Collaboration among Startups: Brendan Dunn, Holt Fintech Accelerator

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Based in the Bahamas, Brendan Holt Dunn is the CEO of Holdun, Founder and Managing Partner of Holt Accelerator. Mr. Dunn comes from a long line of entrepreneurs. His great, great grandfather Sir Herbert Holt, was known as a pioneer in the development of the energy business in Quebec, now known as Hydro-Quebec (previously Montreal Light, Heat & Power) and he was the longest standing President and Chairman of the Royal Bank of Canada to ever have served. The legacy of Sir Herbert and his lifetime of achievements led him to acquire an empire worth over $3 billion by the 1940s.

1.     When you reflect upon your career path, is there a defining moment that influenced where you are today? 

While I’ve always been engaged in the family office, in a past life I played tennis semi-professionally. While the hard-work and focus of achieving milestones was incredibly rewarding, I found it to be a lonely profession. I realized I received the same intrinsic reward when focusing on the family office, and ultimately, I was happiest when surrounded by family, and friends considered family, in pursuit of collective goals.

 

2.     Canada’s tech ecosystem is vibrant and rapidly expanding. Looking back, which factors in your view have driven this expansion? What do you think can be done to accelerate this further? 

 

A highly trained workforce, a growing investment community, and some early tech successes reinvigorated the entrepreneurial community in Canada, leading to more Startups and more support systems. Ways to accelerate include:

·      Double down on the best investments, so that we get more Canadian Unicorns.

·      More pre-seed and seed investment, to increase the pipeline of sound teams.

·      Increased government support, either providing investment funds with economic development goals, or supporting entities that help Startups, including for-profits that are sometimes overlooked versus the non-profit counterparts.

 

3.     Canadian Dream Summit aspires to a Canada where everyone is able to pursue and achieve their greatest ambitions. Three principles guide us: #VisionToReality, #CollaborateLocal, #DreamGlobal. Which one of these resonates the most with your work? 

 

I would say #VisiontoReality, as the others are sounds as subcomponents to me. For instance, “reality” requires collaboration locally (i.e. takes a village to raise a Startup), while “vision” can be characterized by dream global, with all venture based entrepreneurs either publicly or secretly wanting to have a global impact.

 

4.     If you had three wishes for Canada’s tech ecosystem in 2019, what would they be and who would they impact? 

 

1.     More corporate adoption: This includes more executive levels leading by example and “sponsoring” Startups that they wish to adopt internally.

2.     Improved regulatory environment: We must advance more quickly around subjects like Open Banking (or Open Data), harmonized regulation nationally and internationally, and increased “sandboxing” efforts with the aim of adapting legislation quickly thereafter.

3.     More government support: Improved models to support ecosystem development players, including the sometimes overlooked for-profit players.

 

5.    What do you see as a significant area of untapped opportunity for Canadian tech? 

 

While collaboration between big corporate and Startups is all the rage today, I do think that the future will yield more collaboration among Startups. We are seeing that certain partnerships between Startups creates immediate financial sustainability for both players, while also providing new growth levers to accelerate into new markets.

Brendan Dunn is an advisor to Canadian Dream Summit, taking place on February 19th in Toronto. To reserve a ticket, click here.

"Canada needs more external capital": Jennifer Jackson, Capital One Canada

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Jennifer R. Jackson, President of Capital One Canada, leads their Canadian business with a transformational leadership style and a passion for building diverse and inclusive teams

1.     When you reflect upon your career path, is there a defining moment that influenced where you are today? 

… all the major turning points that influenced where I am today occurred when I pushed myself out of my comfort zone.

While a single defining moment doesn’t stand out, all the major turning points that influenced where I am today occurred when I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. Although an engineer by training, I transitioned to management consulting early in my career. During that time, I worked in different industries and across various international markets. I pivoted sharply again when I joined Capital One’s credit card business with no experience in lending products or financial services. I was impressed with the company’s data driven approach to business, and believed that my quantitative skills and strategy background would serve me well as entered an entirely new field. Fortunately, pushing myself and my openness to learn from everyone around me helped me thrive in that new environment. 

 

Learning and gaining fresh perspectives continues to be crucial to my success. My current role leading our Canadian business allows me to see financial services in a different country and cultural context. This has pushed me in yet another new direction which I’m sure will influence where I’ll be tomorrow. 

