Elevate sending delegation to SXSW with hopes to emulate festival success in Toronto

Elevate, is making its way down to Austin, Texas for SXSW, with a delegation of Canadian tech leaders to drum up interest in the annual Toronto tech festival and promote the city’s growing tech scene.

“What SXSW has done for the city of Austin is something that really inspired us…that’s the model that is our north star.”

The delegation will be led by Toronto mayor, John Tory, along with festival co-founders Razor Suleman and Kari Suleman, and local tech leaders including Yung Wu, the CEO of MaRS Discovery Centre, JF Gagné, CEO of Element AI, and Abdullah Snobar, the executive director of the DMZ. The delegation will have representation from a number of Canadian tech organizations spanning startups, VCs, advocacy groups, and major companies. The 50 includes leadership from Shopify, VC firm Espresso Capital, Testfire labs, and TribalScale.

“The economic impact that SXSW has on the city of Austin is absolutely unparalleled throughout the world,” Lisa Zarzeczny, senior director of operations for Elevate, and part of the delegation, told BetaKit. “They’re dedicated to building the city and that’s something at Elevate we’re really passionate about, in our case, it’s Toronto and Canada, and we really try to do the same thing here.”

SXSW 2019 is taking place in Austin from March 8 to 17. The annual music, media, film, digital media, and tech festival attracts hundreds of thousands of attendees from more than 102 countries annually. Elevate delegation members, including Tory, will be given an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the festival. Mayor Tory will also be giving a keynote address on Toronto’s growing tech scene, with a speech entitled ‘Toronto’s Tech Sector: Not Just Bros and IPOs.’

Elevate, which launched in 2017, sent its first delegation to SXSW last year. Zarzeczny noted that the festival has been inspirational for Elevate. Capital One House at SXSW, which offers programming by day and events by night, inspired Elevate’s King West this past year, which had its own Capital One House and included events and activations across the city.

“What SXSW has done for the city of Austin is something that really inspired us. It’s actually something that from Elevate’s perspective, that’s the model that is our north star,” Zarzeczny said.

Zarzeczny said the mayor and the team at Elevate see many connections between Austin and Toronto. Austin, like Toronto, is a growing technology hub, Amazon chose the city as the location for its HQ2 earlier this year.

“Both are really growing technology hubs, both are also really recognized as creative cities, both have strong music and culture hubs as well. I think its about continuing to create more branches and connectivity between those two cities for things like trade,” Zarzeczny said, “[It’s about] how can we have better connectivity and trade between our two tech and music ecosystems.”

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This isn’t Mayor Tory’s first time attending SXSW, he previously visited the festival in a music capacity, hoping to create a “music city alliance” between the two cities. This time around, Tory is looking to do the same for the Toronto tech scene. He will be sitting down with Austin mayor, Steve Adler, to discuss increasing trade and further connections between the two cities.

Members of the Elevate delegation will also be speaking at sessions. Ted Graham, head of open innovation for GM, will be talking about emerging tech in a talk entitled, ‘Emerging Tech Tapas: Small Bites. Small Bets’, and Capital One Canada’s president, Jennifer Jackson, is speaking at a session entitled, ‘Take Control of Your Career Through Self-advocacy.’

The Elevate delegation is also hosting a cocktail reception on March 9, and will be part of the Capital One House at the festival. (Capital One, is an Elevate partner, and founding partner of SXSW. It also brought the Elevate delegation to Austin last year.)

Disclosure: BetaKit is a media partner of Elevate TechFest

Meagan Simpson

Meagan Simpson

Meagan is the Associate Editor for BetaKit. A tech writer that is super proud to showcase the Canadian tech scene. Background in almost every type of journalism from sports to politics. Podcast and Harry Potter nerd, photographer and crazy cat lady.