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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
WeaveSphere: 5 conference highlights
The WeaveSphere tech conference wove together ideas about AI, FinTech, STEM education, innovation in Canada, and more.
For three days this November, innovation, collaboration, and a whole lot of big ideas were shared among “Weavers” during the WeaveSphere tech conference in Toronto.
“Today is an opportunity for greater connection between the scientific and tech industry, and academia,” said Marcellus Mindel of IBM Canada, opening the conference. With innovation the event’s core, Mindel added: “let’s define innovation, thinking of it as reframing that implements better outcomes.”
While lots happened over three days, here are five highlights and takeaways from the event:
1. Thought-provoking keynotes had attendees thinking big
Each day of WeaveSphere kicked off with a keynote, where three speakers brought their insightful ideas to attendees.
Gillian Hadfield shared ideas about AI and regulation
On Day 1, Gillian Hadfield, Professor of Law and director of the Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society at the University of Toronto, explained where we are today when it comes to regulating artificial intelligence (AI) — and where we need to go next.
While AI makes machines intelligent, Hadfield argued that it cannot, by definition, produce intelligent behaviour if it isn’t functioning appropriately and ethically. Machine learning is not the same as standard programming, since machines write the rules. As a result, machines can start solving problems in ways we don’t want them to, resulting in regulatory challenges.
How to solve this? Hadfield presented two solutions:
- Establish compensation for harm
- Design incentives for meeting good and safe behaviour
Dr. William Barry discussed ethics with an AI co-presenter
On Day 2, professor, AI ethicist, and futurist Dr. William Barry talked about a particular problem: what ethical questions might arise when you program a robot?
For starters, how do you determine what information to include or not? Where is the appropriate line?
As a professor, Dr. Barry has been working with robots as teaching assistants in his classroom since 2015, and brought a digital version of Maria Bot (one of his AI assistants) to interact with the audience.
As Dr. Barry explained, he is very strategic when choosing the information from which his assistants learn.
One place Maria won’t get access to? Twitter, says Dr. Barry, highlighting it’s too much of a risk for an “AI benign” to get access to misinformation. This would distort the ethical perspective that Maria is learning, he said.
While he has programmed her to weed out and to not learn from toxic content — like racism and misogyny — Dr. Barry does work at exposing his AI beings to a wide range of diverse thought and lived experiences. In the end, how ethical an AI being is, is in the hands of the human controlling what they learn, he argued. As a result, they’ll ultimately be biased as a result of the specific data sets we provide for them.
Marcel Mitran discussed technology for good
WeaveSphere’s Day 3 keynote took a slight turn away from AI.
IBM Fellow, IBM Master Inventor, and CTO for Cloud Platform for zSystems and LinuxONE, Marcel Mitran took to the main stage for a keynote on responsible computing. At the heart of his talk was the argument that technologists need to take a step back and look at what’s being done to keep the world safe.
For example, the opportunity for error and bias in the role of facial recognition in public safety, and the fact that our digital footprints — both on a personal level and for enterprise — have grown significantly even in the last year.
As Mitran explained, responsible computing is a systemic, holistic approach addressing current and future computing challenges like sustainability, ethics, and professionalism. It advances the “quadruple bottom line” of people, planet, prosperity, and participation.
2. Insightful sessions had attendees thinking deep
FinTech, cryptocurrency, AI, digital economies, Canada’s innovation landscape — there was a large cross-section of topics covered across a variety of workshops, paper presentation, and panel discussions.
Some highlights include:
Chhavi Singh, co-founder of Flyte, asked the question: have you considered using AI to coach your sales staff? Elaborating on the opportunity AI presents to increase sales performance, Singh explained how AI can be used to help understand customer challenges and handle objections and concerns.
COO of wealth management platform OneVest, Jakob Pizzera, outlined the three phases of FinTech. The first (1.0) was in-house sites for basic online banking. Version 2.0 was the “unbundling” of financial services, and the rise of standalone businesses. The last few years has brought FinTech 3.0, with embedded finance — for example making a purchase through Instagram.
WeaveSphere conference chair and R&D specialist Vio Onut answered the question of why we need to care about cyber security. For starters, the potentially very large costs to your organization, and because the massive skills gap of privacy and security experts has created vulnerabilities.
Digital strategist Matt Everson explored what can go with emerging technologies like Web3 and the metaverse. Everson said developers should just start building and drawing on video game virtual markets as a model. He used popular online game EVE Online as an example of how virtual economy design can be translated to other markets.
Lijia Hou, Blockchain Systems Engineer with Draft Kings, explained that three key problems still exist when it comes to blockchain technology. First, investors want to understand how — in a volatile market — to mitigate risk. Second, developers from the traditional software side need a mindset shift when it comes to decentralization. And finally, the tools of decentralization are used differently, and this is not always evident for those unfamiliar with Web3.
3. There was a LOT of interest in STEM education
As part of WeaveSphere’s Education Day slate of programming, hundreds of high school and university students had the opportunity to workshop real-life problems from both school and work — all under the guidance of IBM’s Design Thinking experts.
