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Key Takeaways from Startupfest 2018

Image: Startupfest

This year, eleven TWGers attended Startupfest in Montreal to share, learn, and participate in the Canadian startup ecosystem’s biggest conference of the year. In this blog post, two of our product managers describe their highlights.

From our famous boat party to our project manager Oksana’s win at the OMERS Venture Charity Poker event, we had a blast and got to meet incredible people looking to grow Canada’s technology presence on the world stage.

Braindates — Unique to Startupfest

With braindates attendees shared topics they were interested in discussing and other attendees could sign up to chat. Topics ranged from the role of VCs to the impact of blockchain in both group and one-on-one settings. Here are a few we attended:

  • “Beyond capital, what support should a VC provide to accelerate startup growth?” BDC was looking to get feedback from the community on how they could better support startups, which led to a group discussion of how to influence growth by providing operational support.
  • “Design Thinking in driving innovation. What, how, when?” We talked with Innovation Garage Lead at IBM to discuss the role of generative thinking driven by design to drive the impact products we build can have, and how we can better support our clients.
  • “Working with children.” Building on work we’ve been doing in the education and youth space, we got to talk to an expert about how to build accessible, responsible, and engaging features for young users of the products we build.

Talk Highlights

’14 lessons from mentors that I finally understand’

David Byttow has lead projects like Medium, Square Wallet, Square Cash and Google Wave. His talk stressed the need to take pause and be greedy with your time so that you’re able to focus better on the things that need to get done.

Key Takeaways:

  • Take pause; take time during the day when you’re not running from your thoughts and actually listening to what you’re thinking.
  • Find your one thing every day and be greedy with your time.
  • Build a company bigger than you; if you’re scared to grow because you won’t be able to keep control of everything you won’t get to where you want to be.

‘Finding your why’

Amber Venz Box built rewardStyle as a platform to allow bloggers a way to provide economic stability to their lives in an open-sourced information age. She shared personal experiences and passionately advocated for ‘finding your why.’

Key Takeaways:

  • People buy into your ‘why’ not your ‘how’, especially in a #metoo era, make it known why you exist so people can connect with you.
  • It becomes less about collecting a cheque and more about the higher goal.
  • It’s not what you do, it’s the why you do it that matters — and it’s the how you do it that proves it.

‘The Power of 1’

‘The Power of 1’ by author Nilofer Merchant highlighted how even in the feeling of ‘otherness’ we can find power and how we can harness our values to shape the organizations and communities we are a part of.

Key Takeaways:

  • Onlyness makes us feel like we want to emulate others and we can’t see our value, but each of us has our own power.
  • 61% of us look outside of our own selves to emulate power and influence rather than being true to ourselves and our own truth.
  • Sometimes it’s not easy to know what you stand for, so try imagining your worldview as if it was represented as a color. When you walk into a room, you carry with you your own ‘color’ and when you walk out of a room you carry that ‘color’ back out with you too.
  • Power is not just personal it is social. If we don’t otherize, and instead shift to supporting and recognizing, we will all benefit.

‘How to build a dream network for your startup’

Kelly Hoey is the author of Build Your Dream Network and is “1 of the 10 Most well-connected people in New York City’s Startup Scene”. The Q & A session started off with some top do’s and do not’s and after she took questions from the audience.

Key Takeaways:

  • One of the most common mistakes in building up your network is overlooking the peers in the startup community as your network. Most people don’t invest enough time in their peers — change it today.
  • At the earliest stage of startups, everyone at all levels matter.
  • Master the art of sending an email with no requirement for a reply for the sole purpose of letting the other person know you’re thinking of them and are keeping them in your thoughts.

‘Sound design and the future of experience’

Amber Case is the author of ‘Calm Technology, Design for the Next Generation of Devices’ and has been featured Inc. Magazine’s 30 under 30 and featured in Women in Technology. During her talk she helped bring attention to the often overlooked area of Sound Design.

Key Takeaways:

  • When we as humans hear sound, part of our brain is always in standby mode and it is exhausting our brains. Hospital workers are so overwhelmed with the alert sounds they’re exhausted and sometimes patients don’t get the attention they need.
  • Spaces are often approved of visually not based on how they feel or sound, for instance open offices reflect sound like a mirror which begs the question; How do we improve sound design in product?
  1. Use better hardware for higher quality sounds.
  2. Embed more information into sounds so that we can listen and identify from the specific sound what is going on.
  3. Empty space = sound, so fill it up with absorbent material/components to reduce sound, institute containerization, and try to reduce vibration by absorption.
  4. Allow the sound to be turned off or changed into a different sense (buzz vs. sound).

‘B2G: The third kind of startup’

This panel was moderated by Robert Smith, Executive Director at Innovative Solutions Canada, who gave government innovation officers (Dr. Kate Kaminska, Alex Benay, and Hillary Hartley) the platform to discuss how solution providers and startups can interact with Government at all levels to help solve the problems being faced by Government today.

Key Takeaways:

  • Government is trying partner with the tech community to help solve problems that they have but don’t have the insights of tech to know how to apply to solve the problems they face.
  • Government procurement is fake, it’s not efficient and doesn’t provide everyone with the same opportunity to RFP’s. Government is now looking to put out the problem and no longer the solution they’re looking for.
  • At some point along the way, there was a situation that led to regulations around who received the project (needs to have had over 100k and in business for over x# of years), but we’re now re-examining this approach and trying to change our procurement process to be able to get rid of the barriers.