Venture Out Returns for a Second Year to Build Inclusivity and Diversity

Canada’s first ever LGBTQA+ tech conference is returning for the second year.

The Venture Out conference is back again and will be held on March 15 and 16 at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto with Shopify as their title sponsor. The conference aims to build an inclusive future for the Canadian tech community through workshops, fireside chats, keynotes and more.

This year will see keynote speeches from Lightspeed CEO Dax Dasilva, digital superstar and lead in the web-series-turned-movie Carmilla Natasha Negovanlis, and Gaingels co-founder Paul Grossinger.

Venture Out’s VP and chair Taylor Bond told Techvibes about the process of finding the right kinds of people to represent the community at the conference. A deliberate focus was placed on people with different lived experiences that can adequately represent an entire community. Still, it was a bit challenging to ensure every stone was turned over, so there was a nomination form that helped elevate potential speakers and bring them in Venture Out’s world.

“It’s a little bit of a balancing act planning what topics we want to do and then mixing it up with the folks that have been nominated and the folks we have been connected to in order to really find programming that shines lights on speakers and organizations that are leading the charge,” explains Bond.

“Looking at the landscape today, diversity and inclusion are topical, but unfortunately they’re topical for the wrong reasons,” continues Bond. “In the tech industry, there have been some unfortunate case studies that have come out, but all the while that sort of negativity has propelled people to place importance on these young nascent organizations that are nimble enough to change and start embracing policies from the ground up as they start scaling.”

This is the second year for Venture Out and it has already grown substantially from what it was before. It is now on Thursday night and all of Friday, when before it was only a Monday. The amount of workshops has doubled, along with a broader sense of content covered overall. But Bond explains the entire focus has shifted a bit too.

“Thematically I would say the biggest difference is that last year we talked about the strategy behind diversity and inclusion and how companies were potentially approaching it,” says Bond. “This year we’re pushing deeper and focusing on actionable items people can take away from the conference. Rather than talking about diversity and inclusion, we’re shining a light on organizations and LGBTQA leaders and their stories.”

The event this year will also feature a pitch competition on the first night. Five companies from across Canada will deliver two-minute pitches then receive critique, all in a bid to win prizes like airline and Lyft credits, a private consultation with the Gaingels venture capital firm, and other incentives. Some of the companies pitching include Nomad Trip, Oneiric Hockey and Squiggle Park.

In the lead up to Venture Out, the conference will host Pride hacks, a hackathon that brings together developers to solve issues for LGBTQA+ not-for-profits. It will take place on February 23 and 24.