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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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The mesh conference is back, new focus aimed at digital transformation

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The mesh conference is back. After taking a break for a few years, the mesh conference officially relaunched in Toronto yesterday. The event series focuses on digital transformation (DX) and takes places as a series of meetups, as well as a big conference–currently slated to take place October 2019.

The first meetup took place last night at Spaces and included a presentation around new digital transformation research findings, a rapid-fire interview spotlight with three companies and — of course — plenty of meshing. 

Sheri Moore, one of the of the original founders of mesh, kicked off the event by emphasizing how important collaboration has been to mesh in the past, and how the new DX focus will carry that torch forward.

New original research from DJG and Chestnut Research was also presented to attendees, with the focus being on employees and talent.

DJG Vice President of Strategy, David Potter, presented the research and shared insight on how leaders need to think seriously about the connection between digital transformation trends and the war for talent, as well as how employees should be taking their own DX education seriously in light of technological advances reshaping so many industries.

Readers who want to get the full scoop can sign up to receive the full report when it becomes available.

Three companies from vastly different industries also joined in the night’s proceedings to show attendees a cross-section of the business ideas flourishing in the Canadian ecosystem:

1) Matas Sriubiskis of Zoom.ai discussed how his company’s AI-driven chatbot is helping businesses augment human talent by automating simple tasks throughout organizations;

2) Ivan Tsarynny of Feroot Privacy indicated the radical shift that has occurred within startups and the larger business world due to GDPR and other consent-entrenched policies;

3) Ali Ghafour of 2020 Armor described his company’s efforts to bring the excitement of Street Fighter to life in martial arts matches and lessons through the use of electronic chestguards.

If you missed this first mesh meetup, keep your eyes fixed on the mesh website for information about future events.

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MovetheDial’s first Global Summit puts women in tech spotlight

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The atmosphere at MovetheDial’s first Global Summit was exuberant. The event brought together thousands of attendees to celebrate and amplify women in the technology space — and find out how to push for greater equality throughout the industry.

Held at the Telus Center for Performance and Learning in Toronto, the Summit worked to further MovetheDial’s goals of greater inclusion of women in the tech world. Speakers from Salesforce, Uber, CapitalOne, Backstage Capital and many other organizations rallied together to push for equality within tech, and to provide valuable advice for companies looking to do more.

Bold change needed

MovetheDial is a global movement, pushing for greater inclusion of women in technology. Since its founding, in 2017, the network has produced engagement from 10,000 people across Canada and the U.S. A report released by the organization in 2017 showed just how dire the situation really is for women in tech: just six percent of tech companies had a female CEO, and 13 percent of an average tech company’s executive team is made up of women.

At the summit, Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani shared some equally startling numbers: women make up less than 20 percent of computing jobs in Canada and women in Canada make up 28 percent of STEM graduates.

The first MovetheDial Global Summit was all about changing those numbers. The emphasis at the event was on authentic stories that can empower and amplify women in tech — as well as what companies can do to attract and retain women in the industry.

At the event, MovetheDial also launched their new Connect mentorship platform. The new tool looks to drive efficient, goal-oriented mentorship between women.

The Summit was a unique experience in the landscape of Toronto technology conferences. From the early morning electric violin that greeted attendees, to the portraits of accomplished women in STEM fields on display, the event presented a different take on how inclusive tech events can be. Of the 50 speakers at the Summit, half were people of colour, two were non-binary, and two were members of the LGBTQ community.

When asked what made MovetheDial’s Summit such an important event, attendee Laura Reinholz, Director of the #BMOforWomen campaign, spoke of the impact that the Summit can have for women in tech and STEM fields. Reinholz said that if she’d seen something similar during her early years of education, she would have been much more excited by the field of tech and science from the start. BMO is one of MovetheDial’s partners, and Reinholz mentioned that businesses in finance are also learning how to better address issues of equality, just like so many organizations in tech are.

Taking the stage at the start of the Summit, MovetheDial founder and CEO Jodi Kovitz spoke about how inclusion and gender equality is not just a moral or business outcome imperative, even though those driving forces are important and valid — it’s about creating tech that is powerful and transformative.

Kovitz told the crowd present that when it comes to making changes to the industry and bringing about the kind of equality revolution MovetheDial represents, it comes down to determination: “Action stems from a simple choice. Will you be a person that goes out of your way?”

Beginnings of a shift

Prior to the event, MovetheDial founder and CEO Jodi Kovitz spoke about how the shift towards a more inclusive tech space has begun. Kovitz encouraged companies looking to make the shift to a more inclusive workforce to ”be bold and be courageous”.

Kovitz also noted how happy she was to see that companies are moving away from being shy about their ignorance regarding equality in their organizations, and are reaching out for help — it’s become more common and acceptable to admit ignorance, says Kovitz. And that creates a huge opportunity for tech businesses and organizations like MovetheDial to work together to fix it.

“This is a positive process,” said Kovitz. ‘We’re not in the business of shaming people”

Two such businesses stepping up the equality plate are Canadian startups Wattpad and Wealthsimple. Both had company CEOs speaking at the MovetheDial Summit. Both companies have also published their diversity and inclusion data online, a crucial step in identifying problems within the organizations. Wattpad CEO Allen Lau noted how the company enacted hiring practices and Slack tools to ensure that the working environment is one that encourages diversity.

Of course as complex a process as moving the dial for women in tech is an ongoing one. As Lau stated during the Summit, “diversity and inclusion has no end date.”

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mesh to host digital transformation meetup Nov. 21 in Toronto

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mesh
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Toronto tech conference mesh is back with an exciting new meetup series focused on digital transformation (DX).

The launch event for the new series will take place on Nov. 21 at 5:30 p.m. at Spaces in downtown Toronto and will play host to the city’s unique community of corporate innovators, entrepreneurs, scaleups, researchers, and digital transformation leaders.

The event will feature a variety of insights for business leaders, along with networking.

The meetup will kick off with new digital transformation research being presented by Chestnut Research and DJG focused on DX’s impact on talent.

After the opening keynote, three Toronto-based tech scaleups will then take part in rapid-fire pitch sessions where they will present their business to the audience, focusing in on how they are disrupting their industry, as well as digital transformation opportunities and challenges.

The digital transformation meetup series is the next step in mesh’s ongoing story of unique events and conferences, featuring business leaders, new ideas and practical takeaways. mesh will host a large-scale conference in 2019 and meetups will be held leading up to the big event..

More information and tickets to the meetup event are available at the mesh website. Space is limited to the first 125 people who sign-up.

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

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