In collaboration with BDC Capital and Quickbooks
Anyone can be an entrepreneur. But not everyone has the same opportunity to turn their ideas into reality—and along with our partners, we want to change that. So this year, Startupfest is teaming up with BDC Capital, Quickbooks, Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI) and Startup Canada, to launch a new Inclusion Initiative — a program dedicated to connecting entrepreneurs from underserved communities to the opportunities they need and deserve.
Startupfest has long worked to ensure that diversity happens on stage and in the audience. But we can do more. So together, we’re making a thousand tickets available to entrepreneurs who are often less represented and unable to participate in such events. We’re reaching out to underserved communities throughout Canada to make the country’s defining startup event as inclusive as possible.
1. Supporting women in tech: Startupfest and all its partners are offering passes to Canadian women working in the technology sector at a 90% discount. This initiative will make Startupfest accessible to women who would otherwise be unable to attend. To be considered for a $50 pass (regular $500), women entrepreneurs and innovators simply need to complete the online application.
2. Creating opportunities for Indigenous entrepreneurs: In partnership with JEDI, we’re offering Startupfest passes to innovators and entrepreneurs from Indigenous communities, helping to showcase the outstanding new businesses, business models, and innovations from First Nation, Métis, and Inuit entrepreneurs. Indigenous entrepreneurs and innovators simply need to complete this online application
3. Connecting entrepreneurs from underserved communities: In partnership with Quickbooks and Startup Canada, we’re offering passes to Canadian entrepreneurs who wish to attend Startupfest but are based in remote and underrepresented regions of Canada, or simply don’t have the funds. Created for the bootstrapped, early stage startups, this program allows a diverse group of entrepreneurs to attend Startupfest for just $50. The aim is to assist in building connections and generating economic opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs across all of Canada. Underserved entrepreneurs and innovators simply need to complete this online application
Making the most of the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem
Innovation comes from the unexpected, the unintended, the unusual, and the disruptive. We need to seek it out in all shapes, sizes, and colors. And with that in mind, initiatives such as these are only the beginning. The Startupfest crew is actively working on other collaborations to open up new opportunities for diverse communities that are underrepresented in tech entrepreneurship across Canada. Startupfest is proud to appoint Martine St-Victor as the first ever Startupfest Diversity Emissary. Martine’s role will be to ensure that everything Startupfest does is done with all existing and potential entrepreneurs in mind, regardless of race, creed, color, religion, economic position, or sexual orientation.
“I could not be prouder to have assumed the role of Startupfest’s first Diversity emissary,” says Martine. “Startupfest has an altruistic approach to entrepreneurship. This is not a one-time tactic; it’s the continuation of a sustained effort the conference has always made—but now we’re taking it to a new level..”
“Thanks to our generous partners and patrons, over the past eight years we’ve given thousands of underrepresented entrepreneurs access to the best startup resources in Canada. That includes over $500k in investments annually, unbeatable networking and world-class content,” said Philippe Telio, Startupfest founder and producer. “We’ve done great things. But we can do more. Thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs face real challenges and just need the same opportunities as everyone else—sometimes just one pitch, introduction, or business insight—to take their project to the next level. We want to build that bridge.”
Our friends at Busbud, who launched their own Omnibus Project diversity initiative last year, said it best: “Achieving diversity and equality is not a one-time effort that we can hope to ‘check off’ in one quarter. We understand that it will be the fruit of sustained effort over the years to come.”
Our work to include underrepresented and minority innovators is only the beginning. Research shows that diversity improves company financial performance, helps identify new target markets, and more. We wholeheartedly agree. A healthy startup ecosystem includes builders, innovators and entrepreneurs from all of Canada’s communities. Initiatives like this one help to level the playing field, giving everyone access the remarkable connections and opportunities that Startupfest generates every year for Canada’s tech community.