A day before Web Summit began in Lisbon, Canadian startups, government officials, and foreign investors convened for the Canada Day Summit.
“In Toronto, we want to be well-prepared to make sure this thing is a big success because none of these things happen on their own.”
– Toronto Mayor John Tory
The Summit—which was organized by the federal government, the City of Toronto, and other provincial governments—served as a kickoff for a Canadian delegation selling the ecosystem to an international audience at Web Summit (disclosure: as part of the Canada delegation to Web Summit, BetaKit received paid air travel to Lisbon). In addition, during Web Summit, the Canadian Pavilion will include meeting rooms, opportunities to connect with the delegation, and a branded Collision Lounge. The Canadian embassy has also been involved in facilitating matchmaking startups with key potential partners.
As a whole, the delegation is an opportunity to showcase the calibre of Canadian talent in-person to the 70,000 people expected to attend Web Summit, as Toronto is set to host the event’s sister-conference, Collision, next year.
“From our end, in Toronto, we want to be well-prepared to make sure this thing is a big success because none of these things happen on their own,” Toronto Mayor John Tory told BetaKit. “We as Canadians are very modest. We’re modest about the innovation ecosystem we now have, we’re modest about our tech ecosystem, and a lot of people don’t know what we’ve got going for us. We have to be here to say ‘come on over to Toronto, you’ll have a great time in 2019,’ but underlying that from our standpoint is we’re going to showcase our ability as a country and ability as a city to lead.”
— John Tory (@TorontosMayor) November 5, 2018
During the Canada Day Summit, speakers from firms like OMERS, Element AI, and OpenText gave insight on pitching and Canadian innovations, followed by a pitch session featuring 11 Canadian startups to find potential partners and investors.
For the startups, a recurring theme for participating in the pitch session and Web Summit was exposure to the European market. “Web Summit has been a good value because it puts us in front of people we couldn’t otherwise meet in a short amount of time. We get to have high-level meetings not just from Canadians, but with people from all over that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to,” said Ilya Brotzky, CEO of VanHack.
As VanHack’s platform helps companies hire global talent, it’s especially fitting. The company expanded to Europe in 2016, and Brotzky said he sees a lot of opportunity in markets like Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands, and Ireland.
“Everyone here can work anywhere, and they’re very open to international talent,” said Brotzky. “There’s a huge lack of tech talent in Europe and there’s many countries here that are proactively attracting tech talent with tax incentives. It’s a good way for us to diversify, and a lot of our candidates want to move here.”
Last year, Jauntin’, which allows insurers to distribute micro-insurance to policyholders, secured second place at Web Summit’s pitch competition. “That just opened up so many doors to investors and even things like SEO and marketing, and just helped us being here. It’s a place to be if you want to meet investors and partners within a three-day span,” said founder and CEO Rain Takahashi.
Jauntin’ pitching at Web Summit.
Returning for the second time and pitching at the Canada Day Summit, Takahashi said that Europe’s regulatory environment made it a natural target for Jauntin, which wants to target industries like drone insurance and the gig economy in the future.
“Regulations in Europe are a little bit less strict than the US, so it’s more of a natural progression. The US, as much as we’d love to be there, is just a little bit too regulated; 52 states [including Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico], so 52 different regulations. So we feel Europe is a better immediate opportunity,” said Takahashi.
Feature image courtesy Web Summit.