On most days of the year, the Communitech Hub is a heads-down place where startups work hard at getting their products to market.

But, every so often, the results of all that seemingly disparate effort come together in a powerful way.

That’s exactly what happened Friday during Demo Day at Techtoberfest, Communitech’s new three-day startup event, where six companies from the first cohort of Communitech’s HYPERDRIVE program pitched, followed by 13 startups from Communitech’s broader community.

In rapid-fire fashion before an invite-only crowd of more than 100 potential investors, the 19 companies painted a rich portrait of the diversity, dynamism and collaborative spirit of Waterloo Region’s startup community, and of how far that community has come in a short time.

“I don’t think an event like this would have happened a couple of years ago in Waterloo Region, and having that crowd that we pitched to was really impressive,” said Mike McCauley, founder of BufferBox, one of the region’s hottest startups. “We just were not on the map a couple of years ago.”

McCauley, who pitched at the Techtoberfest Demo Day, is at the vanguard of entrepreneurs changing that. This summer, BufferBox became the fourth Waterloo Region startup to graduate from Y Combinator’s accelerator program in Silicon Valley – and the fourth to return home to keep building.

“I think having startups go to Y Combinator or any of the other startup incubators and then come back is a really good sign that good things are happening here,” McCauley said. “The right people are here, the right talent is here, there is money starting to come here. We’re a scene to be reckoned with.”

Anthony Lee, general partner at Altos Ventures along Menlo Park, Calif.’s storied Sand Hill Road, had a similar reaction to what he saw at Techtoberfest.

“The community vibe here is probably better than any in Canada,” said Lee, who visited the event as part of a contingent from the C100 group of influential Canadians in Silicon Valley. “Everybody feels like they’re working together with each other, everybody wants to be successful together, there’s this kind of close proximity, and it feels different from any other city in Canada.”

Lee, who met with several startups during a VC speed-dating event Thursday, was particularly struck by what he heard from one entrepreneur.

“He was telling me about all the other good companies in town that I should go and talk to,” Lee said. “I think there’s this sort of ethos of wanting each other to succeed together, and I think it’s great,” he added, though the breadth of the Waterloo scene is “still a well-kept secret.”

The 19 companies at Techtoberfest Demo Day sounded ready to change that. They included six HYPERDRIVE companies:

- Will Pwn 4 Food, an online gaming-for-money platform that rewards winning players with actual cash and prizes

- Coachd, a mobile app that enables sports fans and amateur athletes to be coached through workouts by their favourite professional athletes

- BuildCircle, a cloud-based software service that streamlines the bid process and communication between general contractors and subcontractors

- SimplicityVMS, a software service that enables companies to better manage, track and optimize their use of temporary and contract employees

- Organimi, a software service that enlivens the traditional org chart through rich and interactive employee profiles that encourage collaboration and boost engagement

- Incentivibe, a marketing service that enables small companies to incentivize customers by giving away expensive prizes at low cost

Steve Currie, who heads up Communitech’s Venture Services Group, said the Demo Day “provided an opportunity for our HYPERDRIVE companies to showcase the progress they’ve made” in the three months since the program launched.

“Feedback [from investors in the audience] was that we showed extremely well relative to other incubator programs and other demo days,” Currie said. “I would say that what it shows is that we are certainly very competitive with programs, and also startups, whether they’re located in Canada or the U.S.”

The HYPERDRIVE companies were followed at Demo Day by:

- VidYard, a video hosting platform for business whose rich analytics improve the marketing power of video. VidYard was a 2011 Y Combinator graduate.

- Maluuba, a voice-activated “do engine” that goes beyond search and serves as an Android-based answer to Apple’s Siri personal assistant. Maluuba made a splash at TechCrunch Disrupt SF in September.

- Thalmic Labs, developer of wearable devices that enable more-intuitive interaction between people and technology

- BufferBox, which solves the problem of missed parcel deliveries by directing your home deliveries to PIN-activated physical kiosks. BufferBox is a recent Y Combinator graduate.

- GreenOwl Mobile, which sends personalized, real-time traffic alerts to your BlackBerry, iPhone or Android device

- Formulating Change, whose ChangeIt product allows users to round up debit and credit card purchases and donate the resulting ‘virtual change’ to charity, via a back-end system at the user’s financial institution.

- Polychart, a browser-based platform for exploring data and creating charts and graphs

- Eyedro, which allows real-time monitoring of electricity consumption and enables savings on energy costs

- PumpUp, an app that enables users to build personalized workout routines

- Matinée, a service to help independent filmmakers market their films online

- TitanFile, a software service that enables secure, drag-and-drop file sharing and storage

- Qwalify, a system that simplifies and streamlines hiring to ensure candidates are the right fit for a company

- I Think Security, a data protection company for sharing and storage of highly sensitive documents

The Techtoberfest Demo Day companies made up less than five per cent of the 450-plus startups active in Waterloo Region today, with a new one surfacing at an average rate of one per day.

The energy was palpable in the Hub’s networking area as the pitches unfolded, and it wasn’t lost on Dave Caputo, CEO of Sandvine, a Waterloo-based broadband network management company he co-founded in 2001 that now employs more than 350 people.

Caputo, one of HYPERDRIVE’s 100-plus mentors, got his start in Waterloo Region during an entirely different era – the tech and telecom bubble of the late 1990s – as marketing VP at PixStream, a broadband video startup that Cisco Systems later acquired in a $554-million (Cdn) stock swap in 2000.

“When I look at it today, I’m amazed at how far advanced an idea can get with very little money; with people willing to just roll up their sleeves and get it done,” Caputo said. Sandvine launched on $20 million in seed investment – a huge amount by today’s startup standards – in a period characterized by big bets and rapid deployment.

“Now, I think it’s a matter of how quickly you can get to that quality idea with almost as little fuel as possible, rather than as much fuel as possible,” he said.

With so many entrepreneurs willing and able to jump into business as a result, “The future is so bright we’re going to have to wear shades,” Caputo said, borrowing from Timbuk3’s 1986 hit song.

“There’s no question – with the number of companies we have and the folks who see entrepreneurship as an absolute career path – that we’re going to see some home runs, and certainly lots of singles, doubles and triples,” he said. “And everybody’s going to be better for it, because we’re hanging around with each other.”