The journey started two decades ago, and oh, the places Communitech has been since:

Investing its time, networking with experience and developing a tech ecosystem that has become a magnet for talent and a catalyst for ideas and innovation, growing from the initial 43 members in 1997 to 1,226 members today.

Those 20 years of tech culture development were celebrated Thursday night at Communitech’s annual general meeting, before some 250 alumni and partners at the Tannery Event Centre and Communitech’s Area 151.  

Communitech Board Chair Steven Woods, senior engineering director for Google Canada, delivered the formal portion of the meeting in rapid-fire style, presenting the financial statements (overall revenue and expenses both rose about $4.2 million over Fiscal 2016); thanking outgoing board members John Ruffolo, CEO of OMERS Ventures, and Olga Pawluczyk, President of imaging manufacturer P&P Optica, for their years of service to the board; welcoming the incoming directors; and closing the formal portion of the meeting in under three minutes.

Then it was the turn of Iain Klugman, President and CEO of Communitech Corp., to celebrate the 20-year journey. Key to that journey, he said, has been the talent, identified early on as the No. 1 issue going forward. Then, “we needed a clubhouse for the thinkers and innovators in the region,” and the creation of the Communitech Hub provided a foundation for that emerging talent. Communitech’s 80,000 square feet in Kitchener has been joined this fiscal year by the 20,000 square-foot Data Hub in Waterloo, which is the new home for Canada’s Open Data Exchange.

With the success of Communitech’s Rev sales accelerator, its Fierce Founders Bootcamp, the Fierce Founders Accelerator, the CDMN Soft Landing Program, and other initiatives, Klugman said Communitech has become “a global innovation destination” and that the Waterloo Region brand has never been stronger.

But he also said that there is more to do.

“More” is a key word in the annual report: more talent (“we have not taken our foot off the gas to get talent”); more innovation infrastructure; more SMEs; and more big companies. On the agenda is the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster in the Toronto-Waterloo Innovation Corridor. And True North Waterloo, a new, Communitech-hosted conference for policy-makers, innovators and tech thinkers, which will be held “along the spine of the LRT” linking Kitchener and Waterloo, May 29-31, 2018.

The annual report looks ahead to 2037, saying that by 2025 — within eight years — this region will rival Silicon Valley. But Klugman told the crowd that Communitech doesn’t want to merely replicate Silicon Valley: “We can do something better here, armed with our Canadian values.”

After the cheering and the “thank yous,” it was on to Area 151, to “party like it’s 1997” and to engage in some serious networking.

The Communitech Corp. annual report will shortly be available online. But for now, here is Fiscal 2017, by the numbers:

  • 832 startups helped
  • 140 SMEs helped
  • 9,700+ mentor hours for startups
  • 895 meetings with growth coaches and account managers
  • 158 companies received growth modules
  • 16 sales workshops delivered to 25 companies
  • 5,200+ members across 42 P2P groups
  • 70,000 job seekers this year

Communitech is a partner of Startup HERE Toronto.  This article originally appeared on their site.