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Talent and diversity to drive this year’s Elevate tech festival

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Elevate Festival
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The Elevate Tech festival is only one year old, but after watching this week’s launch event at Shopify’s Toronto HQ, it appears that Canada’s largest tech festival has grown by leaps and bounds.

Elevate will run in Toronto from September 24-27, with 10,000 attendees expected and 250 venues taking part. Notable speakers on this year’s main stage will include Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder of dating app Bumble, and environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore.

Celebrating Canada’s talent

This year’s festival will put a big emphasis on talent, one of Canada’s greatest assets when it comes to tech innovation. Elevate is teaming up with Startup Open House, as well as last year’s partners NewCo, to help connect 4,000 students, job-seekers, and young professionals with some of the many great companies driving Canada’s innovation ecosystem.

While last year’s festival made the point of putting Toronto and its tech innovation ecosystem on the global stage, the conversation has broadened for Elevate 2018. Now billed as Canada’s Tech Week, CEO Razor Suleman said the 2018 festival will shed light on Canada’s growing tech landscape as a whole, and even reach out to Canadian expats around the globe, letting them know that things are moving in the right direction back home.

Collaboration, diversity and growing together

For Suleman, the biggest lesson learned from last year’s Elevate, and the biggest opportunity for 2018, is the strength of collaboration that made the festival possible.

“Partnering with the community and being open and collaborative is the best way to create something that we’re all passionate about, and ultimately scale the festival and realize the vision we have,” said Suleman.

Crucial to that collaboration is showing the diverse nature of Canada’s innovation community. Just as at last year’s Elevate, the motto ‘Diversity is our strength’ is key to Canada’s Tech Week. Suleman said that this year’s festival will continue to seek out new ways to reach out to diverse parts of Canada’s innovation community and get them involved.

“This year when we looked at the ten-thousand-person capacity that we have, we broke down the different demographics and wanted to make sure that we got representation. We’re super passionate, as is our parter TD, about involving students. We’ve got the Investor Group coming. We’d love to have more female investors, we’d love to have more women in tech, we’d love to have entrepreneurs that are visible minorities. All of the ecosystem is welcome.”

Between big name speakers, the emphasis on talent and the continued commitment to diversity, Elevate’s 2018 offering is sure to stir creative innovation and collaboration.

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Packed house for Elevate ScaleUp reveals insight gems

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Today’s ScaleUp track at the Elevate Tech Festival involved incredible speakers sharing their thoughts on what it takes to go from a great startup to a phenomenal scaleup. Sponsored by CIBC and Osler, the event ran the gauntlet of tough subjects that scaleups must come to grips with.

Hopper CEO Frederic Lalonde brought the issue of product/ market fit into clear focus. It can make or break a company. And it can land you on Good Morning America!

Jonna Griffiths of Knixwear chatted with Janet Bannister of Real Ventures about what it takes to bring innovation to your organization. From day one, it’s all about how you communicate throughout your organization.

Dan Debow of Helpful got blunt about how to best be a constructive member of the scaleup community.

To top it all off, Cloudflare founder Michelle Zatlyn boiled scaleup culture down to a very simple principle.

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Elevate Scaleup takes over Toronto Sept. 26

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September is festival month in Toronto, and with TIFF coming to an end, the city’s next festival begins. Elevate kicks off its city-wide tech and innovation festival Sept. 21-27 to celebrate North America’s growing tech ecosystem.

Global thought leaders will take to the main stage at the Sony Centre, and content tracks will take place throughout the city, with thousands of attendees expected.

With the rise of scaleup companies, one of the featured tracks this year is, naturally, focused on scaleup companies. Taking place Sept. 26, Elevate ScaleUp gives startups the unique opportunity to learn from industry leaders who have scaled real businesses, and have the scars to prove it. Startup veterans will give real insights from years in the field, on everything from hiring, to financing, to distribution.

The track is presented by CIBC and Osler, and DX Journal is a community partner and providing coverage at the event. The event takes place at Osler (100 King St. West, 63rd floor)

What can you expect? Here’s a full run-down of the day and agenda. You can get tickets here.



Kickoff from Julia Kassam (CIBC)


Welcome from Fast Company journalist Lydia Dishman, who covers the intersection of innovation, tech, leadership, and entrepreneurship.