 Canada has an incredible wealth of talented students and scientists at its universities

2.     Canada’s tech ecosystem is vibrant and rapidly expanding. Looking back, which factors in your view have driven this expansion? What do you think can be done to accelerate this further? 

Canada has been an innovator and leader in the AI space for many years. MaRS Discovery District is an example of Canada-backed focus on innovation and entrepreneurship. Leaders across Canada have embraced the important role of technology in the economic growth of the country. They have played an active role in the growth and expansion of talent within the tech ecosystem. Canada has an incredible wealth of talented students and scientists at its universities and most are sought after by leading technology companies across the globe. 

#DreamGlobal… leaders and companies can’t achieve great things if they box themselves in instead of expanding their horizons.

3.     Canadian Dream Summit aspires to a Canada where everyone is able to pursue and achieve their greatest ambitions. Three principles guide us: #VisionToReality, #CollaborateLocal, #DreamGlobal. Which one of these resonates the most with your work? 

#DreamGlobal is one that resonates the most because I believe that leaders and companies can’t achieve great things if they box themselves in instead of expanding their horizons. I’ve worked in several different countries, and the learning, insight, and cultural differences help bring valuable perspectives and solutions.

 Canada needs more external capital coming in to fund and, more importantly, drive the scaling-up of firms.

4.     If you had three wishes for Canada’s tech ecosystem in 2019, what would they be and who would they impact? 

1. Continued aggressive investment in start-ups:Canada needs more external capital coming in to fund and, more importantly, drive the scaling-up of firms. Canada needs to grow more "unicorns" (e.g., >$1B market cap), too. While start-ups are becoming more common in Canada, very few (e.g., Blackberry, Shopify) ever achieved that status before being acquired or leveling off in growth, which is critical to compete with markets like China and the U.S.

2. Prepare the next generation of leaders in technology: With Canada's growth of technology talent, we also need to concentrate on the development of a next generation of senior level technology leaders who can help the tech ecosystem expand even further in the global marketplace.

3. Expand our presence in the global tech marketplace as a leader and source of incredible engineering talent: We need to be a premier destination location for major technology innovators that will also spawn additional investments in education, research and major international technology conferences held in Canada

5.   What do you see as a significant area of untapped opportunity for Canadian tech? 

Canada needs more diverse representation in technology talent. While Canada has a diverse culture, we continue to experience low representation of that diversity in tech. Teams with diverse representation are better in so many ways when building customer products and services. We need to help develop a better representation set of technologists, engineers, scientists and mathematicians, in order for us to stay ahead of the pace of change in today’s world.

Canada needs more diverse representation in technology talent…. in order for us to stay ahead of the pace of change in today’s world.

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Jennifer R. Jackson will be speaking at Canadian Dream Summit on February 19th in Toronto. To reserve a ticket, click here.

In Canada, if you work hard anything is possible: Minister Ng


The Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion helps entrepreneurs create prosperity through trade and innovation, particularly through the promotion of export opportunities for Canadian small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

The Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion helps entrepreneurs create prosperity through trade and innovation, particularly through the promotion of export opportunities for Canadian small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

1.     When you reflect upon your career path, is there a defining moment that influenced where you are today? 

 …in Canada, if you work hard anything is possible. 

Like so many Canadians, I am an immigrant. My parents were entrepreneurs who believed that, in Canada, if you work hard anything is possible. 

 

They ran a small business – a Chinese food restaurant  – where my siblings and I would often help out after school.

 

One day, when I was 14 years old, I was at the restaurant watching the small black and white TV that was always playing in the background. 

 

I remember seeing that now iconic scene of Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau and Queen Elizabeth signing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

 Canada is considered one of the most entrepreneurial countries in the world. 

Even as a teenager, I knew this was an important moment for our country and that the Charter meant that I was equal. That even though I was a woman and an immigrant, that I had the same rights as anyone else.

 

My parents’ story and the signing of the Charter  were defining moments for me. I knew then, that I wanted to give back to the country that had given so much to me and my family. 

 

And 25 years later, I am honoured to be the Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion for a government that still knows that diversity is our strength. 

 

… government has helped fuel our talented innovative companies to grow and succeed both in Canada and around the world.


