How are you disrupting the status quo? That’s what the CTRL ALT DEL event at SFU Woodward’s in downtown Vancouver last Thursday was all about: discovering how Vancouver’s top tech entrepreneurs are changing their world. The event drew a big crowd from the local tech community and a strong panel introduced by the organizer and moderator, Romila Barryman, Co-Founder & Editor in Chief of Textbook.
Melody Ma was one of the first speakers. Ma works as a developer at MEC by day, but by night she’s disrupting BC’s Ministry of Education. “What if every K-12 student in BC gets to code in school?” she asked. “New Brunswick has coding in schools. Australia has coding in schools. Estonia does, too. What are we waiting for?”
Apparently, the wait is over. Thanks to efforts like Ma’s, in December, BC will be hosting “An Hour of Code” — BC’s province-wide first baby steps at making coding in schools a reality.
“The agency of the people must be involved in a real equitable way.”
– Saadia Muzaffar
Sarah Goodman found her way into tech helping her father, Dr. Jess Goodman, MD, realize his goal of making affordable health technology. Together they founded VitalSines, a tech firm that creates iHeart, a cost effective tool (and app) to help people monitor their own heart health, arterial stiffness, and ultimately push back their “internal age.”
Natalie Cartwright is co-founder of Payso, a startup that makes a mobile app for sharing money more easily. She noted that developing countries have shot way ahead of Canada in so far as mobile payment systems are concerned. Maybe it’s our traditional banking practices (Cartwright said she has found herself having to reassure Canada’s banking leviathans that their business model is not out to destroy them). Her approach to working with the financial industry is resolutely collaborative. But at this point, we’re playing catch-up to countries like Denmark, the US, or even infrastructure-hobbled Kenya.
Nikki Wong is program director at Spring, which “helps entrepreneurs build thriving businesses that make the world a better place through technology.” Continuing on this theme of collaboration, Wong started by challenging the image of the tech entrepreneur as a lone wolf. “There’s no such thing as the lone success,” she said. Wong also spoke of the social good startups can do and the need to build based on real needs.
Saadia Muzaffar is a tech entrepreneur, investor, and a media advocate for diversity and equity in the science and technology sectors. As the founder of TechGirls Canada, she speaks to women’s and girls’ issues, but she takes it further to include the broadest possible understanding of doing good in the tech sector.
Appearing via video link from her undisclosed hidden lair, Muzaffar spoke powerfully of the need for ethos in technology. “The agency of the people must be involved in a real equitable way,” she said. “We can’t have a patronizing view.”
Overall, these leaders in tech showed that success can happen without compromising authenticity, ethics, or passion.