14 Upside Foundation pledges, $25 million commitment to SickKids by 2022 made at #BetaKit150

upside foundation

At #BetaKit150 last week, hundreds of VCs, founders, and community builders gathered to celebrate — and predict — the future of Canadian innovation. With entrepreneurs like Saadia Muzaffar and Harley Finkelstein, and investors like Paul Desmarais III and Bruce Croxon present, the afternoon explored how Canada can take the lead in emerging industries like AI, FinTech, and social enterprise.

At #BetaKit150, 14 companies decided to take the pledge, including Crowdmatrix, Nudge.ai, TribalScale, and BetaKit. The Upside Foundation now sits at 131 pledges.

A theme that came up often at the event was the importance of giving back, both within and outside the tech community. Hubba CEO Ben Zifkin and Wealthsimple CEO Mike Katchen both shared the reasons why they pledged to the Upside Foundation, which last month celebrated 100 pledges as part of its campaign to get 150 pledges by Canada 150. At #BetaKit150, 14 companies decided to take the pledge, including Crowdmatrix, Nudge.ai, TribalScale, and BetaKit. Currently, the Upside Foundation sits at 131 pledges.

“We wanted to build a huge global institution in Toronto, [and] put roots here, which meant we would be sucking up nutrients. Our decision was that if we wanted to give back to the community as well,” said Zifkin.

Zifkin also revealed an ambitious initiative led by Toronto’s tech community: a pledge to raise $25 million by 2022 to support the building of a new SickKids emergency suite as the hospital expects an uptick in visits; SickKids expects a four percent annual increase in visits to its emergency room until 2027.

The pledge is part of a larger SickKids campaign to raise $1.3 billion to bring its services to remote communities, expand its research capabilities, and construct a new building on University Avenue.

To facilitate the process, tech leaders have built a SickKids Tech Community Fundraising Advisory Council, including Clearbanc co-founder Michele Romanow, Impression Ventures founder Christian Lassonde, and League chief health officer Lori Casselman (see full list below).

Jodi Kovitz, CEO of AceTech Ontario, is leading the charge on behalf of the Canadian tech community, though she credits Zifkin for the idea of rallying Canadian tech around the emergency room building. Kovitz said she was inspired to get involved because of her own experience; her daughter had to spend a some time at SickKids for two years of her life.

“There’s a huge increase in need for a larger capacity in the emergency room, but where it’s now come to is that we’re going to be the most world-leading emergency room in the world, and engage the community in designing it and making sure it’s full of the best tech,” said Kovitz. “So [instead of] old TVs playing Dora and toys that stay dirty, it’s gonna be full of STEM and robotics and the latest in tech brought to you by the community that can drive that forward.”

The campaign will launch in October shortly after SickKids officially launches its own fundraising campaign that month. The tech community’s initiative will be branded as Tech Community Vs. Missing Childhood, under SickKids’ “Vs.” campaign.

“There’s a huge increase in need for a larger capacity in the emergency room.”
– Jodi Kovitz, CEO of AceTech Ontario

“Our goal is to reduce the time that kids are missing their childhood and give them best experience in the most innovative emergency room in the world,” Kovitz said. “The tech community is the future of the Canadian economy. We have tremendous power in numbers and influence to be able to give back to the community together. And we can do that in innovative ways, not just the typical historic ways.”

Partnering with the Upside Foundation is part of the Toronto tech committee’s plan to bring more funding to SickKids, which also includes micro-donations from events and looking to organizations like the C100 to get US-based Canadians interested.

“The companies who pledge to give back with Upside epitomize what it means to be Canadian — to be bold, adventurous builders of the future, while committing to sharing that success with the community,” said Jennifer Couldrey, foundation manager at The Upside Foundation. “We were so honoured to have the community rally together to join us on our quest to bake giving back into the Canadian startup community.”

Organizations that want to get involved with the SickKids initiative can contact Jodi Kovitz directly.

SickKids Tech Community Fundraising Advisory Council:

    • Chad Bayne, Osler
    • Roger Chabra, TribalScale
    • Dr. Brett Belchetz, Maple
    • Lori Casselman, League
    • Michael Cohen, Zero Gravity Labs
    • Jennifer Couldrey, Upside Foundation
    • Chris Dulny, PwC Canada
    • Morley Ivers, Nucleus Intercom
    • Sheetal Jaitly, Tribalscale
    • Michael Katchen, Wealthsimple
    • Jodi Kovitz, AceTech Ontario (SickKids Campaign Cabinet Volunteer)
    • Jeff Musson, Dynamite Network
    • Christian Lassonde, Impression Ventures (SickKids Foundation Board Member)
    • Matthew O’Leary, Carrot Rewards
    • Jennifer Patterson, Google Canada
    • Sarah Richard, Carrot Rewards
    • Michele Romanow, Clearbanc
    • Farhan Thawar, Helpful.com
    • Daniel Warner, MediSeen
    • Steve Woods, Nudge
    • Ben Zifkin, Hubba
Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang is BetaKit's News Editor. Follow her on Twitter @jessicagalangg or send her pitches to jessica.galang@betakit.com.