This meeting of next-generation tech talent collaboratively explored Enterprise Design Thinking strategies like As-Is Scenario Mapping, Empathy Mapping, Hills (positioning statements), and Hopes and Fears. This approach to problem-solving works by framing the issue at hand in a human-centric way, centering the end-user in all decision-making.
For Education Day, the problem at hand was helping fourth-year university students find their first job.
4. There were loads of networking and learning opportunities
One of the best parts of any conference is the opportunity to network and learn from fellow attendees.
In the conference’s Innovation Valley section, event sponsors were on-hand to discuss everything from their latest technologies to job opportunities, plus several graduate students were also there to present their research.
Since WeaveSphere is a “meeting of the minds” between tech professionals and students, many undergrads from schools like York University and Mohawk College came to the conference full of questions, ready to absorb everything.
5. WeaveSphere celebrated top tech talent
A big part of WeaveSphere was a celebration of some of the best tech minds in Canada.
During a gala evening at the end of Day 2, the 2022 Developer 30 Under 30 and Tech Titans were awarded to the best of the best among young developers and digital transformation leaders in Canada.
The winners were:
Developer 30 Under 30 winners
- Alexander Newman
- Anakha Chellakudam
- Anthony Langford
- Arshdeep Saini
- Aryaman Rastogi
- Bohdan Senyshyn
- Charlie Mackie
- Charmi Chokshi
- Colin Lee
- Daniel Marantz
- Francisco Hodge
- Hassan Djirdeh
- Jerry Fengwei Zhang
- Julia Paglia
- Karandeep Bhardwaj
- Kathryn Kodama
- Khushbu Patel
- Lianne Lardizabal
- Lucas Giancola
- Mathew Mozaffari
- Maz Mandi
- Oleksandr Kostrikov
- Rishab Kumar
- Samantha Lauer
- Sarah Syed
- Stan Petley
- Tanmay Bakshi
- Tim Romanski
- Xiaole Zeng
- Yash Kapadia
Tech Titans winners
- Andrew Dolinski
- Ashish Agrawal
- Chhavi Singh
- Chris Dolinski
- Dean Skurka
- Demetrius Tsafaridis
- Fay Arjomandi
- Harish Pandian
- Harpreet Gill
- Iman Bashir
- James Stewart
- Len Covello
- Manav Gupta
- Marcel Mitran
- Michelle Joliat
- Dr. Mohamad Sawwaf
- Omar A. Butt
- Peter Zwicker
- Ryan McDonald
- Dr. William Cherniak
Finally, as WeaveSphere came to a close, the Pitch Stadium opened, hearing from a wide variety of startups.
They came, they pitched, and in the end, Iman Bashir and Nicole Lytle of Craftly.AI, a copywriting assistant that uses AI to generate original content, took home the $50,000 prize to help grow their business.
WeaveSphere was a uniquely collaborative, innovation-focused conference filled with engaging workshops, presentations, and networking opportunities.
DX Journal is an official media partner for WeaveSphere. Check out our series of articles from the lead-up to WeaveSphere.
DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.
WeaveSphere’s goal? Make STEM education more accessible and inclusive
WeaveSphere technology conference offers high school students of all backgrounds the chance to an education pathways, scholarships, and funding opportunities available to students looking at STEM.
We’re at a turning point.
Collectively, we face significant challenges to our well-being and overall future existence as a society — climate change, healthcare, liveable cities, transportation, finance — the list goes on.
But there are solutions on the horizon, and according to Kostas Kontogiannis, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at York University, it’s going to take an “all-hands-on-deck” approach.
Specifically, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education, and preparing younger generations to embrace these sectors.
“We are at the point where we have the capacity to share knowledge through the internet and publications where we can make significant advances,” says Kontogiannis. “We need technological advances to solve these challenges.”
According to Statistics Canada, more than 130,000 Canadians graduated with a STEM degree in 2019. Furthermore, a 2019 survey by Randstad found that 65% of Canadians between the ages of 45 and 67 would focus on a career in STEM if they were 18 again.
“STEM is not only for crazy geeky people,” Kontogiannis says, laughing. “It’s for people that would like to make a contribution and provide solutions to the world’s biggest problems.”
Kontogiannis spends his day job working in computer science and electrical engineering, but highlights that STEM careers include much more than sitting in front of a computer.
“With science, it could be developing materials that make the colour of your car stay shiny. With math, it could be optimizing the schedules of buses. With industrial processes, it might be about developing material that makes airplanes lighter so they consume less fuel.”
Canada’s innovation conference set to host STEM Day for high school students
You’ve probably seen plenty of toys and activities geared towards kids to help them get interested in STEM, from tricked-out Lego projects to DIY robot coding kits. And if you’re a parent who wants to get your kids thinking about these fields early in their lives, their interest can really start to take off in high school.