2.     Canada’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is vibrant and rapidly expanding. Looking back, which factors in your view have driven this expansion? What do you think can be done to accelerate this further? 

 

Canada is considered one of the most entrepreneurial countries in the world. Make no mistake, this is due to the talent of our people and pioneering spirit of our innovative companies. 

 

In recent years we have seen the convergence of growing support for entrepreneurship across grassroots, educational, and financial institutions. We have also seen incredible growth and development of our venture capital industry, angel networks, and business incubators and accelerators across the country. These developments, combined with unprecedented investments from government has helped fuel our talented innovative companies to grow and succeed both in Canada and around the world.

 

For its part, our government has played a supportive role, helping our entrepreneurs start up, scale up and access new markets. We have done this with our Innovation and Skills Plan, a plan to keep Canada competitive. 

 

We are decreasing red tape, building ecosystems of industrial strength, investing in venture capital and making historic investments in science. 

 

Much has been accomplished but better is always possible. Particularly, Canada’s intellectual property (IP) assets can be enhanced and we should be exporting much more than we are and to diverse markets. 

 

If we enhance our IP and get more small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) exporting, more Canadian companies will scale to new heights. 

Our global brand is strong again and the world wants more Canada.  

 

3.     Canadian Dream Summit aspires to a Canada where everyone is able to pursue and achieve their greatest ambitions. Three principles guide us: #VisionToReality, #CollaborateLocal, #DreamGlobal. Which one of these resonates the most with your work? 

 

As Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion, #DreamGlobal really speaks to me. We have 1.1 million SMBs that are innovating and breaking new ground every day. 

 

Our global brand is strong again and the world wants more Canada.  We now have access to 1.5 billion customers in 51 countries with our 14 trade deals. Despite this, only 12% of Canadian SMBs are exporting. Our government wants to change that. In fact, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has committed to increasing our overseas exports by 50% by 2025.  

 

My job is to help Canadian companies become export ready and we are investing $1.1 billion to achieve just that.  

The three most recent trade agreements, new NAFTA, CETA with Europe, and CPTPP with Asia Pacific nations all give considerations to SMBs, IP and digital commerce.  


4.     If you had three wishes for Canada’s entrepreneurial ecosystem in 2019, what would they be and who would they impact? 


My wish is that every entrepreneur and every SMB visits innovation.canada.ca. This website is a one-stop-shop where you enter a few details about your company and then get a tailored list of government programs and investments you could be eligible for. I would like to see more Canadian entrepreneurs take advantage of this 

 

I would also tell all Canadians and the world, that Canada is a great place to invest. With a thriving venture capital industry and professional angel networks across the country, I would love to see more Canadian and international investment in Canada’s most promising high-growth companies in areas such as ICT, cleantech, and health sciences, and in more regions and more women-owned companies across Canada. 

 

Most of all, I’d wish that more SMBs took advantage of our trade agreements and looked into exporting to diverse markets. The three most recent trade agreements, new NAFTA, CETA with Europe, and CPTPP with Asia Pacific nations all give considerations to SMBs, IP and digital commerce. 


 I would like to see continued improvements in the number of women-owned SME’s, women in STEM, and women in venture capital in Canada.

 

5.     What do you see as a significant area of untapped opportunity for Canadian entrepreneurs? 

Export and IP were previously mentioned as untapped areas of opportunity for Canadian entrepreneurs but I would also like to see more Canadian entrepreneurs, from all regions and backgrounds, tap into our world class incubators and accelerators and our ever-growing risk capital industry. 

I would also like to see more Canadian businesses scale in some of Canada’s key areas of economic strength such as advanced manufacturing, agri-food, clean technology, digital industries, health/bio-sciences and resources of the future. Our government created six Economic Strategy tables to support innovation in these areas.

Lastly, our government continues to be a champion of promoting more diversity across Canada’s entrepreneurial ecosystem through our Women Entrepreneurship Strategy. Reports have suggested that a lack of participation of women in the economy could be costing upwards of $150 billion dollars. Additionally, we have seen that gender-balanced and diverse companies regularly outperform their counterparts. Canada’s industry organizations have made great strides in recognizing the importance of gender balance and diversity in a successful ecosystem and I would like to see continued improvements in the number of women-owned SME’s, women in STEM, and women in venture capital in Canada.

