In late July, Jodi Kovitz, founder of the #MoveTheDial movement and Talk Boutique speaker, reached out to us to see if we could help with a project she was involved with called Elevate Toronto. Elevate Toronto is a three-day festival to celebrate innovation in Toronto. This year, it was held during TIFF from September 12 – 14, 2017.
This conversation took place with less than five weeks remaining before the event, and we learned of the Herculean task of programming and securing all speakers for the Main Stage at the Sony Centre and producing and programming the Spotlight Awards held at the Four Seasons Hotel. We didn’t hesitate. Of course, we said YES!
The truth is, we were incredibly honoured and proud to be part of the team that is celebrating the great city we live in. We are so proud of Toronto and the incredible talent who resides here. Nick and I have both worked with TEDxToronto over the years, but this was a little different. We had five weeks, an abundance of passion and a talented Elevate Toronto team to work with, but time was ticking. What a ride!
The momentum created from idea to execution was incredible (a total of 90 days!). From a packed Elevate Main Stage at the Sony Centre where Mayor John Tory announced the formation of the Civic Innovation Office for the City of Toronto, to technology leaders and venture capitalists, Elevate Educate where individual tracks with over 150 leaders speaking across all tech disciplines, including the sold-out AI track at MaRS with almost 600 people in attendance, the Festival was truly an inspiration and an indication of the passion that lives in this city.
Razor Suleman, CEO, and Co-Founder of Elevate Toronto had a vision that included beliefs that became the Elevate values: Diversity is our Strength, Disrupt Together, and It’s Our Time. These values were embodied in every part of the three-day festival from a fully gender balanced, diverse Main Stage, to support and announcements made throughout the Festival of Alliances. New initiatives and support for increasing the numbers of women in tech through fundraising efforts were announced for Ladies Learning Code and #MoveTheDial.
If you attended any portion of the Festival you were one of the almost 5,000 attendees, sponsors, organizers and volunteers who experienced speakers and talent from near and far including, Amanda Crew, star of the award-winning HBO series Silicon Valley, who spoke on the need for gender diversity in tech. Julie Hanna, Founder and Executive Chair of Keva who spoke about creating global communities. Tony Lacavera, Founder of Globalive and former Wind Mobile CEO, on Canada’s opportunity to win on a global stage. And Chairman and Founder of Khosla Ventures, Vinod Khosla interviewed by Bilal Khan on his views on the tech sector in Toronto and so many more.
In fact, over 200 speakers participated and over 40 tech companies opened their doors as part of Elevate NewCo, across the three days and the Festival was topped off with a celebration at the Spotlight Awards recognizing Canada’s newest Centurions (companies exiting at $100+ million) and Unicorns (exiting or valued at $1 Billion or more). This year, Spotlight recognized a record 11 companies, underlining the strength of the Canadian innovation sector.
Elevate Toronto was a true demonstration of what can happen when a group of passionate people get together with a strong and clear vision. Talk Boutique was honoured to work with the leadership team that included Salim Teja, President, Venture Services for MaRS, Bilal Khan, CEO of OneEleven, Jodi Kovitz, CEO of AceTECH and founder of #MoveTheDial, Valerie Swatkow, EVP Corporate Development at Cossette, Alex Norman, Co-Founder and Managing Director of TechToronto, and of course, Razor Suleman, CEO and Co-Founder of Elevate Toronto along our partner in producing the Main Stage event Kevin Wegman from Citizen PR.
Now that we’ve had a bit of sleep, we are ready for ELEVATE TORONTO 2018.