Seize the Opportunity: How Canada is Empowering Startups to Scale Globally
Dennis Kavelman, general partner at iNovia Capital and former COO & CFO of RIM/BlackBerry, shares his perspective on scaling in today’s environment, highlighting the various hurdles associated with transforming a startup to a growth stage business.



Kickstarting Your Business Into a Market Leader

Janet Bannister (Real Ventures), Joanna Griffiths (Knixwear)

Joanna Griffiths, founder and CEO of Knixwear, ran a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign—raising over $1 million in 40 days—to launch an intimate apparel line. In this session, she will share her scaleup story and how she financed her way to success.


Scaling Up: How to Pick a Working Model – Panel

Dan Debow (Helpful.com), Dean Hopkins (OneEleven), Sonia Sennik (CDL), Yung Wu (MaRS), 

Toronto has a robust network of incubators and work spaces supported by a diverse mix of corporates, universities, communities, and VCs. This panel will explore the impact and value of different network and work space community models for companies scaling up. Panelists will answer: How do you choose what is right for your company?


How We Built Hopper

Frederic Lalonde (Hopper)

Serial entrepreneur and Hopper cofounder and CEO Frederic Lalonde shares the growth story of the fourth-most-downloaded travel app. Lalonde will focus on why product market fit is so important for scaleups, including how to get it, and what to do once you find it.


How to Finance Your Business for Long-Term Success

Mark Usher (CIBC), Mark Wallace (Cority),Stuart  Lombard (Ecobee)

Ecobee’s Stuart Lombard and Cority’s Mark Wallace know a thing or two about how to finance a growing scaleup. Listen to these leaders of world-class, high-growth companies talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly decisions they made in financing their businesses over time.


What Matters Most When Building a Multi-Billion Dollar Business

Michelle Zatlyn (Cloudflare), Colleen Moorehead (Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP)

Join Colleen Moorehead, cofounder and past president of E*TRADE Canada, as she chats with serial entrepreneur and technology leader Michelle Zatlyn about what matters most when building highly scaleable multi-billion dollar companies.


 

Scaling Lessons from the Trenches

Kerry Liu (Rubikloud), Chad Bayne (Osler)

Osler’s Chad Bayne will sit down for a fireside chat with Kerry Liu to discuss the meteoric growth of Rubikloud and lessons learned.


Scale Success: Launch Now, Refine Later

Ray Reddy (Ritual)

Most people think you need a perfect product before you launch. Truth is, you don’t. Ray Reddy, cofounder and CEO of order-ahead app Ritual, has lived by the philosophy: “launch now, refine later.” During this session, Ray will share the insights he’s learned through his successful expansion into 10 U.S. markets in under two years with an “experiment, fail fast, and move forward” mentality.  


Rapid-fire Q&A

Leigh Doyle and Chris Hogg will do a rapid-fire interviews on stage with keynotes.

DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.

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Canada’s next big act is training scaleups

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By Jack Derricourt & Chris Hogg

Jack Derricourt is the Managing Editor of Digital Journal and a contributing editor to DX Journal. Chris Hogg is the President of Digital Journal Group.

The Canadian technology landscape is booming.

Canadian companies took in $2.5 billion in funding in the first half of 2018, the strongest first half since 2000. Corporates have announced large-scale investment plans to invest in innovation and digital technology (CAE recently pegged $1 billion for the efforts) and post-secondary institutions are breaking ground to house future generations of talent (the University of Toronto is building a 14-storey building to be completed by 2021).

The Canadian technology landscape is ripening and readying for an influx and growth of more mature, internationally-focused ventures.

While scaleups make up less than five percent of Canadian companies, they create half of all new jobs in the country.

On September 26 in Toronto, Elevate ScaleUp will seek to provide helpful insights into the problems facing scaling companies. Presented by CIBC and Osler, the event features startup veterans sharing their experiences.

DX Journal spoke with Julia Kassam, Managing Director, CIBC Innovation Banking, to find out more about the next big act in Canada’s innovation space.

DX Journal: With innovation ecosystems forming across Canadian cities, what excites you the most for startups in Canada?

