Ever wonder what goes on at the Communitech Hub? Beyond the infamous red slide, the bottomless coffee and the history within the Tannery building in downtown Kitchener, is a tech ecosystem bursting with innovation.

Over 260 people attended the Communitech Hub Open House on May 28, where the hub was the scene for tours, food, music and community spirit. Members of the public had an opportunity to learn about the stories, the connections and the journeys to success for founders who’ve walked through its doors.

An attendee taking the slide down

“It’s really phenomenal. There’s a lot of colour,” said Harsh Pandya, a Kitchener-based accounting professional who came out to the hub to explore new options for office space. “There are a lot of collaborative workspaces but I also see certain spaces where I can just focus and power through some of my work.”

Communitech has been rooted in Waterloo Region since 1997. Over the past 27 years, the world has seen remarkable technological advancements – from the advent of smartphones to the rise of social media and emergence of artificial intelligence (AI). During these changing times, Waterloo Region has stood as a focal point for innovation, serving as a launching pad for visionary entrepreneurs.

“We’re proud to be a part of the fabric of this amazing community, now the fastest growing in Canada,” said Chris Albinson, President and CEO of Communitech. “We’re going to keep putting Waterloo Region on the map as the best place on the planet to build a family, a company and a community.”

A tour guide leading attendees through the Hub space

Communitech is eager to welcome more founders to the community and keep the momentum going. Statistics Canada recently released an annual report on population estimates, which spotlights Waterloo Region as one of the fastest growing regions in Canada.

“As we look forward to being one-million ready, because we know that our population continues to grow, it will be standing on the track record and the vision and building on what has made Comunitech so important to Waterloo Region,” said Region of Waterloo Chair Karen Redman at the Communitech Hub Open House.

While the world has seen many changes in tech over the years, Communitech says its mission remains the same: to help founders start, grow and succeed. At the open house, Communitech’s leadership team was also on hand to share details of its three-year strategy. The refreshed vision highlights its plan to help build an ecosystem regionally, provincially and nationally – rooted in Waterloo Region – that will provide prime opportunities for founders to succeed.

A tour group listening to a tour

"Our superpower is the ability to connect, convene and catalyze," said Joel Semeniuk, Chief Strategy Officer at Communitech. "We bring together the right people, opportunities and resources at the right time, create the space for dialogue, collaboration and learning, and provide the support and tools tech companies need to scale quickly and effectively.”

Communitech supports over 1,000 founders across various industries. Many founders join Communitech to get connected to peers, coaches and public and private partners.

“It’s a testament to the pressing need for diverse voices and perspectives in shaping the future of tech and health care,” said Angela Larraguibel, Senior Vice President of Founder Services at Communitech. “We’re here to support founders in every industry, at every stage of their journey.”

The Communitech Hub has been referred to as a ‘clubhouse’ for the Canadian tech community, bringing together key players – from startups and global brands, to government agencies, academic institutions, tech incubators and accelerators – to create a supportive and collaborative environment.

Communitecher talking about their program with an event attendee

“When I found out about the open house, I thought it was a good opportunity to meet with like-minded people,” said Nugwa Omani, a master’s student at the University of Waterloo who’s enrolled in a program about building ventures. “I think there are a number of possibilities that could happen by virtue of just being present. So, that’s amazing.”

Over the past year, Communitech has hosted 92 events, including 42 in-person at the hub, which is part of the historic Tannery building in downtown Kitchener. Its 80,000 square feet of space offers startups and scaling companies dedicated team space, meeting rooms, virtual mail and address services, and more.

According to Statistics Canada, only seven per cent of workers said they worked from home in 2016. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, that number jumped to over 24 per cent. However, since 2022, workers have been heading back into the office. In November 2023, data shows just over 12 per cent of the workforce still exclusively works from home.

Open House attendees throughout the cafeteria talking to program teams

“It’s great to see so many founders back in the hub, collaborating, connecting with others, and bringing life into this historic space,” said Susan Brockhus-Strickler, Director of Building Operations and Tenancy at Communitech. “Since the pandemic, we’ve offered a range of space rental options tailored to the evolving needs of tech companies and the response has been so positive. We’re looking forward to welcoming even more.”

The City of Kitchener, like other urban office markets in North America, has been challenged with unprecedented office vacancy since the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, the city announced a significant investment in downtown innovation through a renewed funding partnership with Communitech. In a news release, the city said the investment aims to reinvigorate the office culture downtown to create more opportunities for collaboration between businesses and the broader community.

“Communitech has been a key organization locally,” said Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic. “It brings everyone together: the three orders of government, the private sector, the academia, the not-for-profit sector and really looks at how we can build our tech innovation community here in Kitchener and in Waterloo Region.”