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Illuminating the Future of Tech Startups

Hi everyone! My name is Rahul and I am a Grade 10 student at Upper Canada College. Last week, I had the pleasure to attend Illuminate x MidtownTO’s regional conference. Here are my thoughts highlighting what I learned about the Future of Tech Start Ups.

At the beginning of the conference, attendees heard from Principal Alina Huang’s experiences as she started Illuminate Universe as a high school student. She expressed the importance and power of networking while stating that achieving your goals is never going to be a linear path.

From there, the Regional Leads welcomed the first speaker of the day: Salim Naran. Sal gave us great insights to the future of tech-startups and provided a brief introduction to Financial Technologies, or more commonly known as FinTech. As a beginner to FinTech, I learned a lot from his helpful and clear explanation. I learned that FinTech’s purpose is to streamline the process of working digitally with banks and financial institutions by making financial processes easier, more accessible, and efficient. In his explanation, Sal compared FinTech and the new 4.0 Technologies to an Industrial (Digital) Revolution. He stated that technologies, such as AI, Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies, etc will continue to change the way in which people physically use data.

Despite FinTech’s obvious benefits, he also informed us of the unfortunate situation Canadian financial services are in, as they will likely struggle to adapt to the growing relevance of Financial Technologies. Canada’s financial struggles, he stated, were attributed to the difficulties banks generally have had with technology and to the Canadian oligopoly that prevents competition-driven innovation. To supplement this point, Sal also compared the current state of Canadian financial services with that of European and American banks, whose customers are less loyal, therefore encouraging innovation.

Following Sal’s insightful presentation, my team and I studied a given case about 4.0 technologies for 1 hour before presenting to a panel of judges for 5-7 minutes at Illuminate’s Case Competition. Our team pitched an idea that would help businesses hire quality customer service employees using an Artificial Intelligence algorithm.

Finally, after the first round of presentations for the Case Competition, everyone was welcomed to the closing ceremony of Illuminate X Midtown TO’s conference to hear from our last speaker: Razor Suleman. Razor shared with us his experience as an entrepreneur and how he managed to sell his company—Achievers—for over $100 million.

To organize his thoughts, Razor separated his experience into 3 key lessons. His first lesson was to not only follow your passion, but also to realize that mistakes and errors will occur along one’s entrepreneurial journey, even if you are unaware of their occurrence. This was especially true for Razor, whose hockey card business sold a Wayne Gretzky card for a price that pales in comparison to its current price. Furthermore, in his second lesson, Razor explained how important it is to develop a healthy customer and consumer relationship. He stated that one of the most important traits as an entrepreneur is to be obsessed with customer experience and satisfying your consumers (“be your customers little secret”). This will help to create a strong network of customers that are more willing to refer your start-up’s idea to others, therefore growing your business efficiently and quickly. The best way to accomplish this, Razor suggested, is to be proactive in predicting trends to ensure you can find a niche market for a potential product or service. Finally, in his last and third point, Razor communicated that “dilution does not equal the solution” Specifically, if you want to build a great company, it is crucial to proceed with caution, not allowing yourself to be consumed by venture capitalists.

Conclusively, Illuminate X Midtown TO’s Future of Tech Startups was a great experience. The conference’s highly qualified speakers offered attendees exceptional industry-level advice relating to start-ups, financial technologies, business, and entrepreneurship. Whilst this occurred, I even had the opportunity to exercise my critical thinking and communication capabilities in the Case Competition in which my team placed well.

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