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Minister Ng will be speaking at Canadian Dream Summit on February 19th in Toronto. To reserve a ticket, click here.

#DreamGlobal #BuildtoGreatness: Abdullah Snobar, The DMZ

ABDULLAH SNOBAR, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE DMZ     Responsible for the strategic direction and continued growth of the DMZ, he leads in helping Canada's most promising startups scale their companies and create innovative technology that changes lives. DMZ is a world leading tech accelerator.

ABDULLAH SNOBAR, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE DMZ

Responsible for the strategic direction and continued growth of the DMZ, he leads in helping Canada's most promising startups scale their companies and create innovative technology that changes lives. DMZ is a world leading tech accelerator.


1. When you reflect upon your career path, is there a defining moment that influenced where you are today?


A defining moment for me was moving from London to Toronto in 2005.


2. Canada’s tech ecosystem is vibrant and rapidly expanding. Looking back, which factors in your view have driven this expansion?


From the DMZ’s perspective, I would say our organization’s values: founders first, equity over everything and be great,  are contributing factors to the expansion.

What do you think can be done to accelerate this further?

A stronger global perspective

A stronger focus on putting founders first

Increased stakeholder support from corporates and all levels of government


3. Canadian Dream Summit aspires to a Canada where everyone is able to pursue and achieve their greatest ambitions. Three principles guide us: #VisionToReality, #CollaborateLocal, #DreamGlobal. Which one of these resonates the most with your work?


#DreamGlobal #BuildtoGreatness

4. If you had three wishes for Canada’s tech ecosystem in 2019, what would they be and who would they impact?

My three wishes for Canada’s tech ecosystem in 2019 would be:

  1. Create more Canada’s unicorn startups.

  2. Double down on talent.

  3. Become a less risk-averse innovation economy.


5. What do you see as a significant area of untapped opportunity for Canadian tech?

We have all the ingredients to be the best in the world. It’s time to take risks, believe in ourselves and sell the Canadian story to the globally.

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Abdullah Snobar, Executive Director at The DMZ, will be speaking at Canadian Dream Summit on February 19th in Toronto. To reserve a ticket, click here.

“To the doers.” Siri Agrell, Managing Director at 111


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Siri Agrell is Managing Director at OneEleven, a vibrant community of high-performing technology scaleups.

 I wanted to be challenged, to contribute, to push myself and always be a little out of my depth.


1.     When you reflect upon your career path, is there a defining moment that influenced where you are today? 

I remember sitting on a dock at a friend’s cottage in 2012. At the time, I was the urban affairs reporter at the Globe and Mail. A few days earlier I had been walking to get lunch and answered a call from a number I didn’t know. It was a woman asking if I’d like to come and work for a provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs, Kathleen Wynne. I had met with her the next day and on the way up north on Friday night, she had called and offered me a job, starting a week later. They needed to know by Sunday. I got to the cottage and found there was no wifi or cell service – the decision would be made without outside input. I remember looking out at the water and thinking about what I wanted and what I was afraid of. I wanted to be challenged, to contribute, to push myself and always be a little out of my depth. I wanted career progression, to learn. And all I was really scared of was the unknown. Would I be good at it? Would it be rewarding? Would it be too hard? Deciding to change careers, to me, is like standing on the edge of a dock. You need to believe in your abilities, understand the conditions – what’s behind you and what’s in front - and then, if it’s right, dive in. No dipping your toes. I remember knowing that I was going to jump, and that it was going to be okay. Since then I’ve had the most incredible moments of my career. I’ve learned so much, had incredible opportunities and the chance to really contribute. It’s led me to things I never would have contemplated. All because I stood on that dock and decided to dive in head first. 

… making sure our home-grown tech was prioritized, celebrated and supported too. 

2.     Canada’s tech ecosystem is vibrant and rapidly expanding. Looking back, which factors in your view have driven this expansion? What do you think can be done to accelerate this further? 

