Notes From TechTo Best of 2019: Inspiration and Two Real Ways Tech Is Changing The World

Since I started attending TechTO events regularly, every event has been educational, positive, and filled with interesting people. The 2019 Year in Review event was no different. However, it was special for a different reason. It was held at Toronto City Hall, where Mayor John Tory welcomed us and gave some interesting thoughts on the state of technology in the city.

As always, Alex Norman and Jason Goldlist were incredibly engaging hosts. I appreciate that Jason engaged with the attendees and continued the community open mic tradition.

Opportunities and Problems In The Toronto Tech Industry: A Balanced View From The Mayor

I have heard elected officials speak about the technology industry, so I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect from the Mayor. He struck an interesting balance between celebrating the industry’s success and pointing out its problems. It’s worth highlighting that diversity and inclusion remain a problem in the technology industry, even in Toronto.  He makes an excellent point that Canada’s strong public education, a track record of welcoming immigrants, and quality of life have been positives.

Alyssa Atkins (Lilia) On Determination And Egg Freezing Technology

Most of the time, I focus on B2B SaaS companies and their marketing needs. Lilia’s founder, Alyssa Atkins, presented on something completely different: creating a startup to promote egg freezing as an option for women. Naturally, Canadian and US differences came up. Canada is a leader compared to the US in terms of paid maternity leave. However, the US is far ahead of Canada when it comes to companies providing support for egg freezing.

In addition to the Lilia story, I found Atkins’s career story fascinating. She spoke about her determination to build a successful window cleaning business back in 2009. She delivered the service by day and sold the next day’s service by night. I felt inspired by her emphasis on “unreasonable confidence and ambition.”

Ending The Tyranny of Red Tape: Changing Government with Proof

Given our location in Toronto City Hall, it was no surprise to see a presentation from Proof from Jared Kolb and Sarah Singh. With successful implementations with the government of the Yukon, Proof is looking to digitize and speed up government decision making. During their demo, they presented a way to accelerate approvals for Toronto parking passes. They only had a short amount of time for the demo, but I liked what I’ve seen there. They deserve to be heard more widely so we can all benefit from faster, more efficient public services.

Life and Business Lessons From Drop’s Derrick: Choose Your One Way Doors Carefully

As Derrick Fung began his frustration, I quickly became excited. His career journey, starting in the banking industry and then exploring an interest in technology, has some parallels to my journey. He took a more philosophical approach to present ten lessons he’s learned over the years. His suggestion that some meaningful life and business decisions are “one-way doors” was fascinating. While I do believe in the value of reinvention, there is much merit to his view.

For example, consider the strategic decision to build a “lifestyle” business versus building a startup designed to go public. Yes, if one accepts venture capital funding, it is going to be very difficult to change course to a small company vision.

I’m enjoying the process of becoming a TechTO regular. Toronto’s technology industry is booming!

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