The evening’s event was over. The stage lights had dimmed. Volunteers were nudging crowds towards the exits.
But on Monday night at the Collision Conference in Toronto, after the prime minister and city’s mayor led a star-studded cast in kicking off the event, no one wanted to leave.
With an Oscars-esque soundtrack overhead, I watched as entrepreneurs all around me relished the moment with selfies and smiles. It became clear that 25,000 entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts gathering for a week was a moment to celebrate their work. This buzz was about sharing what they’d created, collaborating, and finding ways to grow.

But as this week went on, there was another buzz that consumed the city. It was the buzz for the city itself: Toronto.

There was a feeling that Toronto — and tech in Toronto — had finally arrived. For months, we’d heard about tech giants investing more into this city. But this was a moment of validation for the little guys: their city and local scene is on the rise.

When the conference opened, Collision’s planners admitted they flinched when Toronto was first suggested to host the event. After years of convincing, Toronto made its case and finally earned the slot.

And this story isn’t new.

In a poetic parallel, the Golden State Warriors — hailing from Silicon Valley itself — swept their way into the NBA finals. Everyone knows the Bay Area is brilliant, shiny, and bright.

But Toronto spent its week fighting to make its dreams come true. While once dismissed, our Raptors (and our tech community) spent their week showing they too can earn the spotlight. They too are worth paying attention to.

This week was the story of the Toronto hustle. Finally, our city is getting the attention it deserves.

Media outlets from around the world turned to us. From Toronto, they broke stories about product launches and Hollywood ventures. Former Facebook and Twitter executives used the opportunity to reveal perspectives on the current state of tech, and suggest how the world can respond.

The Raptors received international praise. “Who saw this one coming?” Many wrote about the Raptors once looking lifeless, and finding it within them to revive their series.

Even Drake embodied the Toronto hustle. Perhaps the loudest story from Game 4 was that of Drake’s own performance (quite literally, on the court). Some journalists hated it, and others couldn’t get enough of it. But as international celebrities in attendance watched on (many of whom were in town for Collision), Drake put on a spectacular show for his colleagues; that is, Toronto was pushing hard to make its mark on the international stage.

The city didn’t stop there. In yet another patriotic hustle this week, local businesses took proactive measures to keep Kawhi Leonard in Toronto after his contract soon expires. A condominium company offered up penthouse suites. Over 50 local restaurants committed to “Ka’Wine & Dine,” an initiative offering the NBA star free food for life, should he re-sign. CBS reported an auto-detail shop, law firm, and recording studio also joined the initiative.

This week, it really was: all eyes on Toronto.

For me, as a young person, this is new. I just finished business school, where everyone admired those taking jobs in the United States. Those who earned opportunities to work in New York and San Francisco were widely regarded as the ones who were going hardest after their dreams (the irony being: many were quickly relocated when they couldn’t get American work visas).

But dreams are alive and well in Toronto. In fact, this week’s patriotic showcase from every corner of the city has shown me our city is thriving. It’s an exciting time to be a Torontonian. And we can’t lose this momentum.

Conferences will come and go, as will star athletes. But we have to keep building our city’s brand. It’s about collaboration, supporting each other, and growing our city organically, just like we showed we can this week.

The world is watching. The North is rising. Whether you’re an established executive, a budding entrepreneur, an amateur podcaster, or even a student starting their career — whoever you are and whichever part of the city you come from — let’s continue to lift this city and build, together.

This is our time, Toronto.

Akash Pasricha is an innovation consultant from Toronto and host of the podcast Operation: Internship.