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What a year for RBCDisruptors!

We certainly covered a lot of ground – diving into everything from weather and data, the implications of AI, to rounding out the year talking about the disruptive world of eSports, at a key time in its lifecycle.

In 2017, we brought Disruptors to the masses via Facebook Live, on the road to Regina’s Agribition show and it was the year we witnessed a few panelist selfies.

Here are just a few highlights from the year:

Electric Cars & the Future of Driving

In May, we featured Steve Carlisle, President of GM Canada at the beautiful Roy Thomson Hall. Carlisle was joined onstage by an electric vehicle, which was a feat in itself to make happen!

The conversation veered away from talking about the actual cars that GM sells, and focused instead on the future of mobility and travel. We learned that GM is not just selling vehicles anymore, they’re selling gigabytes.

Carlisle sees a future in which fewer cars are sold, but are used more through shared ownership, or ride-hailing of autonomous-driving vehicles.

Singularity University co-founder and CEO, Rob Nail, who spoke at our October session, predicted that his two young children will never know what it’s like to drive a vehicle, because they won’t have to. He also thinks that in five years, all truck driving jobs will be gone due to automation.

The Future of Work and Humans’ Relationship With AI

The impact of AI was a recurring theme at several sessions through the year. Our August event featured four NextAI entrepreneurs: Shea Balish, founder of fitness-focused; Noel Webb, co-founder and CEO of; and Nima Shahbazi and Krista Caldwell, co-founders of food logistics startup Deepnify.

All four noted the benefits and drawbacks of AI. For consumers, it offers the possibility of an entirely new range of personalized services — think automated personal assistants. For businesses, AI offers the potential to improve operational efficiencies, predict consumer preferences and reduce human error.

Webb said AI can actually help humans by augmenting their skills, but we need to start preparing for the consequences of machine learning now.

This relates the future of work and the data economy, which we discussed in April with two notable Canadian entrepreneurs: Wattpad co-founder and CEO Allan Lau, and Clearbanc co-founder and Dragon’s Den star, Michele Romanow.

They too spoke about AI and the importance of data. For Lau, machine learning allows him to manage the sheer volume of data coming in via the Wattpad platform, and that he must rely on the machine to do most of the work.

Romanow noted that it comes down to, “learning from your own data faster than other people can, and ultimately that data will be your trove of information going forward.”

Thinking Big With Singularity University

Exponential thinking. What is it and how did we manage to fill an entire hour talking about it?

Singularity University co-founder and CEO, Rob Nail, told us that exponential thinking means looking to the future of your industry 10, 20, 30 years down the road. It’s about growing 10X, not 10%.

Nail left us all feeling inspired to dream, and to think bigger about how we work and how we innovate from within our own respective areas.

He also spoke about embracing crazy ideas.

“If those crazy ideas just so happen to be the future of this business ten years from now, you need to set up a structure, a team or a process that will allow those to come in, or at least experiment with them in some way,” said Nail.

“If you look at the horizon, all the systems set up 100 years ago are being tested – we are going to see fundamental change.”

Singularity University was set up a place to understand this change and figure out what to do with it.

Side Hustles and All Things E-Commerce With Shopify

In November, we welcomed Shopify COO Harley Finkelstein to an in-house audience of over 600, including 100 RBC retail clients eager to learn more about e-commerce.

Finkelstein gave some excellent advice on what retailers need to do to keep customers coming back: create a unique in-store experience for the customers they’re targeting.

He also spoke about “side hustles” – naming several celebrities that have entered the ecommerce business, and feel very passionate about what they sell online. Reality TV star Kylie Jenner is selling more cosmetics than L’Oréal and MAC – combined.

Thanks for being a part of the conversation this past year. We can’t wait to see what insights and memorable moments 2018 brings for RBCDisruptors. See you in the New Year!