In September, Elevate will return as an in-person festival, after going digital for two years due to the pandemic. Like Elevate, Montréal-based tech community event Startupfest is also preparing for an in-person return this year—in July—after going virtual last year and hybrid in 2020 during COVID-19.
Both Canadian tech festivals are preparing for in-person returns later this year.
Elevate 2022 will be headlined by tennis superstar-turned entrepreneur Venus Williams. Williams, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all-time, also owns and operates her own activewear brand, EleVen, which makes tennis clothing and performance women’s clothing for yoga, fitness, running, and dance.
The event’s 2022 speaker list will also include artificial intelligence (AI) luminary Raquel Urtasan, the founder and CEO of Toronto autonomous vehicle startup Waabi. Urtasun, formerly of Uber’s self-driving car unit, launched Waabi last year out of stealth after scoring $100 million CAD from top VCs and AI experts.
Earlier this year, Elevate co-founder Lisa Zarzeczny was named Elevate CEO, as former Bell Media exec Randy Lennox stepped down following a brief tenure as Elevate’s executive chair. Previous Elevate CEO, co-founder Razor Suleman, stepped back to become board co-chair after joining San Francisco proptech Pacaso as president.
Meanwhile, the 2022 edition of Startupfest will feature a list of speakers that includes Philip Cutler, founder and CEO of Montréal edtech startup Paper, and Maja Thomas, chief innovation officer at French publisher Hachette Livre. Paper has seen a lot of growth since 2021, doubling the number of students using its remote tutoring platform and closing a $343 million CAD Series D round early this year.
In addition to Cutler and Thomas, Startupfest will also feature investor judges like Phoenix Fire co-founder and General Partner Claudette McGowan and co-founder and Managing Partner Danielle Graham. Launched earlier this year, Kitchener-Waterloo’s Phoenix Fire is part of the Archangel Network of Funds, and focuses on investing in early-stage women-led startups and providing a space to connect women and angel investors.
Meanwhile, Startupfest’s $100,000 Best of the Fest award will be judged by a group that includes Breathe Life co-founder and CEO Ian Jeffrey and Triptyq Capital Co-Founding Partner Bertrand Nepveu. Montréal-based Triptyq is a seed-stage VC firm that leads rounds in entertainment tech, while Breathe Life is a Montréal startup that was recently acquired by fellow insurtech firm SE2.
Startupfest’s list of grandmother judges is also set to include Shopify President Harley Finkelstein’s mother, Merle Finkelstein.
Feature image of Venus Williams courtesy Patrick Trujillo via Flickr.