Take a look below at the 2022 Keynote Speaker Lineup. Sign-up for our newsletter to be the first to know about our 2023 speakers as they are announced!

Snita Balsara


Snita is an early stage investor with Graphite Ventures, a leading early-stage Venture Capital fund based in Toronto. Graphite Ventures is a Seeding for Scale venture firm, investing at the earliest stages, and setting trajectories to accelerate growth. She is excited to work with passionate entrepreneurs, alongside investors and an ecosystem focused on scaling Canadian Start-Ups.

Snita will demystify for founders what happens behind the scenes at an early stage fund. She will walk through the process from first meeting through to closing and beyond. Attendees will leave with an understanding of what investors are looking for in diligence and how, both the founders and investors, can collaborate to establish a strong foundation for their partnership.

Sumita Banerjee

Director, Insights & Strategic Initiatives

BDC Capital’s Canadian Venture Capital Landscape
Sumita Banerjee, Director, Insights and Strategic Initiatives, BDC Capital, will discuss the current macro-economic environment, areas of concern, and potential headwinds for the VC industry. She will also take the opportunity to demonstrate how the Canadian VC market has evolved and review the metrics which provide evidence of its continued maturation.

Sarah Willson

Investor & Analyst

Panache Ventures is Canada’s most active seed stage venture capital fund. With a background in both business and science, Sarah is passionate about supporting the rapid scaling of early-stage ventures across a wide range of industries. The fund has a founders-first philosophy, a commitment to diversity and strategically coinvests with smart angel investors and seed stage funds.

Kim Furlong


A trusted advisor to governments, associations and corporations, Kim brings people together to enhance value and arrives at win/win scenarios for all. As CEO of CVCA, she advocates on behalf of the industry to ensure sound public policy and encourage a favorable environment for investment. The CVCA is Canada’s professional association for the venture capital and private equity industry.

Shelley Kuipers

Co-Founder & Co-CEO

An activist in business, entrepreneurship and investment, Shelley is building the world she wants to live in. The51 is a Financial Feminist™ platform where current and aspiring investors (particularly women* and gender-diverse* individuals), come together to democratize access to capital for women and gender-diverse founders.

Laura McGee

Founder & CEO

Based in New York City and a C100 member, Laura founded Diversio to allow companies to operate towards a more inclusive, safe, and efficient workplace. They are a people-first organization that values feedback, transparency, collaboration and impact. Their mission is to help organizations worldwide become more inclusive.

Nikhil Thatte


2021 Keynote Speakers

Building & Rebuilding from the Ground Up: Lessons from a $60M Scale-Up to Closing the Doors

Neeraj Berry

Founder, General Partner

Nobody talks about failure in Silicon Valley, yet 90% of startups fail. Neeraj Berry, serial entrepreneur, shares his key takeaways from the hardest but most rewarding experience in his life.

After raising $60M from some of the leading Silicon Valley VCs, scaling his startup to 1,200 employees, and generating $20M in revenue, it all fell apart. Neeraj will share his journey from the very beginning, what they got right in the early days, testing the company’s hypothesis, how they scaled at an impressive speed, and what ultimately went wrong, causing the business to wind down.

Learning from mistakes is one of the best ways to grow. Save yourself $60M and hoist in the lessons Neeraj took away from this epic rebuild experience.

2022 Venture Capital Outlook

Kim Furlong


The last few years have seen venture capital and private equity push to new records and pivot focus to respond to various market variables. From attracting and growing Canadian talent, to building a strong ecosystem for startup companies to flourish, to a competitive taxation system, CVCA’s voice and the role of this industry is essential to Canada’s economic success

Opportunity Landscape: East Asia

Marina Cortes

Venture Partner

Hike Ventures aims to bridge Asia to North America through its profound network of corporations in Japan and South Korea. They drafted their strategy to invest in early-stage applied AI startups and while fostering collaboration within their portfolio with partnering corporations in East Asia. Their framework in place allows our founders the opportunity to reach the global market through the strength of East Asian corporate investors. Whether they are corporate LPs, co-investors or collaborators, most corporations having revenue in the B$ range had set aside a budget for innovation and ahead of their domestic competitive ecosystem and customers-driven demand for innovation.

East Asian corporations hold a very competitive dollar against VC investments as they invest heavily into their domestic market while overseas investment is driven mostly by a need for innovation. Estrange investment methods to our Canadian corporates fuels greater importance to attract foreign-based corporate investors and collaborators. Marina will deep dive into the relationship of founders, investors and East Asian corporates, how do our startups collaborate with them, what makes the Canadian market attractive to foreign CVCs and insights on how VCs best collaborate with East Asian Corporations.

