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Elevate 2018: That’s a wrap!

Former American Vice-President and prominent environmentalist Al Gore (left), Eric Schmidt, former executive chairman of Google/Alphabet (right)

A decade ago if a prominent American visited Canada we would hang on their every word, hoping for a compliment on our politeness, Vancouver’s natural beauty, or how Toronto was ‘like New York, but run by the Swiss.’ But if Elevate 2018 was any indication, we’re going to need to keep our egos in check.

At the beautiful Sony Centre in Toronto’s downtown core, Eric Schmidt, former executive chairman of Google/Alphabet, praised our education system and the wealth of AI talent that Canada developed as well as our government because they “actually believe in science.”

Sony Centre, Downtown Toronto

Following up on an earlier fireside with Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke and Federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, Schmidt offer some advice to the Elevate audience: “You have strong universities, and a government that is small enough and sane enough to support the universities. The issue that you have now is that you have to create more software people… That means everywhere, every university, companies funding all sorts of high school programs to help people get in to the digital world. And I’m not just talking about computer science and blockchain, but [software for] biology and mechanical engineering, in construction and those sorts of things. It really is changing everything.”.

“I want to thank Canada,” Schmidt added, “because all of [Google’s] interesting deep learning technology was invented here in Toronto and Montreal — and of course we hired some of the talent as a result.”

Not to be outdone, former American Vice-President and prominent environmentalist Al Gore flipped the conversation from complements to concerns by reeling off statistics of the cost of this summer’s flooding in Toronto and the record temperatures of the heatwave that affected Quebec. Gore’s message focused on both the challenges and the technologies that have the potential to stop climate change, and complemented Canada on its explosive growth in innovation, citing a Bloomberg report from this July that shows Toronto is leading the continent in tech job creation, easily outpacing New York, Seattle and the Bay Area.

Earlier in the day Ted Livingston, founder and CEO of Waterloo messaging startup Kik, shined the spotlight on his adopted hometown, calling the University of Waterloo’s co-op program “one of the greatest secret weapons” in the tech world. “The best kids come to Waterloo, the best companies come to Waterloo. You want the best talent? You want to see it before anybody else does, what do you do? You sit right inside the factory.”

Soulcycle co-founder and Chief Brand Officer of WeWork Julie Rice (right)

Kudos to Elevate Director of Programming Lisa Zarzeczny and Elevate Founder Razor Suleman for programming a solid lineup of influential women for the Day One mainstage. Featured talks included Square CFO Sarah Friar; Soulcycle co-founder and Chief Brand Officer of WeWork Julie Rice; Cloudflare Co-founder & COO Michelle Zatlyn; Canadian President of Capital One Jennifer R. Jackson; and an amazing presentation from Ananya Chadha, a 16-year-old brain-computer interface developer at The Knowledge Society. Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder of Bumble (and co-founder of Tinder), also impressed with her vision for a broader offering of social and professional applications that ensure product strategy and design includes women’s perspectives.

Canadian President of Capital One Jennifer R. Jackson

TWG spent Day Two of the conference at the Telus building for the Fintech track of Elevate Educate. Aside from sharing beard jokes, TWG Managing Partner Chris Eben and Wealthsimple GM Jason Goldlist had an insightful discussion about Wealthsimple’s growth (something TWG had a hand in) and where the company is going.

Wealthsimple GM Jason Goldlist (left) and TWG Managing Partner Chris Eben (right)

Coinsquare Chief Business Officer Lewis Bateman sat down with TWG’s VP of Marketing Leslie McGill to talk about new subsidiary Coincapital (of which Bateman is CEO) Coincapital is the investment fund and portfolio management division of Coinsquare. Coincapital currently offers two ETFs on the Toronto Stock Exchange. In keeping with Coinsquare’s early-adopter clientele, Coincapital’s initial index fund offerings are tech heavy: one focused on AI and biotech and the other focused on blockchain technologies.

While Elevate may be all business in the front, it’s definitely a party in the back! Already the most buzzworthy event of last year’s festival, Elevate’s King West Social raised the bar this year with a wild mix of late night activities ranging from poker tournaments to spin classes, pop-up arcades and art installations.

Clearly we’re biased, but we’d wager that TWG hosted the hottest party of the night with a dynamite performance by Olivia Newton-John Street band, an all-star 80’s pop band featuring members of Broken Social SceneSloanChoir!Choir!Choir! and Whitehorse. Elevate pass holders jammed into our 3rd-floor event space and partied into the wee hours, providing an exhilarating finale to an exciting week.

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