#firesideconf offers Canadian tech community a chance to get back to basics


Last week when BetaKit broke news of HIGHLINE and TWG’s Designer Adventure Club, we dubbed it a ‘summer camp for designers’, which seemed both an apt and whimsical description. Fireside Conference (#firesideconf) is a new event designed to offer Ontario’s tech and startup community a literal summer camp experience.

Taking place at Camp Walden just outside of Bancroft, Ontario, from September 11th to the 13th, #firesideconf is a weekend of keynotes, social events, and activities designed to help the technorati learn, engage, and escape. Despite being a first-time event, key pillars of the Toronto tech community, like MaRS and DMZ, have already signed on as partners (BetaKit was happy to also join in on the fun).

I spoke with Steven Pulver, one of the organizers behind the not-for-profit event, to learn more about #firesideconf and the emerging Canadian tech-escapist movement.

With the Designer Adventure Club and now #firesideconf, it seems like the Toronto tech community has these competing desires to connect and get away. What’s that about?

It’s so wonderful that there are other organizations thinking the same way. We’re different than Designer Adventure Club in that we’re overnight and targeting the broader tech/business community. But this is all amazing. People are starting to realize the benefit that can be gained from getting away from the city (alone or as a team) and stripping away all the conference type bullshit we’ve all come to know.

In our case, we are fortunate to have the most wonderful venue. Camp Walden Canada is home to over 500 kids in the summer. We’re taking over their entire facility (private lake, courts, firepits, acres of fields) for the weekend.

You have some major partners involved (MaRS, DMZ, etc.) in #firesideconf. What’s the appeal of locking yourself in a wood cabin with your business network?

The appeal is certainly in what we call “togetherness.” It’s an important word. Conferences in the city are good but #firesideconf is one-of-a-kind in that we’re forcing collisions of creativity and community building by putting attendees and speakers in the same venue for an entire weekend. If you leave #firesideconf with one thing and one thing only, it will be a sense of community.

You can’t get that kind of community building at a traditional meetup or conference. At #firesideconf, you get to learn more about yourself and your teammates and new friends – whether it be in a session, on an afternoon paddle or on the ropes course.


#firesideconf is promoting a ‘back to basics’ idea – in fact, it’s the theme of one your keynotes. Explain what that means.

‘Back to Basics’ embodies everything the inspires #firesideconf. We’re a community based on personal communication. We strip away the things you’d typically have with you every other day of your life. No wallets, keys, cell phones, etc. At #firesideconf, you use your feet to walk and your voice to communicate.

One of our featured keynotes is being given by David Sax – an author and angel investor and possibly one of the most fitting for this theme. He just wrote a piece for the New Yorker on the topic of the new book he’s writing – it’ll give attendees a good flavour of what David will be speaking on.

What do you hope attendees take with them from #firesideconf as they make their way back to work in the big city?

You know when you meet someone at a conference for a fleeting moment? You grab their card. Sit on it for a while and then days pass and you completely forget that interaction? What did he or she look like? What did we really talk about? Fireside is fundamentally different. We’re a weekend of community building. You’re eating, drinking, and participating with other attendees, speakers, organizers. We’re building a real community that we hope will grow and grow – year over year.

The general admission ticket deadline for #firesideconf is this Friday, August 21st. Readers can use the promo code BETAKIT to knock 15% of their ticket price – and teams looking to bond together should note that #firesideconf offers cabin pricing for larger groups.

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys is the Editor-in-Chief of BetaKit and founder of BetaKit Incorporated. He has worked for a few failed companies and written about many more. He spends too much time on the Internet.

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