The weekend that Donald Trump announced the travel ban in the US, I was working for Toronto Mayor John Tory, where I had responsibilities for the tech sector, innovation and modernization. I started getting messages from US based tech companies saying they had hundreds of employees on H1-B visas, asking if they could potentially bring them to Toronto. That same weekend, more than 2000 leaders from the Canadian tech sector wrote an open letter stating that they “stand together in opposition to the marginalization of people based on their birthplace, race, or religion.” That was definitely a TSN turning point for the growth of the Canadian tech ecosystem, but it wouldn’t have mattered if the fundamentals weren’t already strong: deep and broad technical knowledge and expertise driven by our education system and diverse population; investment and collaborative support from all levels of government and private sector players; and a community of founders focused on building scaling companies in Canada, and keeping everyone honest about not over-indexing on multi-national entities but making sure our home-grown tech was prioritized, celebrated and supported too.

 I once got a card from a friend who worked at Andreessen Horowitz that was signed “To the doers.”

3.     Canadian Dream Summit aspires to a Canada where everyone is able to pursue and achieve their greatest ambitions. Three principles guide us: #VisionToReality, #CollaborateLocal, #DreamGlobal. Which one of these resonates the most with your work? 

They’re all important but I’d say #VisionToReality. My main take away from my career so far is that some people talk and some people do. Implementation is hard. Building things is hard. Turning an idea into a product, a company, an industry – that’s insanely hard. At OneEleven I’d say we’re dedicated to helping tech companies bring their vision to reality, to help them scale into something lasting, sustainable and impactful. I once got a card from a friend who worked at Andreessen Horowitz that was signed “To the doers.” I kept it up on my office wall when I had walls, but I carry that message with me every day.

 Implementation is hard. Building things is hard. Turning an idea into a product, a company, an industry – that’s insanely hard.

4.     If you had three wishes for Canada’s tech ecosystem in 2019, what would they be and who would they impact? 

  1. That corporations and governments would get their shit together on procurement. Tech companies are just new solution providers, new vendors with potentially better ways of doing things. Buy from them. If we procured from the tech sector as much as we namechecked innovation, our ecosystem would be unstoppable.

  2. That investors continue to seriously engage with the inherent bias that might prevent female founders from accessing capital, clients and opportunity.  

  3. More vowels in company names.

 We have the chance to continue building a tech sector that thinks a bit differently.

5.     What do you see as a significant area of untapped opportunity for Canadian tech? 

A group of California VCs once told the Mayor that “Toronto has the opportunity to avoid the mistakes of the Valley”. They were referring to issues of housing affordability and mobility that came with the intense scale of San Francisco’s tech sector. But I think that statement stands for our tech sector writ large. We have the chance to continue building a tech sector that thinks a bit differently. That prioritizes teams as well as founders, that thinks about impact as well as IPOs, that leverages diversity strategically and meaningfully. 

Siri Agrell is a featured guest in the Expert Zone at Canadian Dream Summit on February 19th in Toronto. To reserve a ticket, click here.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie: "Cities power the nation"

Bonnie Crombie, is the Mayor of Mississauga, Canada’s sixth largest city, an international destination that embodies vibrancy and diversity of culture.

1.    When you reflect upon your career path, is there a defining moment that influenced where you are today? 

 My family greatly shaped who I am today and my decision to pursue a life in public service. 

 My mother was born in Poland and my grandparents immigrated to Canada from Europe in the late 1940s to give her, and ultimately me, the opportunity for a better life here in Canada. Like many immigrants, they passed along their values of hard work, determination and perseverance. They sacrificed so much for our family and in return, I wanted to live up to their expectations and not let them down.

Pursuing a career in public service gave me the ability to not only make a difference and give back to my community but to make my family proud and prove that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

 I truly believe that cities power the nation… In cities people dream, think big, innovate, collaborate and connect.

2.    Canada’s tech ecosystem is vibrant and rapidly expanding. Looking back, which factors in your view have driven this expansion? What do you think can be done to accelerate this further? 

First and foremost, it is our diverse and highly skilled talent pool. Canada brings together people from around the world, provides them access to some of the best educational institutions in the world, and allows them the opportunity to innovate and take their ideas from concept to commercialization. We must continue to invest in education, especially in the STEM/STEAM fields. We also need to ensure that graduates have the ability to innovate and commercialize their ideas here in Canada and that the IP produced stays here. 

 Talent should know no borders. 

