Insights from TEDxToronto

On Friday I was fortunate enough to attend TEDxToronto, which was held at the beautiful Telus Centre for Performance and Learning on Bloor. The venue was filled to the brim with at least 500+ attendees, each with incredibly diverse and interesting backgrounds. It’s obvious that the event organizers put in a ton of hard work, as everything was meticulous. Not to mention the lineup of incredibly inspiring speakers that made their way from around the globe.

First up was the young Bilaal Raajen who delivered a powerful talk about the importance of giving back. His motto of saying ‘no to no’ was in response to people who told him he was too young to make a difference. Amazingly enough, 14-year-old Raajen has raised over $5 million to-date for underprivileged children.

In many ways this can be attributed to what we’re seeing in the startup space, where founders are often very young. Industry players tend to love young founders’ passion and drive, yet struggle to take them seriously when they are delivering an investor pitch or negotiating term sheets. It’s definitely a catch 22, and one that Raajen summarized nicely with his thought that the ‘youth of today are not the leaders of tomorrow, but rather the leaders of today.’

We then got to hear from Brandon Hay – founder of Black Daddies Club, and Rob Spence – aka Eyeborg. Both delivered powerful speeches about their personal journeys in life, and how that led to their initiatives. Hay, having recently lost his father, was inspired to improve the role that fathers play within the black community. Spence, having lost his eye, used this to his advantage by creating an eye-camera!

Looping this back to the world of tech, good ideas often stem from our own personal experiences. Often times you don’t have to look far for the next great venture – rather you just need to look deep within.

Moving along, 17-year-old Nicholas Schiefer graced us with his presence by sharing the outcome of his highschool science project – a search algorithm that works to identify relationships between words, so finding smaller documents becomes easier. In a nutshell, Schiefer was nothing short of genius and could very well be the next Bill Gates!

Towards the end was a moving talk by Dr. Brian Goldman. He spoke about an ‘unhealthy shame in medicine’ where doctors feel the need to be perfect, and are unable to admit to their mistakes. Having made many mistakes himself, Goldman always feels alone and unable to discuss his feelings with fellow colleagues because doing so is too taboo.

Perhaps the world of medicine can take some key lessons from the tech industry, where failed ventures are actually rewarded and a sign of perseverance. At the end of the day we are all human, and as the famous saying goes it’s not about how many times we fall, it’s about how many times we pick ourselves back up and keep going.