Elevate Toronto

September 25, 2018

The VP of Engineering at Loblaw Digital graciously offered me a corporate ticket to attend Elevate Toronto, a week-long tech conference that celebrates Toronto’s tech ecosystem. I have compiled a short summary of my key takeaways from the various presentations.

25th September

Whitney Wolfe Herd (CEO, Bumble) Interview

Whitney had some interesting stories about how she initially marketed Tinder to sororities and fraternities. With Bumble, her aim was to empower women to make the first move and start a relationship on a level playing field. Whitney also spoke about some of the dark times she faced when she filed a lawsuit against her Tinder co-founder for sexual harassment. One worrying statement she made towards the end of her segment was how she was petitioning lawmakers to make certain online behavior illegal.


Sarah Friar (CFO, Square) Interview

Sarah mentioned that we should try to get out of our comfort zone often in order to grow. Being too comfortable doesn’t engender innovation.

Galen Weston (CEO, Loblaws) Presentation

Galen spoke about 3 personal goals : meals, health and sustainability. Most Canadians spend time thinking about what they’re going to have for dinner every single day, and Galen wants to solve this problem for them once and for all. Health refers to improving the electronic management of patient records. Sustainability refers to a commitment to reducing energy and food wastage in Loblaw’s stores.

Ananya Chadha Presentation

Ananya delivered a confident and fascinating presentation on brain computer interfaces. She spoke about research carried out on blind mice that allows them to navigate complex mazes by uploading a map onto an electronic chip embedding into their brain. Another application enabled mice in remote locations to coordinate their actions. A third application allowed monkeys with spinal fractures to move their legs by bypassing the spine.

Julie Rice (CEO, SoulCycle) Interview

I enjoyed Julie’s story about growing her business starting from a small and shady garage in NYC and scaling it rapidly to various cities around the US.

Jennifer Jackson (CEO, Capital One Canada) Presentation

Jennifer encouraged people to not constrain themselves in a box. Through her diverse and varied roles, Jennifer was able to apply her learnings and grow her career rapidly. She also mentioned that the most effective teams were those that were diverse and where each team member felt valued.

Michelle Zatlyn (COO, Cloudflare) and Ted Livingston (CEO, Kik) Interview

I really enjoyed the banter between the two leaders and the interviewer Amber Kanwar. Ted exhorted entrepreneurs to stay away from consumer apps because of the monopoly by the big 5 tech firms. Ted claims that cryptocurrency is going to take off in a big way.

Eric Schmidt Interview

Eric’s dry and terse humor was kept the audience entertained as he deflected concerns about Google’s monopoly on user data.

Al Gore Presentation

Al Gore gave a thrilling presentation about advancements in tech that have unlocked solutions to alleviate the harmful effects of climate change and global warming.


26th September

Open Banking Interview

It was interesting to learn that banks around the developed world are trying to create standards for open APIs.

Business Case for Blockchain Presentation

I think the presenter was fixated with cryptocurrency as the primary application of blockchain technology.

Blockchain Governance Interview

Off-chain governance solutions built on top of the blockchain. What’s the point of decentralization if you’re relying on a centralized system for governance?

Female Fintech Founders Interview

Women raise far less from VCs compared to men. Also, VCs often ask women questions on risk mitagation while they ask men questions about growth.

Flexiti Financial (CEO, Peter Kalen) Interview

Peter spent 22 years in the credit card industry and discovered an opportunity to disrupt the private label credit card market by digitizing the entire customer experience. Before Flexiti, customers would walk into a retailer, sign up for a credit card, wait for a few hours and then make a purchase if approved. Flexiti digitized the customer sign up process so that the approval decision only took minutes, generating a QR digital credit card that customers could use immediately.