3.    Canadian Dream Summit aspires to a Canada where everyone is able to pursue and achieve their greatest ambitions. Three principles guide us: #VisionToReality, #Collaborate Local, #DreamGlobal. Which one of these resonates the most with your work? 

#CollaborateLocal. I truly believe that cities power the nation and that our local communities play a critical role in the future of our country and our innovation ecosystem. In cities people dream, think big, innovate, collaborate and connect. We build the infrastructure needed to build a business and we welcome people from every part of the world. 

We welcome people from every part of the world. 

4.    If you had three wishes for Canada’s tech ecosystem in 2019, what would they be and who would they impact? 

1.     Continue to support and empower more women to pursue careers in tech.

2.     Emerge as the leading destination for commercialization in the world.

3.     Pioneer disruptive technology that makes our global economy more interconnected and changes how we interact with the world, for examples, BitCoin, Uber and Netflix.

5.   What do you see as a significant area of untapped opportunity for Canadian tech? 

Continue to foster and embrace diversity. In a world where walls are replacing open borders and divisions are being stoked, those that want to succeed need to embrace openness and diversity. Talent should know no borders. 

Mayor Crombie will be speaking at Canadian Dream Summit on February 19th in Toronto. To reserve a ticket, click here.

Debbie Gamble: "Technology ecosystem in Canada is strong from coast to coast"

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Debbie Gamble, Chief Innovation and New Ventures Officer at Interac Corp, is responsible for driving the innovation agenda and accelerating growth via strategic partnerships. Interac Corp. is one of Canada’s leading payments brands and is chosen an average of 16 million times daily to pay and exchange money.

1. When you reflect upon your career path, particularly is there a defining moment that influenced where you are today?

I never anticipated the summer position I took in a bank when I first immigrated to Canada would evolve into an exciting, challenging, 35 plus year career in the payments industry. After 16 years, my career took a major turn. I took a position at Mondex International, a subsidiary of Mastercard, where I became the Head of North America. This position provided me with new insights and experiences that established the strong foundational elements of how I approach my work today.

In 2001, my career took another turn as I stepped into the entrepreneurial space, co-founding Dexit, Inc. with Renah Persofsky. We took Dexit public in 2004, raising over $40 million in funding, including IPO. The entire journey taught me valuable lessons about perseverance and what it takes to create a successful business from nothing.

…allowing me to continuously help redefine the payments industry and what Interac can bring to the Canadian economy and fintech ecosystem.

The experiences I’ve had throughout my career brought me to Interac, first as a consultant, now as Chief Officer Innovation Labs & New Ventures, allowing me to continuously help redefine the payments industry and what Interac can bring to the Canadian economy and fintech ecosystem.

2. Canada’s tech ecosystem is vibrant and rapidly expanding. Looking back, which factors in your view have driven this expansion? What do you think can be done to accelerate this further?

We need to give kudos to the early players who helped establish, grow and strengthen Canada’s technology ecosystem. The founders of Blackberry propelled Canada into the smart phone tech ecosphere and established Waterloo as a worldwide resource for top tech talent. Ilse Treurnicht’s accelerator vision and development of corporate partnerships while CEO of MaRS has also had, and continues to have, a tremendous impact on Canada’s tech community. Today, we have organizations committed to supporting and developing our tech community: The DMZ at Ryerson University, C100, a non-profit connecting thought leaders in Canada and Silicon Valley, Communitech, the University of Waterloo and more. These champions have fostered our tech community, helping Canada become recognized worldwide for our talent and work and encouraging global companies to make Canada their home.

The founders of Blackberry propelled Canada into the smart phone tech ecosphere and established Waterloo as a worldwide resource for top tech talent.

To continue accelerating our tech ecosystem, Canadians need to highlight the incredible work we’re doing everyday. We need to share our work and our visions with our customers, partners, and the tech community on the global stage. At Interac, we work at the heart of Canada’s financial industry, alongside financial institutions, merchants, acquirers, government agencies, innovation hubs, and other tech partners – big and small. Interac has earned the trust of the fintech community and that is why we’ve taken a leadership role in helping it expand.

Ilse Treurnicht’s accelerator vision and development of corporate partnerships while CEO of MaRS has also had, and continues to have, a tremendous impact on Canada’s tech community.

