By Matt Gardner

The Groupnotes team isn’t originally from Waterloo. We didn’t grow up here; we didn’t go to school here; and we don’t have family here. If you had asked us what a “Zehrs” store was six months ago, all you would’ve had in response was a blank stare (and maybe a bit of drool). That said, I’m often asked why we brought the team to Waterloo Region and why we settled full time into a new Kitchener office after our time at the Communitech Hub ended, so I’m using this newfound fame as a guest writer to finally give the answer this question deserves.

Our team was invited into cohort 2 of Communitech’s HYPERDRIVE program with only half of us even seeing the city before moving here. We only got the chance to briefly scope out Waterloo before accepting and this leads me to the first benefit we noticed Waterloo provides – location (location, location)! Part of the culture here is something we were all used to: as a multi-college town, it provides access to the big, fancy brains that we’re all looking for in a first hire. As well, with the heavy tech influence, startup and tech culture are easily accessible, which is amazing when you’re settling in. Especially useful – every restaurant we’ve tried here has been found off foursquare, an app that seems to only flourish in Canadian tech towns. On that note, the independent restaurants and stores, amazing food, and fantastic events (the creator of Reddit still talks about Oktoberfest) definitely influenced our decision to relocate permanently!

Even ignoring the city itself, any startup here is equipped with a ridiculous arsenal of services, mentorship, and help. On our first full day at Communitech we were sold. Other cities in Ontario have their own startup ecosystems with their own strengths, but we found many to be scattered geographically or without as much a developed and dedicated network. What can be said is that there’s no definitive “best” for everyone, but Waterloo had exactly what we were looking for.

Nowhere else have we found over a decade of support, refinement, and love from the community. The mentor roster blew our minds; the Communitech staff were willing to move mountains for us (or to let us write blog posts!); and there’s further support from the Accelerator Centre as you grow. The lifecycle of a company is truly taken into account and respected here, and here we’ve always felt like we’re part of a massive startup family. We know that no one will ever throw us out on our butts, or chase us out with pitchforks, which is a great feeling to have.

This is an ecosystem that enabled us to meet with both Yahoo! and Sequoia Capital (big meetings!) in our first month in Waterloo. We had never, EVER seen anywhere with as much access to a solid network of successful entrepreneurs, angels, and big-name investors anywhere else in Canada, and once again we were floored. After our time in HYPERDRIVE we couldn’t think of anywhere to be other than Waterloo as we scaled our company. Everything about it just made sense to us, and as we geared up to move back home we found ourselves wondering why. In the end we just couldn’t do it. We couldn’t leave the people, the support, the friends we’d made, and the love that this city provides.

So, Waterloo, you did it. You took four guys from Burlington, Oakville, and a tiny town in PEI and you forced our hand. We’re stuck here, and now we’re your problem. Actions speak louder than words: we’ve quit jobs; we’ve dropped classes; and we’ve said goodbye to family and friends to move to this city. We’ve slept on living room floors next to each other for three months straight:

And it was worth it to be able to stay an extra two hours a day immersed in the best place we could ever think of to do our startup.

…Oh, and there’s usually free food. That’s really the only reason you need.

Matt Gardner is a co-founder of @Groupnotes and he really thinks you should sign up at Groupnotes.ca

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