This weekend I attended the SociaLIGHT Conference hosted at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto. Advertised as “Canada’s Ultimate Entrepreneurship and Leadership Event,” SociaLIGHT boasts 20 acclaimed speakers and contributors and over 1000 entrepreneurial minds meeting for a day inspiring talks and networking events. What got me so excited about this event was the underlying motive for its implementation – “a full-spectrum initiative that encourages shifting from “profit only” business models to entrepreneurship that embodies the triple bottom line of: People, Planet, Profit.”
The roster of speakers was impressive. My favorite talks included Jennifer Corriero, founder of TakingITGlobal; Kanika Gupta, founder of SoJo; Tonya Surman, founder of Centre for Social Innovation; and Allen Lau, founder of Wattpad. [I will link the videos once they are available online.] They directly addressed the main challenges that all social entrepreneurs face, from idea to execution and all the fun stuff in-between. I acquired many useful bits of information that will come in handy when I am ready to launch my own social enterprise. Kanika’s idea for SoJo is absolutely genius, and it was so inspiring to learn the story behind it – from starting the service with zero funding or resources and building it to the awesome website you visit today – within a year! It is also a great success story that was born from last year’s conference.
While the event had a late start, I took advantage of this time to network and speak with all the great organizations hosting booths in the lobbies on both floors. The sponsors and affiliates of this event were very generous. The swag bags were filled with useful goodies and generous discounts on services supporting entrepreneurs. The prizes were also awesome. I’ve never seen so many iPads up for grabs…
In general, SociaLIGHT was an incredible event, but it was not what I had anticipated. The event producer, Theresa Lorico has an insane track record. It was wonderful to watch her execute her dream at this conference and hear the stories off all the amazing people she surrounds herself with. I just felt as though the event became too personal as it progressed. There was less focus on executing ideas and more dialogue about sharing our emotions and spiritual fulfillment. I’m not saying I think talking about our feelings is silly, but it shouldn’t have been the major focus of an entrepreneurial conference – maybe they just got caught up in the moment. After all, the day quickly ran behind schedule. Lunch was served late and I had told my ride to pick me up at 6pm when the event was scheduled to be over. I had to leave before the keynote session was over, and apparently the conference didn’t wrap up until 8pm – two hours behind schedule.
I want to point out that I love the energy and enthusiasm that comes out of these TED-style events. It is incredibly inspirational. There are ways I think we can improve on the action-oriented aspect of these types of events though by including more interactive segments, like workshops. Despite a mentally exhausting day, I met some pretty amazing people. We were all there with the same goals in mind: to hack society and create positive change. I found some contacts to help me with my thesis and some likeminded folks I really want to keep in touch with and maybe collaborate with someday.
Now I need to get the scoop on TEDxUW, which ran simultaneously on Saturday!