3. Canadian Dream Summit aspires to a Canada where everyone is able to pursue and achieve their greatest ambitions. Three principles guide us: #VisionToReality, #CollaborateLocal, #DreamGlobal. Which one of these resonates the most with your work?

I can’t choose just one as #VisionToReality, #CollaborateLocal and #DreamGlobal are all imperative to the work my team and I do, and they all work together. On the Innovation Labs & New Ventures team at Interac, we pride ourselves on thinking outside the box, pushing the barriers of the payments industry to find new ways for Canadians to use their money when, where and how they want. However, those visions are only useful if they’re made a reality. That’s where #CollaborateLocal comes in.

Collaboration is imperative at Interac, and is one of our key values. Internally, we work across a variety of teams on every project –our lab at Communitech, Product, Fraud, Risk, Security and more. Further, we continuously collaborate with partners across the industry, sharing insights, brainstorming concepts, and working together to bring convenient, safe and secure digital products to Canadians.

#DreamGlobal also applies to our work at Intearc, though we are a Canadian organization. We speak on global stages, share knowledge and resources with international industries, and learn from our counterparts around the world. When we do our work well, it’s not only applicable to Canadians, it impacts the entire payments ecosystem.

4. If you had three wishes for Canada’s tech ecosystem in 2019, what would they be and who would they impact?

My three wishes for Canada’s tech ecosystem in 2019 are connections, celebration and continued investment.

The technology ecosystem in Canada is strong from coast to coast. Creating a connected ecosystem would allow us all to share our ideas, inspire our talent, and build on the industry’s current capabilities. I also wish for members of the Canadian tech community to celebrate their successes, locally and globally. Let’s celebrate our progress, our accomplishments and the work that’s advancing our industries. Last, I wish for continued investment in Canada’s tech community. To continue the work we are doing we need government and corporate support and to strengthen the public/private partnerships.

5. What do you see as a significant area of untapped opportunity for Canadian tech?

Canada’s Academic Institutions provide significant opportunities for our tech community. We have some of the top educational and research institutions in the world, studying trends and producing talent that will have a major impact on the tech ecosystem around the world. We need to invest in these institutions and the time to mentor the next generation of leaders.

Being a country that celebrates diversity and is based on and encourages immigration positions Canada well to attract and foster the best and brightest to continue to drive our digital future.

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Debbie Gamble will be speaking at Canadian Dream Summit on February 19th in Toronto. To reserve a ticket, click here.


About Canadian Dream Summit 

Canadian Dream Summit is the world’s only tech conference focused on energizing Canada’s innovation economy by connecting scale-ups to corporates and capital. This event is organized by Canadian Dream Initiative, a not-for-profit with the mission of transforming Canada into the world’s leading innovation economy. Dream Summit attracts 400 business executives and leading voices in technology, business transformation, digital disruption, and innovation, for a full day conference on February 19th, 2019 in Toronto.

The event welcomes global perspectives on issues of national significance in the economy and beyond. With a curated audience and interactive learning opportunities, the conference provides an intimate environment for meaningful discussion. For more information on Dream Summit’s programming, speakers, and sponsorship opportunities please visit https://www.dreamsummit.org




Yung Wu, MaRS CEO: Inertia Kills – Speed wins

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Yung Wu is CEO at MaRS Discovery District. Under his leadership, the companies MaRS supports are advancing prosperity through entrepreneurial achievement. Located in Toronto, Canada, MaRS is the world’s largest urban innovation hub.

1.     When you reflect upon your career path, is there a defining moment that influenced where you are today? 

I have been fortunate to have had more than my fair share of wins along the way over a multi-decade career as a serial entrepreneur. But without exception, my most transformative, defining moments always occurred when being tested in major challenges without a safety line. Whether it was surviving the Tech bust, or the crash of the financial services sector after 9/11, or the Great Recession in 2007 … these perfect storms were the catalyst for huge personal and corporate transformations – they were change or die moments, and without exception, the driving factors were externalities that were outside the scope of anyone’s control. Each time, we came out better, faster, smarter and tougher.  And the lessons that came from each of those experiences form the core of my worldview – even today.  

Cycles are an inevitable force of nature, and when you’ve been in business long enough, you’re going to encounter them – many of them.  

