Toronto launches “Digital Main Street”; first of its kind in world

New business platform backed by world tech leaders Google, MasterCard, Yellow Pages, Shopify etc.

digital main street

The new website landing page.

An innovative new online business support platform, the first of its kind in the world, was launched in Toronto on Monday. The platform can be accessed at

Mayor John Tory was  joined by project partner representatives from the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA), Google Canada, MasterCard, Rogers Communications, Shopify and Yellow Pages, and main street businesses, project facilitators and vendors. Digital Main Street was developed by the City of Toronto and TABIA with advisory and web development services from Kinetic Cafe. The project was developed in consultation with Toronto’s BIAs, technology companies and main street businesses, and was piloted in three Toronto BIAs.

The project’s private sector partners have provided the funding for this initiative while many of the participating companies have contributed complimentary and discounted services as well as training and workshops for BIAs and main street businesses.

“Technology has changed the demands and expectations of consumers and Toronto’s main street businesses require our support to help them thrive in today’s retail environment,” said Mayor Tory. “When fewer than half of Canadian small businesses have a website, the need for this kind of service is widespread and immediate.”

digital networking

Digital networking

This is a platform that connects main street businesses to the digital world. By joining Digital Main Street, main street businesses receive a free digital assessment and a recommended to-do list that identifies technologies and service providers that can help businesses meet their digital goals. Digital Main Street will also be home to news, events, case studies and stories that will help main street businesses sustain the digital tools they have adopted.

Main Features

Features of the Digital Main Street program include:

•Website – Main street businesses receive a digital assessment, which is a roadmap for digital adoption. The digital assessment contains a ‘to-do’ list and recommendations to trusted technology providers who can help businesses meet their goals.

•Digital Service Squad – Developed in partnership with George Brown College, students and recent graduates will assist the main street businesses in completing their digital assessments and onboarding basic technologies.

•BIAcademy – A suite of learning and development opportunities focused on helping main street businesses adopt and sustain new technologies.

•BIA Lab – A business incubator for retail innovation startups that will match technology companies with main street businesses to test and scale their technologies.

•38 technology companies providing services as free trials or at a discounted rate.

Ingenuity Highlighted

“Digital Main Street shows the ingenuity of Toronto’s digital and technology business community to create essential tools and services of benefit to all main street businesses,” said John Kiru, Executive Director of TABIA. “Toronto’s BIAs have been a leader worldwide in the development of private and public sector partnerships, and this project builds upon that tradition of innovation and collaboration.”

“Digital Main Street offers global scale to local Toronto businesses, connecting consumers from Canada and around the world to the great products and services this city has to offer.” said Fab Dolan, Head of Marketing for Google Canada. “No matter the size, every business today is a digital business. And, with the right tools, every business can be national or even global.”

“In Toronto’s highly digitally connected market, local businesses have unlimited opportunities, but they need the tools to harness those opportunities and to understand how their business is performing,” said Brian Lang, President, MasterCard. “Digital Main Street gives local businesses the option to use real-time big data to help make decisions and grow their business. The insights and trend reports available through this program give main street businesses in Toronto a valuable edge.”

Online is the new local

“Online is the new local for small businesses, and not having a digital presence can mean missing the first point of contact with future customers,” said Nyla Ahmad, Senior Vice-President, Enterprise Marketing, Rogers Communications. “Being part of the Digital Main Street initiative in partnership with the City of Toronto will allow us to help small businesses get the support they need to attract customers in a digital environment and discover technologies that will ultimately help them succeed.”

“At Shopify, our goal is to spread entrepreneurship, which we’ve spent over a decade doing by making ecommerce easy for over 275,000 businesses around the world and many right here in Toronto,” said Satish Kanwar, Director of Product at Shopify. “We’re excited to be working with the City to help create an ecosystem that encourages even more opportunities for small businesses.”

“The adoption of digital marketing and technologies by small businesses is an ongoing challenge across Canada,” said Paul Brousseau, Vice-President, Brand Communications at Yellow Pages. “We’re pleased to partner with the City of Toronto to help bridge the digital gap for local businesses through the Digital Main Street initiative.”

Digital Main Street is part of “From Concept to Commercialization: A Startup Eco-system Strategy for the City of Toronto” which was endorsed by City Council in May 2015. – CINEWS

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