Cantech Investment Conference showcases remarkable innovation
By Ryan Aceman
Canada boasts a thriving tech ecosystem comprised of inventive entrepreneurs, significant access to capital, and international scope. This ecosystem is apparent from the rise of companies such as Shopify and Slack, which began as start-ups in Canada, eventually going on to become global leaders in their respective industries.
“Maple Syrup Mafia” and “Silicon Valley of the North” are two of the complimentary nicknames the international tech community has bestowed upon Canada, noted by Cambridge House International’s President and CEO, Jay Martin.
However, in its formative stages, the technology realm lacked a unified central hub for gathering the industry together and forming meaningful connections, so this is how the Cantech Investment Conference was born.
Between January 29th-30th, over 3,500 tech enthusiasts, media and investors assembled in Toronto to celebrate the burgeoning tech space across Canada. The annual event has grown significantly since its inception in 2013, featuring many key players in Canadian tech and finance.
Key features at Cantech
Among the featured speakers at Cantech were various thought leaders from across the emerging technology space.
Bruce Linton, CEO of Canopy Growth Corp., one of the largest cannabis companies in the world, delighted attendees as one of the most charismatic and hardworking business leaders in the country. Linton is an industry titan who commands a vast influence over the cannabis industry and is often described as the individual who puts “polish” on the sector. Linton spoke on his responsibility in facilitating the transition of cannabis as early stage activism to a professional industry — something he continues to do at the highest level through Canopy Growth. The company is advancing research, product development, and production methods through innovative technological applications for the goal of altering the global perception of cannabis.
Jim Balsillie, former Chairman and co-CEO of RIM, spoke on his experience growing Blackberry from an idea to $20 billion in global sales, which is one of Canada’s most remarkable technology storylines. RIM is responsible for setting the new standard in telecommunications at the government and billion-dollar corporation level. Now, Balsillie continues to be a pioneer in the Canadian technology realm, as the Chair of the Council of Canadian Innovators.
Apart from the list of distinguished speakers, one of the more exclusive features of the conference was “The Deal Room,” which allowed professional investors to arrange meetings with top executives to learn more about specific companies and emerging trends in the tech and innovation sectors. Through the events’ “Exhibitors” function, businesses were able to interact with shareholders and dedicated prospective investors proactively seeking new opportunities across Canadian tech.
Among the fascinating topics of discussion at Cantech was the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI), e-gaming and the evolving psychedelics space within the health technology realm.
Regarding AI, this is something that has become further intertwined in modern society, including self-driving cars and smartphones. Thought leaders in the space understand that Canada cannot afford to fall behind and that to have a pragmatically optimistic mindset moving forward will allow the country to comprehend and deploy AI in the most effective ways possible.
E-sports were another noteworthy topic and an emerging realm in the technology space with global viewership estimated to surpass 250 million individuals in the near future and tournaments featuring grand prizes in the dozens of millions, the electronic gaming sector is primed for lucrative investment opportunities and significant advancements as popularity grows. This sector not only represents a fascinating emergent investment segment, but also a new kind of career that is being redefined by tremendous international popularity.
Within the health technology space, psilocybin and MDMA have entered the fold as potential treatments for PTSD, end-of-life anxiety, treatment-resistant depression, and other significant mental health concerns. While this is undoubtedly a “fringe industry” at the moment, legitimate clinical trials are taking place in what could be a significant development in the mental health space — an area that is ripe for new ideas and technological disruption.
The results thus far are generally very positive, and these initial trials could be an indication of what lies ahead for mental health — potentially riding on the heels of recent cannabis legalization.
Dr. Kenneth Tupper was invited to speak on this modern concept, helping solidify clinical trials with UBC and other institutions for this cause. He candidly talked about everything from the historical uses of psychedelics to current medical applications, possible treatment angles, and more.
— Dr. Kenneth Tupper (@DrKennethTupper) January 16, 2019
More than 100 public and private technology companies gathered at the Cantech Conference along with thousands of enthusiastic attendees to examine emerging trends, investment opportunities, and what makes the Canadian tech realm so unique. Cantech served as an educational and connective symposium, enabling new connections, the dissemination of profound novel concepts, and a chance for market enthusiast to evaluate innovative investment opportunities.
The event hopes to have been a catalyst that expands on the more than $1 billion currently invested in Canadian tech by the conference’s attendees. As education and technology continue to shape our world, events like the Cantech Conference are an indication of the tremendous progress made to welcome in new ideas. With many exciting features, attendees were able to shape their experiences based on their interests and preferences.
Trends always begin in the obscure. If new ideas and concepts are open to exploration, then Canada is bound to maintain its position as a technological leader across the globe, spawning innovative businesses that help advance the world.