It’s not about IP, or product-market fit or smart strategy – those are table stakes just to be in the game. Certainly not about “fail fast”.  It’s about how you learn, adapt and pivot fast. And that “NFQ” factor - being willing to put everything on the line, just to outlast the inevitable cycles.  Navigating that razor’s edge is the difference maker between massive failure or stellar long term success, both of which are simply two different points on the same continuum.  What it taught me was the power of always having choices when times are tough, and creating those choices by assembling dry powder and building relationships, making more deposits than withdrawals when times are good.  It also taught me that inertia kills and speed wins.

2.    Canada’s tech ecosystem is vibrant and rapidly expanding. Looking back, which factors in your view have driven this expansion?


Factors are: (i) Brain Gain with Transformational Talent; (ii) Rise of AI; (iii) First generation serial entrepreneurs returning to reinvest into the community; (iv) Lengthy 10 year favourable economic cycle (v) Power of an Ecosystem working at scale. The density of ecosystems like MaRS (now the largest urban innovation hub in North America) is creating a virtuous circle, attracting a connected value chain for all of the ingredients that fuel entrepreneurial success. Crucially, this takes out transaction costs and drives down decision inertia for entrepreneurs. 
Inertia Kills – Speed wins.  

 We have an opportunity to build global powerhouse companies that can win on a world stage – Yung Wu, CEO at MaRS

3.     Canadian Dream Summit aspires to a Canada where everyone is able to pursue and achieve their greatest ambitions. Three principles guide us: #VisionToReality, #CollaborateLocal, #DreamGlobal. Which one of these resonates the most with your work? 


#DreamGlobal–Canada is home to great innovators, but let’s be clear.  We are a small market. We must pursue global markets (outside of North America) if we are to create sustainable economic advantage for Canada going forward. Geo-economic boundaries are being reconfigured around disruptive innovation and the centres of power are changing, from powerful countries to powerful cities of innovation.  Like Toronto. We have an opportunity to build global powerhouse companies that can win on a world stage, based on the density of the innovation community and the value chain that fuels entrepreneurs that has assembled here.  Doing so over the next 3-5 years, will ensure prosperity for Canada over the next 30-50 years.

4.     If you had three wishes for Canada’s tech ecosystem in 2019, what would they be and who would they impact?


1) Reframe silo’d regional thinking into collaborative initiatives that can create pathways to high growth global markets. 


2) Focus on innovation adoption, and connect “innovation alley” with “main street”. By this I mean faster strategic adoption by large scale corporates of key technology solutions that help corporates to future-proof their businesses, while at the same time providing our entrepreneurs with the strategic backing and validation that they need to build global scale in their start-ups.


3) Harness “entrepreneur nation” to deliver the impact from inclusive innovation and create the shared prosperity that our citizens need.

The companies we support are building truly worthwhile innovations… solving real issues for real people and real businesses.

5.     What do you see as a significant area of untapped opportunity for Canadian tech?

Canadians are wired differently. We’re looking outwards, as others look inwards. We see diversity and collaboration as sources of strength, not signs of weakness.  As a result, we have created a value system which leverages our differences and gives us our edge.

This is the opportunity for us to reframe that old anachronism, which creates a false choice between creating economic value vs. driving impact.  The companies we support are building truly worthwhile innovations like finding ways to trap carbon emissions in concrete, creating eyewear that help the blind to see or using AI to discover digital markers for early onset dementia. It’s here where innovation alley connects with main street, solving real issues for real people and real businesses.

Yung Wu will be speaking at Canadian Dream Summit on February 19th in Toronto. To request an invitation, click here.

About Canadian Dream Summit 

Canadian Dream Summit is the world’s only tech conference focused on energizing Canada’s innovation economy by connecting scale-ups to corporates and capital. This event is organized by Canadian Dream Initiative, a not-for-profit with the mission of transforming Canada into the world’s leading innovation economy. Dream Summit attracts 400 business executives and leading voices in technology, business transformation, digital disruption, and innovation, for a full day conference on February 19th, 2019 in Toronto.

The event welcomes global perspectives on issues of national significance in the economy and beyond. With a curated audience and interactive learning opportunities, the conference provides an intimate environment for meaningful discussion. For more information on Dream Summit’s programming, speakers, and sponsorship opportunities please visit https://www.dreamsummit.org