My first experience at Startupfest by: Janice Taylor

Fresh off my first experience at Startupfest in Montreal, I decided to muse about how this experience actually changed my mind about tech start up conferences. Over the last 5 years I have attended, many, many events. Told by the elite this is where connections happen, where you can meet likeminded entrepreneurs pursuing their dreams in technology. By attending such events, you can make connections that will change your company, your business, find funding, yada yada…they forgot one tagline to all of this exuberance: if you are a man in technology this can in fact happens… if you’re a woman in technology well that is a different story.

For the last 5 years I have pursued with a vengeance building my start up. From the humble beginnings of Saskatchewan to the golden grail of Silicon Valley, I have travelled, networked, stalked speakers, and attempted to get that one introduction that could make all the change in the world. Standing in line waiting to meet the preeminent expert to ask them my question only to have them ask: Are you the waitress? Can you get me a drink? What hotel room are you staying in? Oh aren’t you the woman who has had sex with athletes to get your pro sports contracts?!!!

Yes all true stories…all happened at tech events…and I have several more stories!

Generally, if I was still in college, attending a frat party I am prepared for this level of misogyny. I can have my snappy repertoire ready. Yet I am not prepared because I am busy practicing my elevator pitch in my head, wanting to make my 30 seconds matter so much that I am running over my value proposition in my head….how can I say all that I want to say and be snappy about it. Only to have the question be: who takes care of your kids when you are here? Sorry? Crap! That is not the question I was expecting!

Over the years I have grown weary of the lack of diversity and imagination at tech events. Let’s put a bar on the stage, get our speaker’s drunk, our participants drunker and let’s call this “the premier tech start up event of the year (tagline
reading: if you’re a 20 something man-boy, you bet this is your event!)… all of this is very exhausting for those of us actually trying to bring our dream alive. As a woman in tech it harkens back to our dark college memories where we had to fight off the drunken college boys who were at their first party and could not handle their liquor! NOT FUN! So I basically stopped attending tech start up events preferring the quiet one to one coffees based on referrals from people I have trusted over the years.

Yet I have officially changed my mind… well at least for one event. As I returned home from Montreal after Startupfest. I ran through my checklist:

Meaningful Conversations? Check!
Respect from my fellow speakers? Check! Check!
Respectful Audience? Check!
Still had Fun? Check!
Diversity of speakers? Check!
Overall Positive Respectful Atmosphere? Check!
More Topics for Women? Very Clear attempt!
Sexual Innuendos by Slimy Investors…Not once! Crap, I must be getting so old! Kidding!
Best Tech Event in Years? Absolute Check!
Faith Renewed? One step at a time!

Montreal’s Startupfest gave it a massive first step! Thanks to the organizing team for your thoughtful attempts to be inclusive and collaborative. It is a special event and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to speak at the event.

– Janice Taylor, CEO Just be friends (and Startupfest 2016 Speaker)