For students who want to get a taste of what a STEM education — and thus STEM career — might be like, the WeaveSphere technology and innovation conference is opening its doors to to people in grades 9-12 on what the event is calling “STEM Day.”
WeaveSphere brings together industry leaders, developers, and academics to “weave” together ideas that accelerate innovation. STEM Day takes place on November 17, the last of the three-day conference in downtown Toronto. Students from across Canada can also join parts of WeaveSphere STEM Day virtually by registering at the site.
STEM Day will outline the education pathways, scholarships, and funding opportunities available to students. This full workshop day will feature insights from industry leaders and academics, with plenty of opportunities for Q&As.
What’s important to know is that it’s open to everyone.
“In my opinion, the main thing we can do is to remove the stigma that STEM is only for men from specific backgrounds,” says Julia Rubin of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of British Columbia who is organizing STEM Day alongside Kontogiannis. “I grew up in the Soviet Union. People ask me why I chose STEM, and the simple answer is: nobody told me I wasn’t supposed to.”
While there has been a movement in higher-ed to open the doors of STEM education to women, Black people, Indigenous people, racialized and people of colour, those in the LGBTQIA+ community, and other marginalized groups, there is still a long way to go.
But as Rubin explains, spreading the word is very important to creating change.
“One of my goals with the STEM event is actually to try to reach out to communities that don’t traditionally hear from us,” says Rubin.
Conference roots inspired by real-life collaboration
In its 32nd year, WeaveSphere is a collaboration between IBM Canada’s academic and research technology conference (previously called CASCON) and Evoke Canada’s industry-focused developer conference.
The event is widely known in technical academic circles, as IBM Canada has fostered a robust academic community in computer science and software engineering for more than 30 years.
Outside of the event, both Kontogiannis and Rubin (and their students) regularly collaborate with IBM Canada’s Advanced Studies team who help shape their research. Those partnerships are unlike anything else in the industry, Kontogiannis says, highlighting five key differentiators of what it’s like to work with IBM Canada’s Advanced Studies team:
- They are committed to research (especially applied research).
- Collaboration allows them to build systems that are more widely applicable to real-world use cases beyond simple problem solving.
- They get access to a wider pool of provincial and federal funding, thanks to matching funds.
- Researchers can tap into a broader audience and patent their work.
- IBM Canada’s Advanced Studies team has a world-class reputation.
For Rubin, it’s also how Advanced Studies really cares about their fellows and students.
Get the Advanced Studies experience at WeaveSphere
If you’re interested in getting a deeper look at the collaborative IBM experience, the WeaveSphere conference is where you want to be — especially for all high schoolers considering a career in the STEM fields.
The conference’s STEM Day will include a full slate of activities and learning opportunities, including a look at current projects involving everything from the future of telecommunications to IoT to Quantum Computing, advances in STEM, and how research and work in STEM can help society in many different and unexpected ways.
One unique topic that will be discussed is how students from all backgrounds can fund their STEM education.
“We don’t want students to believe that if they don’t have enough money, they cannot go to university,” says Rubin. “We want to highlight the requirements, the funding opportunities, and what is the next step to get there if you want.”
And for students who may feel intimidated, just remember this piece of advice from Kontogiannis:
“Set goals in your life, work hard to achieve them, and you will achieve them. Don’t think of STEM as something that is difficult. Don’t be afraid to set your goals and work.”
DX Journal is an official media partner for WeaveSphere. We will share updates leading up to the event, and we’ll be live on location from November 15-17,2022. Join us and get your tickets at weavesphere.co.
DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.
Ukraine first lady appeals for IT workers’ help
Ukraine’s first lady called on Tuesday for IT specialists to help her country by building technology that saves lives rather than ending them.
Olena Zelenska told thousands of investors, entrepreneurs and tech workers gathered for the annual Web Summit in Portugal that Russia “puts technology at the service of terror”.
She showed slides of the aftermath of drone attacks in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and urged the delegates to use their skills to make a positive change instead.
Her husband, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, appeared as a hologram at several tech events earlier this year to directly appeal to companies to help rebuild his country with advanced tech infrastructure.
Zelenska, who has made in-person appearances at several events recently and addressed US Congress in July, said she would not make a detailed appeal.
Instead, the 44-year-old, a screenwriter by profession, highlighted the key role that technology was playing in the Russian invasion of her country.
She cited a Bellingcat report that alleged Russian IT workers were playing an active part in the war effort.
“Some IT specialists in Russia have made their choice to be aggressors and murderers,” she said, urging the audience to make the opposite choice.
“I believe that technology should be used to create, save and help people, not destroy them.”
Her 15-minute speech drew a standing ovation from the audience.
The organisers of the Web Summit had earlier become embroiled in a row over an invitation they had extended to people from Grayzone, a journalism website that regularly reflects pro-Russian conspiracy theories about the conflict.
The conference cancelled the invites, provoking a huge row on social media between users who said it was an infringement of free speech and those who supported the decision.
Some 70,000 people are expected to attend the Lisbon conference over the next three days.
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