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DRIVE conference puts focus on scaling up tech ecosystems

3-Day gathering in Waterloo draws speakers, attendees from more than 20 countries


Field expert speakers from more than 20 countries gathered in Waterloo recently to discuss best practices and present bold ideas on how to build scale-up ecosystems during the inaugural DRIVE conference.

DRIVE conference registration desk.

Held at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics this past week, the conference was hosted by the premier data and software provider for the private market, Hockeystick, and the Lazaridis Institute for the Management of Technology Enterprises.

The mandate of the conference asked: How do you create domestic value in a global tech economy? DRIVE opened with a spotlight on global and local innovation and the importance of fostering entrepreneurship around the world with tech advisor Deena Shakir. Shakir is a partner at venture capital firm GV (formerly known as Google Ventures) and advisory board member for TechWadi. Shakir highlighted the work she does to build bridges between Silicon Valley and the MENA region.

Thursday’s keynote speaker Richard Florida, a renowned urban theorist.

Renowned urban theorist Richard Florida followed with his keynote on day two of the event, sharing his insights into how the Creative Class are revolutionizing the global economy as regions become more specialized, companies continue to scale, and the global battle for talent heats up.

In a fireside chat, Maria Gotsch, president and CEO of Partnership for New York City, and Communitech’s President and CEO Iain Klugman discussed working closely with government, founders and other ecosystem players to create local value and global impact. Joanna Rees, managing partner at West, shared her deep expertise in defining markets and building powerful brands. On the conference’s third and final day, entrepreneurship ecosystem pioneer Daniel Isenberg explored how scale-up programs like Scale Up Milwaukee and Manizales-Mas are building ecosystems that focus on scaling businesses with proven business models, no matter the industry or age of the business.

DRIVE also included thought-provoking breakout sessions with expert panels on topics such as the value of tech accelerators, the global shift to advanced manufacturing, immigration policies and the battle for talent, ecosystem boundaries, perspectives on capital, and the role of data in building scaleup ecosystems.

“DRIVE is where data, policy and practice meet in the world of scaleup ecosystems,” says Hockeystick’s founder and CEO, Raymond Luk. “We’re bringing together leaders from global accelerators, policy-makers, academics, funders and founders to challenge each other and present bold new ideas on building scaleups. Waterloo’s reputation as a tech hub continues to expand. DRIVE will enable us to share our ecosystem’s energy and vision with global players — international hubs, founders and policy-makers — and to learn from their diverse perspectives on growth.”