When you first hear about an event like TechTO, you have certain expectations. That it will be a way to learn about the local technology industry. That you will meet interesting people. However, what I saw on September 16th blew me away.
What Community Means: A Tale of Two Presentations
Many in the tech industry talk about community in vague terms. It’s sometimes hard to know what it means. TechTO showed great community spirit in two ways last night.
1) Supporting Community Development: DAREarts
Looking back on my younger years, I’m grateful for many opportunities. I had the chance to travel, play music in school, and more. Unfortunately, many people do not have those resources. Some also struggle with bullying and being labeled as difficult, dumb or worse. DAREarts organization offers one solution to those problems. In a short presentation, I learned about how the program exposes students to a variety of creative forms such as graphic design, acting, dancing and more.
In addition to the content of the program, I admire how DAREarts gives the opportunity for reinvention. Since they mix students from different schools into one program, you don’t have to worry about your past nicknames coming up. In a way, I also see this program as a way to encourage networking beyond a student’s home school. What a welcome relief from our culture’s unrelenting obsession with STEM subjects and test scores.
2) Encouragement When You Stumble
If you haven’t made mistakes in your business, you must have started your business today. Mistakes, trial, and error, whatever you want to call it. It’s part of life. We can’t change that. However, we can change how we support people when they have a problem. That’s one area where TechTO shone on Sept 16.
Speaking about your business in front of several hundred people is a daunting experience. After all, most business owners are not public speakers by inclination or training, especially in the technology industry. One of the first speakers, a successful entrepreneur in the coworking industry, came to speak about his experience of building one of the fastest-growing co-working space companies in Canada. Unfortunately, he had some difficulties with his presentation – it happens to us. For a time, it looked like he was not up to finishing his presentation.
The community rallied to support him under the guidance of our excellent hosts, Alex Norman and Jason Goldlist. First, we gave him standing applause to encourage him to return to the stage. Next, Alex reached out to help him to start speaking again by referencing his slides. It was one of the best recoveries I’ve seen. There’s no other business group I have seen like this.
3) Pulling back the curtain in fundraising
Mike Murchison, Co-Founder & CEO of Ada Support, presented on his company’s recent fundraising success. This was interesting because it was a chance to dive beyond the headlines of tech fundraising. His point to question the traditional power dynamic of investors and companies was a great one. Rather than approaching investors as a supplicant, view them as a potential new hire. After all, a great investor for a tech firm should bring more to the table than a cheque. I have heard this “more than a cheque” comment before, but it was not explained further.
The advice to question conventions when it comes to pitching investors (e.g., that presentations are always a particular length or style) was also impressive. After all, imagine you are a venture investor and sit through a dozen presentations per week that all have the same format.
4) Sharing how to rapidly build and grow a high-performance technology team
If your company had to hire dozens of people this year, could you do it? That’s the challenge that Index Exchange has faced this year. For Marc Staveley, CTO at Index Exchange, managing a high growth engineering team requires a few disciplines.
Always Be Recruiting.
Like any other process, it takes time to achieve momentum. To build your recruiting pipeline, you need to run the process continuously. That’s one of the company’s achievements. This reminds me of Ryan Barretto’s, SVP Global Sales at Sprout Social, comment at the Sept 2019 SalesTO event earlier this month. Recruiting and sales require continuous efforts and systems to succeed.
Emphasize culture and attitude over technical skill.
Rather than attempting to hire for the perfect set of technical skills every time, Index Exchange takes a different approach. As a matter of principle, they emphasize culture and attitude fit over skills. There’s a fascinating perspective to hear from a technical leader. It also shows that companies need to be flexible to find the right talent in today’s market.
The Final Word From Tamara
During one of the breaks, I met Tamara Tanney of Marketing Millennial. Later, I asked her to share her perspective on the event. She commented, ” My favourite part of the event was seeing just how far tech has evolved and how many fields tech can be leveraged in: Non-profits, education, co-working.” Well said!