Success Stories

Kingston receives international recognition as start-up destination

Whether you are dealing in the “oil of the new economy”, helping power the vehicles of the future, or guiding Canadians in making better financial decisions, your business can find a home in Kingston.

But don’t take our word for it.

The recently issued 2020 Startup Blink Ecosystem Report placed Kingston in the top ten cities in Canada for start-ups. Kingston’s recent strong efforts in the entrepreneurship and innovation space propelled it to ninth in Canada for 2020, and firmly into the top 150 in the world. In fact, Kingston is the fourth best city in the world for cities with between 100,000 and 300,000 residents.

Of course, this is not news to the many small businesses that call Kingston home and who continue to invest in the city.

Douglas Stewart first moved to Kingston in 1984 to complete his education at Queen’s University and liked the city so much he stayed and started his entrepreneurial journey. Since that time, Stewart has been involved in multiple Kingston-based businesses, and he is currently the director of special projects and a co-founder with King’s Distributed Systems. 

“If you can succeed in creating a business where you can pay people well, they’re happy here in Kingston and the lifestyle is great,” he says. “Queen’s and Royal Military College provide a strong talent pipeline and attract a lot of bright people to town.”

Those “bright people”, including scientists, programmers, mathematicians, physicists, and epidemiologists are just some of the people making use of KDS’ distributed computing services. 

This cutting-edge technology allows anyone to contribute underutilized computer resources to a worldwide network of computing cores. These resources are then harnessed by researchers to tackle major questions that require a ton of computing power. For instance, KDS is part of the federal government’s digital technology supercluster project focused on supporting businesses as they return to work in the wake of COVID-19.

While KDS is helping to keep Canadian and international research moving, Li-Cycle is helping Canadians keep moving on the road. Li-Cycle, which is based in Mississauga but has research and development operations in Kingston, recovers more than 95 per cent of the materials found in lithium-ion batteries – the kind used in modern electric cars.

COVID-19 briefly put the brakes on their operation, but before the end of April the Li-Cycle team was hard at work upgrading their plant and had begun onboarding new hires remotely.

In the years since they set up shop in Kingston Li-Cycle has reached commercial scale, yet the Kingston ecosystem of knowledge, support, and facilities remain strategically important to the company. For example, Li-Cycle tapped into Kingston Process Metallurgy (KPM)’s KPM-Accelerate, Canada’s only chem-tech accelerator, which allowed them to move from concept to commercial operation within three years.

“A number of things came together when we decided to set up shop in Kingston, as it offered the right location, the right partners in GreenCentre Canada and KPM, and the right experience in mining and metallurgy,” Kunal Phalpher, Li-Cycle’s chief commercial officer, says. “As we continue to scale, the ecosystem continues to provide benefits to us.”

Li-Cycle isn’t the only GTA business taking advantage of Kingston’s location. 

Ratehub.ca, Canada’s most visited personal finance comparison website, began with a conversation between two Queen’s University classmates, Alyssa Furtado and James Laird, who realized many Canadians were not getting the best deal when signing up for a mortgage.

Furtado, a Kingston native, works mainly out of Toronto, but her brother Chris, the company’s chief technical officer, head up the Ratehub development team based in Kingston.

“We have sourced incredible talent from St. Lawrence College and Queen’s, including many talented, enthusiastic developers,” says Furtado.

With recent COVID-19-induced rate reductions, business on the mortgage side is booming for Ratehub. Their digital-first approach also means they were well equipped for the shift to virtual meetings taking place across many industries, though it has become more important than ever that Ratehub’s technology keeps pace.

To meet these challenges, the company has enjoyed the support of KEYS Job Centre – in addition to Kingston’s post-secondaries – in finding the right hires to meet its growing technology needs.

To view the Startup Blink Ecosystems Ranking Report 2020, visit report.startupblink.com.