True North Conference

Sydney Thompson, EPICentre Program & Event Lead

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the True North Conference hosted by Communitech – public-private innovation hub in Waterloo that supports a community of more than 1,400 companies – from startups to scale-ups to large global players.

The day before the conference, I attended the Canadian Digital Media Network ecosystem tour. I toured amazing centres, such as the Accelerator Centre – an award-winning startup accelerator dedicated to building and scaling sustainable, globally competitive companies. Evolv1 – Canada’s first Zero Carbon Building – a uniquely modern 104,000 square foot urban space designed for today’s tech-savvy workforce. Velocity – entrepreneurial program at the University of Waterloo and the Velocity garage – 37,000 square feet of free workspace that houses 80+ early stage startups building technology-based businesses. Lastly, and certainly not least, I was given the chance to tour the Communitech Hub – 120,000+ square feet dedicated to collaboration and innovation. All such beautiful centres doing amazing things for their region!

OK – now back to the conference. First, the True North conference was hosted at this beautiful location: LOT42. You might be reading this thinking… why is this important? Well, LOT42 started its multi-million-dollar transformation in 2015 from a steel fabrication company to a global flex campus. The indoor venues have kept their old-world charm with original windows, open web steel joist ceilings, and an original 1930s Ardelt crane! When I first arrived at True North, I was absolutely blown away by this event space – so creative and unique – I felt in awe the entire time.
The 2-day conference was filled with so many amazing speakers, such as Thomas Friedman, Kara Swisher, Cynthia Goh and Robert Mazur. The event also hosted a lot of amazing entrepreneurs, such as Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and Tobias Lütke, Founder & CEO of Shopify – I could list them all, but I’m sure you get the point. What I love, and think is so great about these types of conferences, is the energy you feel the entire time. Something about getting 2500+ people together with a common interest can be very electrifying & inspiring.

I found there to be a lot of common themes within each of the presentations/ sessions. The “featured tracks” at the conference were: Living Digital, Age of Re-Learning, and Building Bridges, Not Walls. Some of the sessions I attended focused on #Tech4Good, building responsible machines, transforming digital learning, the invisible network, the future of work & learning, humans and the future of work, and tech in the #metoo era. Each session helped me to understand where our future is headed and how critical and necessary it is for us to keep innovating but doing so in a way that isn’t biased and encourages diversity & inclusion while also incorporating fair and ethical practices.

If you want to learn more about the event, view full details here: https://truenorthwaterloo.com