other Engagement Options

I’ll be at numerous Silicon Halton events in August asking SH members for their thoughts and ideas. One such event our 25 Community Conversations events in partnership with Oakville Community Foundation. The theme of these conversations is what’s it take to “belong in Oakvile”. [More information | Sign up]

About Chris Herbert

Cofounder, Silicon Halton

Chris Herbert is a social entrepreneur. His current ventures are: Silicon Halton, Mi6 Agency and TechIgniters. He's a former squash professional and passionate about helping entrepreneurs, technology companies and professionals achieve success. He's a proud Canadian and plans to make Halton region the greatest place on the planet to live, work and play.

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