2018 Inovia CEO Annual Summits: Canada, Connection, and the Powers of Scale

We are settling back into the office after 2 days of connection with some of the most valued partners in our portfolio and community: our founders and CEOs, as well as our LPs, distinguished guest speakers and our sponsors.

Our theme this year, “Powers of Scale”, was our creative way of expressing the renewed vision we have to help companies through every stage of hyper growth — multiplying by a ‘Power of 10’ their headcount, revenue, office space, and impact every few months. With our CEOs, we took a deep dive on the specific experiences leaders face during hyper growth phases, and strategies for how to “scale themselves” to be effective leaders.

The big news this year for us, was of course, the addition of Patrick Pichette and Dennis Kavelman as General Partners; as individuals who have landed true moonshots, we are excited to be able to bring their perspective and tactical support to the portfolio. Their beyond-global perspectives on building enduring companies with purpose inspired our theme. At both events, Patrick and Dennis shared reflections on how to set a larger than life vision, and how to recognize when a founder’s path is truly leading a company into orbit.

Across the spectrum of impressive guests and panelists, a few additional messages emerged:

Canada is at a Tipping Point of Tech Dominance

Thanks to consistent investment over a period of decades — by government, institutions, and the business sector — Canada’s tech ecosystem is reaching critical mass. With profound advancements in AI from research institutions like MILA, Canada and companies anchored here are positioned to be dominant global players in the next generation of society-shifting technologies. In addition, as our distinguished guests Yoshua Bengio and Valerie Pisano of MILA pointed out — Canada has unique opportunity to be an ethical steward for the application of these technologies. We are excited to hear more about tactics that will lead to this becoming a reality, as they promised interesting news in upcoming weeks.

Yoshua Bengio & Valerie Pisano of MILA speak at the 2018 Inovia CEO Summit. Photo © Eva Blue
JP Chauvet & Dax Dasilva, Lightspeed, with Patrick Pichette, Inovia GP. Photo © Eva Blue

Lightspeed Founder and CEO Dax Dasilva also echoed this sentiment about Canada’s potential at the Annual Summit. As he faced the possibility of an exit last year, he felt drawn to double down on Lightspeed, and was pleased to find that funding and mentorship was available — and in fact, more than willing — to support his decision to stay anchored in Montreal. Citing a diverse, multilingual workforce and a global, welcoming mindset, he sees Canada as the land of opportunity for exponential scale.

Inovia GP Chris Arsenault & Jonathan Tétrault, President & CEO, Cirque du Soleil. Photo © Eva Blue

Chaos is Completely Normal in Business, 
& Holding True to Your Values Makes All the Difference

From Jonathan Tétrault, President & CEO of Cirque du Soleil, as well as from Dennis and Patrick — we heard many stories about how a singular vision for a purposeful goal can be a beacon for leadership steering companies through exponential scale.

Jonathan shared stories of building global dominance with a ragtag group of creative free spirits. Having scaled quickly through many M&A deals, the company was challenged to merge cultures, skills and talent very quickly — while ensuring not just a great experience for guests, but safety and profitability as well. A true tightrope act!

Magaly Charbonneau, Principal, Inovia & Eric Boyko, Stingray. Photo © Eva Blue

Eric Boyko, President & CEO of Stingray, shared reflections on the challenges of being at a stage where your company could easily be both the acquirer and the acquired. He walked our CEOs through what it looks like and what it means to grow a business through a series of acquisitions year over year.

You should only do what only you can do — and empower your team to do the rest. — Dave MacDonald

Executive coach Dave MacDonald also offered real-world insights to how the role of a CEO shifts as a company scales. Through his rich experiences at Xerox and Softchoice, he offered examples of how CEOs can and should shift from being a hands-on leader to one who enables and empowers others. He inspired us all with strategies to support that transition.

Salima Ladha, Inovia Head of People & Talent & Dave MacDonald. Photo © Eva Blue

Along these same lines, Dennis shared several examples of the chaos and challenges that he faced as CFO, and later COO, of RIM/Blackberry, and how his path has led him to see the value his 5-mile-up perspective can bring to growth stage companies. We shared an incredible video of Dennis from his early days at RIM — which plays like a prophecy for how relatable and applicable his experiences are, even today, and even with a shifting technology landscape and business model innovation. It’s worth the watch!https://www.youtube.com/embed/IiinxB8FHpU?feature=oembed

Patrick led attendees through an inspiring look at how a mission statement can make all the difference — in developing a roadmap for acquisitions, hiring, product roadmap, and on and on. Stay tuned for more from Patrick on this subject.

It’s Good to Be Connected

One of the strongest aspects of both days of events was the opportunities we had to break bread and exchange ideas. As Inovia staff walked around events and supported in moderation of a breakout session, we were moved by how founders were asking questions of other founders; offering thoughts and insights, and building bonds that will help solve tactical problems and inspire greater goal-setting and personal well-being.

Sarah Marion, Inovia Associate, Andrew Arruda & Jimoh Ovbiagele, Ross Intelligence. Photo © Eva Blue

At the Annual Summit, founders like Andrew Arruda, Simon Ferragne, Mike Silagadze, LP Maurice, Alex Leclerc, and Michele Romanow — as well as Christian Dubé of CDPQ, shared their stories about how relationships — with founders and Inovia have made all the difference in business. As needs change, as the market changes, as opportunities open up — having a trusted group of individuals to help you achieve your next phase of growth is a powerful asset. Through a series of panelists and presentations, we explored Inovia’s acceleration practices — and how specific mentorship and collaboration at critical crossroads have helped founders make important pivots.

Karim Gillani & David Nault, GPs, Luge Capital. Photo © Eva Blue

As Canadians in tech, we know we are in a unique and inspiring group of trusted individuals, and we are grateful to everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to join us. We look forward to connecting with you next year!

Celebrating at Hôtel William Gray, Montréal. Photo © Eva Blue

And finally, we would like to thank our sponsors for supporting these events and for being an integral part of our community.