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2019 was an exciting year for TechTO. Twelve months of thought-provoking events featured over 350 tech innovators who shared lessons learned, valuable insights and stories of vulnerability, courage, failure and success - all in a collective effort to build and strengthen the Toronto tech ecosystem.

In conversation with Jason Goldlist, the TechTO co-founder shared his thoughts on this year’s top themes and highlights.

Over the Course of 2019:

  • More than 20,000 technologists joined TechTO events (including specialized TechTO community).
  • During Community Open Mic sessions, more than 1,000 souls bravely grabbed the microphone to share news about their successes, challenges and opportunities (and posted them on LinkedIn using #TechTO).
  • Over 1,000 people joined the new TechTO Insider program
  • Countless connections were made by tech professionals, founders, recruiters and managers.

In fact, 2019 was such a success, that organizers had to regularly turn people away — which is a good news, bad news story. Says Goldlist:

“Because the events are so jammed, we are trying to find ways to get people engaged in different ways. Our TechTO Insider program is a digital program where people who want to continue in a group mindset and help others learn, can do so outside the formal events by joining our online digital community.”

2019’s Major Themes:

“TechTO showcases the stories of Toronto’s tech leaders, whether they’re just getting started on their first business or have just sold their fifth,” Goldlist says.

“Themes that emerge from these leaders across different stages and industries are surprisingly constant: it takes courage, hard work, a growth mindset, a supportive ecosystem, and a little bit of luck to find success.”

Plus, a driving theme is that every journey is different. “The mix of perspective and experience is part of the magic of TechTO. Presenters ranged from early stage founders to giants in the industry,” Goldlist explains.

As Raise of the Month presenters spoke of the value of taking capital to fund growth, die-hard bootstrappers shared their self-funding success stories. And while some founders encouraged realism and practicality en route to measured growth, others urged would-be founders to aim as high as possible. As Marcus Rader, founder of Hostaway said in January, don’t be too realistic. “If you know someone who is building a company, don’t let them stop at $10 million. Because if you aim there and stop there, you won’t have enough money to invest in other startups in Toronto.”

Finally, the desire for more connections, more content, and more opportunities to grow the community shaped 2019 —and is expected to continue to be a major theme through 2020.

“When the community first came together, our expectations were very modest — we wanted a place where we could meet other technologists and learn from each other and work on projects together,” Goldlist says. Those expectations were wildly exceeded, and nothing surprises Godlist or his co-founder Alex Norman anymore. The thirst for a bigger and more connected community hasn’t eased off even as TechTO has grown.

2019 Highlights:

Out of a year of shining moments, 2019 produced some audience favourites:

  1. April Dunford’s talk on how to nail product positioning. One of the most popular presentations of the year, Dunford is an active contributor to Toronto startup ecosystem and long-time member of TechTO. She discussed how to be successful with product positioning, as outlined in her new book “Obviously Awesome.”
  2. Fabrice Grinda, co-founder of FJ Labs, during his February fireside chat with Goldlist, shared some of his experiences identifying opportunities, investing in marketplace companies, and operating marketplaces at scale. Grinda is among the world’s leading internet entrepreneurs and was recently named the number one angel investor by Forbes.
  3. Christian Weedbrook’s talk about the quantum computer he’s building was also a major highlight for attendees in 2019, if only due to the sheer magnitude of his endeavour. “In the quantum computing space,” he said, “You are thinking about something that will change the world literally. It’s very hard to build one of these computers. If one of these can be built, you’re looking at changing the world.”
  4. Marcelo Cortes, founder of Faire, discussed the challenges of hypergrowth (an appropriate topic considering his company raised over $155 million in 18 months). He offered tips on keeping the bar high, restructuring, scaling and anticipating obstacles — tips that would apply to both small startups and those well on their way to riding their upward trajectory.
  5. An unexpected audience favourite the 16-year-old from the Knowledge Society who shared the fact she’d just 3D printed a car and controlled it with her brainwaves. She was just one of the remarkable teens who shard their passions and innovations during the Community Open Mic this year.

The Surprise of 2019

You never know who you’ll meet or how your life will change when joining the TechTO community. Two members got engaged this year after meeting at TechTO and growing their relationship over several events. Says Goldlist: “We hope they’ll choose the TechTO stage for their vows!”

Coming Up in 2020

Next year is poised to be an exciting one at TechTO. “We are now bringing all of our communities under the TechTO brand and going deeper into other topics we haven’t covered before,” says Goldlist. For the first time in 2020, the team is planning to go really deep into Fintech — including Insuretech, B2B and B2C Fintech, plus a deep dive into transportation and the future of mobility. “We’re going to explore what new technologies mean — no only for us as consumers, but as builders.”

Plus, there’s lots of room for the unexpected. As Goldlist explains: “TechTO members are already amazing at helping each other and discovering new opportunities at TechTO. That’s why TechTO is all about how we win together. I’m excited to see what new businesses are built, what new partnerships are forged, and what new skills are developed in 2020.”