Elevate 2023: Founders & innovators from the show in Toronto

on October 6, 2023
Elevate 2023: Founders & innovators from the show in Toronto

The Boast team was on the road again last month, hitting up Toronto for Elevate 2023. We met with founders and innovators from across the Toronto tech scene, and took home lasting lessons after attending some of the incredible sessions with leaders in the AI, gaming, and consumer space all week. 

But first, our own Evelyn Zheng was invited to join fellow members of Team Canada for a discussion around leadership hosted by MaRS Discovery District and RBCX. The audience was Women Leaders in Cleantech who were there to learn about what it takes to build a high-performance team and culture.

From there, the team caught up at the main stage for the first night festivities where we caught up with old friends and new connections.

AI dominates the conversation at Elevate

The big topic during Day 1 (and really all week) was—you guessed it— AI.

The morning kicked off with a great primer on prompt engineering from Danielle Gifford of The 51 who broke down how to understand “traditional AI” (it’s akin to a calculator) versus generative AI (it’s like your iPhone), as well as what the implications are for businesses and individuals as the lines blur between Reasoning Engines and Search Engines.

“If like me you’re using chatGPT for search, congratulations! You’re technically a prompt engineer; you can put that on your LinkedIn,” Danielle informed the crowd, which was an even mix of tech-side and business-side AI professionals.

Danielle was followed by a Q&A between Steve Lowry of AInBC and Bob Beachler of Untether AI where the topics ranged from practical AI applications to the prospects of the singularity actually happening.

At the end of the day, Bob puts it, “the great thing about humans is that we’re very adaptable. We’re always training and inferring. Now that we have a tool, we can use it to be more productive; therefore, we’re going to adapt to it.”

He closed the conversation by discussing the responsible AI mission his team is focused on by creating more environmentally-friendly compute models to support AI.

Unpacking the “Scully Effect”

The conversation of “responsible” AI took on a new shade with Komal Singh of Google Research. Not only did she unveil the exciting projects her team is embarking on to create a more equitable AI ecosystem for all, she also introduced us to the concept of the “Scully Effect.”

“There’s research that shows 60% of girls who grew up watching Dana Scully on X Files eventually went into STEM—and I’m one of them”

We also caught up with pals and partners outside the main show in the Startup and Investor’s Lounge, which was chock-full of opportunities to connect with amazing innovators.

Interview with Foresight Canada

We also got to connect with great partners, like Stuart Germain from Foresight Canada, whose team is on a mission to make Canada the first  net zero country in the G7.

He caught up with Paul Davenport outside Day 1 of Elevate Festival to discuss highlights (AI is everywhere!), his mission for Foresight, and partnering with Boast to help fuel a cleaner future.

Gaming takes the main stage at Elevate Day 2

First lesson from Day 2? Not only is a career in gaming lucrative, but they even teach it at university.

There may be no cooler professor than Dr. Kris Alexander of Toronto Metropolitan University who MC’d the opening sessions of the Game On track.

He shared the stage with Albert Lai who has been a major player in the gaming world across numerous startups, helping disrupt the industry by bringing data science into the fold.

“The thing that happened 15 years ago was that you could take vast amounts of data and use it to predict success; the same is happening today with AI,” as Lai explained.

His advice for founders looking to break into the market today?

“We’re at the tipping point where AI is low cost and accessible enough, but it’s going to be so different in 5 years. Go and play with those free tools now and start pushing the envelope today”

The stage then turned to e-sports for a discussion hosted by Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll featuring Adam Burchill, Noah Levy, and Humza Teherany, where they waxed on the real-world potential for tech that found its start in the gaming space.

“It’s never just about implementation of the latest thing: How do we actually enhance the user experience… or drive utility,” Humza explained before demonstrating how augmented reality can be used for sports consumers and athletes alike.

Gaming tech impacting the “real world”

After that, Julie Lottering from Epic Games unpacked how the company behind fortnight is disrupting and transforming industries ranging from automotive manufacturing to architecture.

An interesting highlight was learning about the ecosystem of support for new entrepreneurs exploring AR VR and mixed reality that Epic and other leaders in the space are fostering.

It’s a great time to be a gaming startup (as many Boast customers can attest) and we’re thrilled to see these virtual environments continue to impact and improve our day-to-day reality.

Inspiring founder journey from Joanna Griffiths

Knix CEO Joanna Griffiths shared a truly inspiring founders story during her keynote session.

As the brains behind the company that saw the largest exit led by a female founder in history, she grew her business into a 400+ employee operation by both seeking out true innovation and staying focused on her mission.

After working in media, getting passed over for promotions, and coming to the conclusion that she “never wanted to answer to a boss again,” she was a trailblazer in the leak-proof intimates market, which has grown to more than a billion-dollar valuation in the decade since she first started Knix.

“We’re competing against Kim Kardashian and Rihanna! That wasn’t on my bingo card 10 years ago!” Joanna told the packed crowd in the main hall.

She was crystal clear from the start that she wanted to create (and fund) a business that put women (her ICP) front and center, providing meaningful solutions for a massive audience whose needs are regularly overlooked or marginalized.

The Boast team is inspired by all the passion and innovation on display at Elevate this year. Founder stories like this, where teams go deep on R&D to derive impactful products and services, are exactly the kinds of partners we hope to engage.

Final night party from Lazaridis Institute

Finally, The Lazaridis Institute after party was a huge highlight for the Boast team during Elevate Fest 2023. We ping ponged with pals, traded takeaways with our friends from OneEleven and had some great IRL interactions with our remote team.

It was a fantastic time in Toronto and we can’t wait for next year!

Talk to an expert from Boast AI today to learn more about how we combine cutting edge technology with years of expertise—and a founder’s POV—to optimize your R&D and fund your innovation.


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