Julia Kassam: From coast to coast, we’ve hit our stride as a community. The Canadian startup ecosystem has never been stronger and it is launching Canada into the global spotlight. Success stories about scaling companies of all sizes, in different industries, are generating the attention of investors and aspiring entrepreneurs. We are gaining a reputation for being diverse, collaborative and competitive.

This means that Canada is no longer an occasional destination, but a critical location for international investors to regularly visit, and for global brands to establish roots and drive their own corporate growth.

DX Journal: Canadian policymakers have made strengthening the venture capital sector a priority, with the launch of Venture Capital Action Plan (VCAP) and Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative (VCCI) underway. What does that mean for startups and scaleups?

Kassam: After years of lobbying by the Canadian Venture and Private Equity Association (CVCA), the previous government took our sector’s advice and launched VCAP as an arms-length funding strategy. VCAP worked as designed; venture capital funds benefited from the capital raised and invested in several early-stage companies. The new funds that should be raised under VCCI will capitalize on that success and strengthen the sustainability of Canada’s venture capital ecosystem.

What this means for entrepreneurs is that the federal government recognizes that VCAP was an appropriate initiative, and that to fuel the innovation economy, companies need a robust venture capital ecosystem to move from startup mode to scaleup mode.

It’s a really strategic and exciting initiative because later-stage capital will help accelerate the growth for companies who need to overcome commercialization hurdles, expand into new markets and compete on a global scale.

DX Journal: Many startups struggle to scale because they don’t have the right senior talent. What is your sense of how well positioned Canada is with experienced leaders?

Kassam: Although Canada has established a reputation for developing world-class academics and innovators, we do need to attract experienced executive talent. Everything moves at an accelerated pace in a scaleup, and the business will bend and flex in ways it never has. Canada needs more leaders who know what it takes to grow globally and ensure scaleups are well-equipped to navigate and accelerate growth.

One big benefit Canada has that helps here is as a result of our proactive immigration policy – the ability for Canadian scaleups to attract skilled talent is getting easier; our country realizes that to keep pace with scaleups, concentrated efforts are needed to establish Canada as a global technology powerhouse.

DX Journal: Canada has also been able to attract tech titans such as Google to open up offices in Toronto. What role do they play in the scaleup economy?

Kassam: They serve as training ground, but also as a competitor for talent. In the best case, people learn what it takes to be part of a leading innovator while being trained by experienced executive talent at the local divisions of firms such as Cisco or Google. For scaling companies, the opportunity to pilot their innovation becomes a realistic opportunity which can flourish into a partnership that may lead to an acquisition. A big opportunity that emerges as a result of large tech companies choosing to set-up an office in Canada is an acceleration of human capital development for the ecosystem.

What we are also seeing more of is that global innovators are setting up their R&D centres in Canada. A great example this summer was Samsung announcing an AI Centre located within MaRS, led by a Toronto-based academic. Again, another opportunity for scaleups to be close to the heart of global innovation. That is huge potential waiting to be unleashed.

DX Journal: How is the Canadian startup ecosystem helping to train talent?

Kassam: Serial entrepreneurs and investors share mistakes and success stories which help shape and accelerate scaleups through collective learning. What truly makes the Canadian tech ecosystem unique is our mindset to foster entrepreneurial spirit; and a great example of how we do that is by bringing the startup community together.

Elevate, Canada’s largest tech festival and one that CIBC Innovation Banking is sponsoring, is the perfect example of creating the right information and network opportunities so that we can collectively benefit from the existing momentum in Canada’s innovation ecosystem and drive our entrepreneurial culture forward.


DX Journal:
What’s the next step for the Canadian scaleup story?

Kassam: Canadian scaleups will continue to tackle the unique challenges that come with scaling a business; however, they will think in a global context earlier than ever before. Scaleups need to strategically choose the right capital partners for their growth – ones that open doors to new markets. There needs to be an emphasis on attracting top talent earlier in the growth cycle to help drive international perspectives and opportunities.   

To hear more from industry leaders who have scaled real businesses (and have the scars to prove it), get a ticket for Elevate ScaleUp, happening September 26, 2018 in Toronto. Presented by CIBC Innovation Banking and Osler, the event will provide real insights from entrepreneurs and tech veterans who have spent years in the field, on everything from hiring, to financing, to distribution.

 

DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.

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