LGBTQA+ tech conference Venture Out returns to Toronto this month

venture out

Venture Out, a tech and social impact conference centred on Canada’s LGBTQA+ community is returning to Toronto this month for its fourth annual event. The conference will take place at MaRS Discovery District on March 19 and 20.

Some of the events breakout sessions will cover themes like trans solidarity, accessibility, and tech culture.

The event will feature keynote speakers including Kiana ‘rookz’ Eastmond, founder and director of Sandbox Studios, a creative space to cultivate, develop, and empower Canadian artists. Eastmond will discuss her experience as an entrepreneur in Toronto. Viet Vu, an economist at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, will lead the second keynote with an exploration of how queer individuals are finding a place in Canada’s tech landscape.

“This year, we took a sobering look at the world around us and asked ourselves: what big topics aren’t we talking about that are impacting our community?” said Venture Out conference co-chairs Rachel Shi and Shadib Bin Newaz, in a joint statement. “What are the topics that keep us awake at night? What things make us human?”

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The conference will include nine breakout sessions and workshops, two events for all attendees, and one career fair. Some of the breakout sessions will cover themes like trans solidarity, accessibility, building mental toughness, and tech culture. The event is being presented by Local tech companies Loopio, Wattpad, and Fiix, will lead some of the conference’s conversations.

Since its launch in 2016, Venture Out has broadened its original vision to incorporate a deeper social impact framework. This year, Venture Out joined a diversity program with Dream Maker Ventures and the Dream Legacy Foundation, which will provide early-stage entrepreneurial programming to tech founders in five underrepresented communities. Venture Out will be serving the LGBTQA+ community as part of the partnership.

The Venture Out conference is aimed to cover large global problems through the lens of equity and justice, such as climate change and how the ecosystem can deliver more human positive outcomes in technology development.

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“We knew we had to reframe the conversation away from Diversity & Inclusion 101 to address the problems that are dividing us while creating space for conversations about how the queer in tech community can come together to solve these issues,” Shi and Newaz added.

At the end of the conference, attendees will hear from participants of the Venture Out Founder’s Program. The six-week program is aimed to connect LGBTQA+ founders to educational content on tech and entrepreneurship, diversity and inclusion training, and mentorship. Participants are also able to pitch to venture capitalists.

UPDATE 10/03/2020: This story has been updated to reflect Venture Out’s recent statements regarding COVID-19.

On March 10, Venture Out released a public statement noting that it is still planning to host the event despite the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, which has caused a number of organizations around the world, including tech conferences to cancel in-person events.

“As of right now, with the information available from the CDC and Public Health Ontario, we are still on track to bring our community together on March 19th and 20th,” Venture Out stated. “Please note, the level of risk in Ontario remains low according to health officials.”

Venture Out noted that it is monitoring COVID-19 daily and “is committed to ensuring the health and wellbeing of all our attendees, sponsors, volunteers, staff, and broader communities.” It also outlined precautionary measures for attendees, pointing to CDC guidelines for reference.

Image source Venture Out via Facebook

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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