Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Canadian Space Industry Might Want to Embrace the 2017 Elevate Toronto Tech Festival

          By Brian Orlotti

The Canadian government hasn't had a long-term space plan for almost a decade, since 2009 when Richmond, BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) tried (and failed) to sell it's space business to Virginia based Alliant Techsystems (ATK), in an attempt to gain access to the lucrative US military market.

Toronto Mayor John Tory at the July 11th, 2017 press conference announcing the 2017  Elevate Toronto Conference. It's a  a three-day tech festival that will showcase the best of the Canadian innovation ecosystem and welcome the world to Toronto. Photo c/o author.

And while there has been many promises, from both Federal Conservative and Liberal governments under Prime Ministers Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau, each has failed to provide consistency and direction to the Canadian space industry.

Which is kinda odd since the future of our space industry has always been, and will likely continue to remain, providing space focused solutions to Earth based problems.

Of course, if you're really looking for the best solutions to Earth based problems, you might want to check out the 2017 Elevate Toronto conference, which will be held from September 12th - 14th in Toronto, Ontario.

Elevate Toronto Chair and former Achievers Inc CEO Razor Suleiman citing his gratitude to Canada for welcoming his Ismaili family from East Africa decades ago. Razor wants to build on the international success of Toronto events like the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the Austin TX based  South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) and its Toronto partner, the Toronto, ON based North by North West Festival (NXNW) to launch Elevate Toronto. Photo c/o author.

On July 11th, leaders from Toronto’s tech startup community gathered near the top of the CN Tower to unveil the event, intended to showcase Toronto’s thriving tech scene as well as promote the city internationally as a hub for investment and innovation.

Elevate Toronto is a non-profit collaboration between 17 technology organizations coming together to create the three-day festival (which will run September 12-14). These organizations include:
  • TechToronto – A local organization supporting the growth and development of the Toronto tech community. Best known for its monthly TechToronto Meetups.
  • MaRS Discovery District - A Toronto tech incubator founded in 2000 as a public/private partnership with the goal of commercializing research in medicine/biotech, information technology, engineering and other fields.
  • MoveTheDial – A local organization dedicated to bringing more women into the tech industry.
  • OneEleven – A Toronto tech incubator backed by OMERS Ventures, the venture capital arm of the powerful Ontario municipal employee pension fund 
  • Cossette Communications - A Canadian marketing communications firm headquartered in Quebec City with offices in Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg. Cossette’s clients include McDonald’s, General Motors, General Mills, Bank of Montreal, Procter & Gamble and Nike.
A recurring theme among the speakers at the Elevate Toronto unveiling was how diversity and prosperity complement and reinforce each other and provide a bulwark against current populist winds.

Elevate Toronto Chair and former Achievers Inc CEO Razor Suleiman eloquently championed diversity as a strength and not a weakness, offering his gratitude to Canada for welcoming his Ismaili family fleeing persecution in East Africa decades ago.

Suleiman pitched the new festival as a means of strengthening Canada by showcasing its talent to the world as well as enticing Canadian expats in the US and Europe back home. He also spoke of how his team seeks to model Elevate Toronto on internationally successful Toronto events like the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and The South by Southwest Festival (aka SXSW).

Toronto Mayor John Tory spoke next, making the point that supporting a thriving Toronto tech community boosts Canada’s prosperity which, in turn, helps prevent a descent into the xenophobic nationalism seen in the US and UK. Many Canadian expats in the audience, recently returned from the US with tales of racist harrassment, loudly applauded.

Standing in the crowd, the author could detect an energy---a zeal for greatness---emanating from the Toronto tech community. Canada’s space industry—listless and adrift---would do well to emulate the tech community as it seeks to step out of other nations’ shadows and elevate ours to new heights.
Brian Orlotti.

Brian Orlotti is a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

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