In my last role as a Marketing Director on the executive team at a rapidly growing startup (from 7 to 150 people) over the last few years, I had some fantastic opportunities to attend tech and developer conferences all over the world, but this year’s Startupfest in Montreal was truly unique. Having just wrapped up its seventh year, the theme was luck, and I left the event feeling grateful and happy to know more about the wonderful Canadian tech community that supports entrepreneurs and startup founders nationally.
Startupfest drives community bonds and interaction
For starters, I got aboard the Startup Train, which I highly recommend, for anyone wanting to start their networking even before the conference begins. On the train I got to pick a mentor to talk with. Heather Anne Ritchie (co-founder at Repable) was super helpful in telling me about her experiences of scaling a marketing and PR agency, finding a co-founder, and building a personal brand.
One of the best things about the actual startup festival was the way in which it provided a cathartic forum for attendees to discuss common goals, individual ambitions, and how to hustle and get the best results. With participants gathering together in a variety of ways, the event never felt boring or stale.
The reason the format was so compelling and facilitated a meaningful forum was two-fold. First, speakers generally prepared high-quality keynotes and treated their audience as grown-ups who were already familiar with the subject matter. Sarah Lacy’s talk on “ The Silicon Valley Morality Crash” was fantastic, with excellent research and examples, plus an amazing conviction and confidence on her part that rocked the audience. She certainly did not have kid gloves on for this one. Slides and video footage from Sarah Lacy’s talk are found here. Another talk by Kimberly Bryant, Founder of Black Girls Code, with her daughter on stage, was equally thought-provoking and extremely moving. Those talks for me, were the ones that were the most revolutionary as they presented the most unique content.
In the afternoon, there were session tracks and the interactive stage gave the audience a chance to ask questions and be more involved. Tabatha Soltay (TabTalks) produced a game that had us all role playing to explore the dynamic between founders and investors within the ecosystem.
Second, a real highlight was the braindating format that the conference used. Working with a software platform created by e180, participants could see who was attending and book braindates in advance. I was fortunate to have great conversations with Chris Plough (Exponential.U), Shira Yoskovitch (Handled Concierge Services), Sylvain Leclair (e180), Douglas Soltys (Betakit) and others.
In addition, I met the founders of Fireside Conference, Starup Weekend and Multiplicity, and I got to hear about their upcoming events. This event was a great reminder for me that the Canadian startup ecosystem is stronger than ever. For anyone who asks me about it: This is a conference worth participating in that I‘ll likely return to again.