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Celebrating Canadian Technology Entrepreneurship… with a Uniquely Canadian Entrepreneurship Celebration

Published June 12, 2018 by Balaji Gopalan

With MedStack, there are two things we are focused on day to day: the enabling platform technology we offer to digital health innovators to accelerate them to market through standardization of privacy, security and integration architecture, and the celebration of and support to the community of entrepreneurs transforming healthcare. We love to meet them, learn about what they’re working on, tell their stories and tout their victories. As a result, gatherings of brave technology entrepreneurs are of particular interest to us. As such, True North 2018, which took place a couple weeks ago in the innovation-enabling battery that is Waterloo and organized by Communitech in partnership with every other major formal innovation hub in Ontario, was something we looked forward to, and it didn’t disappoint.

This was a gathering of influencers, inspirers, inventors and investors like other well-known tech conferences, but it shamelessly wore a very Canadian parka despite the blazing hot weather. There’s much that can be said about it, from the kickoff, which celebrated the native Canadian culture whose land upon which the event took place, to the inspirational presentations from a wide array of disruptors and thought leaders, to the breadth of coverage from across Canada represented by the attendees.

But what struck me most of all were the thematic elements: “Tech for Good” read the slogan. That’s it. That’s us. We tackle big problems and are most motivated by the permanent, positive, societal outcomes that they produce. We have a great responsibility, as the superheroes and heroines of our industry, and we must apply our ability to dismantle and reinvent for good. The three official themes for the day were AI, Cybersecurity and Diversity. No one can deny that those are the most pressing topics of the day when it comes to tech, anywhere; we have to get right. The themes were explored the way creativity leads to innovation, how diversity is a vector upon which companies are fully reinventing themselves, and how a success metric of opening up equal opportunity for all can guide the way advanced technology is applied.

Beyond that, however, it struck me just how much those three themes are at the heart of what we do at MedStack.

  • Diversity – We bring a greater range of creators and innovators, from physicians to technologists to patients who want something better for people to building something for the way healthcare can work better
  • AI – They focus on building these tools with the most advanced technologies, including AI, and apply to everything from patient workflows to genetics.
  • Cybersecurity – We enable them to be successful because in healthcare privacy and security is non-negotiable and we standardize it and make it easy.

It’s an incredible feeling to know that the community you respect so much is pushing an aligned vision.

Dress Rehearsal at Corridor Demo Day 2018

I did have to step away from True North one day to attend the Corridor Demo Day, a catch-all investor event that featured 48 seed and series A-ready startups across a variety of sectors vying for investor engagement via 3-minute speed pitches. I kicked off the day with presentation number one as the 120-plus investor attendees took their seats. My pitch was well-received (I was honoured by the positive comments delivered to me afterwards), but that was no small feat because all the pitches of the day were incredible. Each company was attacking very tough problems with bleeding-edge technology, towards immensely ambitious measures of success. There were companies changing the way cars are built, energy is collected and billed for, legal firms prepare for cases, news is validated and delivered, gig workers are insured, materials are protected, kids are taught, restaurants are staffed and more. But what’s more, no less than thirteen of the 48 presenting founders helm health companies. That is an incredibly telling statistic for where entrepreneurship is going.

All in all, it was an energizing, exciting and inspirational couple of days, setting the bar higher for all of us in attendance. We really can lead the world in setting a shining example for an entrepreneurship community, and I can’t wait for what the 2019 event will bring.

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