Silicon Valley Bank - Details coming soon!

Daryl Johnston

Managing Director, Technology Banking

SVB truly believes that Canada has all of the components of a strong innovation economy: from our rich VC environment to an attractive talent pool and the ever-growing US capital flowing into Canadian startups. Get an inside look at SVB’s perspective on the latest trends and factors affecting entrepreneurs and investors.

Canada’s Food & Agri-Tech Engine - Details coming soon!

Dave Smardon


Bioenterprise is Canada’s Food and Agri-Tech Engine, bringing more than 15 years of industry experience to help businesses connect, innovate and grow. From expert services and mentorship, public and private funding and investment, to national and global networking, the Bioenterprise Engine will help scale your business to create a sector-wide impact

Alumni Speakers

AVF 2020

Climate Capitalism: Economic Solutions for a Planet in Crisis

Tom Rand

Managing Partner & Author

A warming climate and general distrust of Wall Street has opened a new cultural divide between those who would reject capitalism itself and those who would tinker around its edges. Rejecting traditional Left/Right ideologies, Rand presents a set of pragmatic solutions that underpin a renewed capitalism harnessed to the task of replacing fossil fuels before our collective climate risk becomes existential.

Tom Rand is a recognized thought leader and public speaker on the necessity and economic upside of a rapid, global transition to a low-carbon economy. Tom is managing partner of ArcTern Ventures, a new father, sits on a number of boards, and finds it hard to believe we’re still having this conversation. He is the author of Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit (2010), Waking the Frog: Solutions to Our Climate Change Paralysis (2014) and coming soon – Climate Capitalism: Economic Solutions for a Planet in Crisis – out March 3rd.

The Magic Box Paradigm: A Framework for Startup Acquisitions

Ezra Roizen

M&A Startup Advisor, Accomplished Entrepreneur, Founder & Author

Ezra Roizen is passionate about entrepreneurs, startups, and the investment community. As an accomplished leader in the tech startup world, from co-founding two tech companies (including one that is now part of SAP) to leading his own startup advisory firm, Ezra plans to share his unique insights on M&A and exit commercialization pathways at #AVF2020.

His book, Magic Box Paradigm: A Framework for Startup Acquisitions, has been recognized as the most comprehensive, straight-talking book on startup M&A that you could possibly read.

“What if I told you that the last thing you want from a potential acquirer is a term sheet? Or, that the casualty of a bidding war is most likely going to be you? Or, the presentation you use when you meet with investors is almost the opposite of the one you should use with strategic partners? Or, that acquirers’ efforts to reduce their risk when making an acquisition can often increase the likelihood of their failure? Startup acquisitions are counter-intuitive.

Ezra is handing you the keys. Are you planning for the future? Do you know what your exit pathway looks like? This talk demystifies the process and provides founders with a frame of reference and an actionable M&A game plan. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to learn about Ezra’s holistic approach to developing relationships with potential strategic partners, sparking inbound acquisition interest, and ultimately optimizing and closing the deal.

"Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail" - Lessons From A Special Forces Operator

Glenn Cowan

Founder and Managing Partner

Glenn founded One 9 Investments while serving as an Assaulter Officer in Canadian Special Operations Forces.  As a Squadron Commander, Glenn specialized in leadership, command and strategic planning and successfully translated these skills with the creation of a venture capital fund that invests utilizing the principles of special operations planning, risk mitigation and execution.

Having served on multiple combat deployments in Afghanistan, sensitive information operations in the Middle East, and Hostage Recovery operations in Africa he was a strategic planner and tactical commander.  Glenn was often responsible for briefing Canada’s senior political and military leadership including the Prime Minister of Canada, Minister of National Defence and Chief of Defence Staff on tactical execution of strategically relevant and sensitive missions.

Glenn understands the capability requirements that military tech provides and is an advocate that a Tier 1 Special Operations Unit is an untapped incubator; accelerating talent, innovation and outside the box problem solving.

A graduate of McGill University, The Army Operations Course, The Special Operations Assaulter Course, Canadian Securities Course and Ivey’s Executive Leadership program, arms Glenn with an unconventional perspective and application to the investment battlefield.

AVF 2019

The Future of Scaling Startups: Partnerships, Cloud & Capital

Adam Nanjee

Managing Director, Canada

As an ambassador for Canada’s startup, technology and innovation communities, Adam built Canada’s first FinTech startup and innovation national group at MaRS Discovery District, one of North America’s largest innovation hubs based in Toronto, Canada. Having worked in the startup and corporate innovation ecosystems for over 15 years at MaRS, MasterCard, BlackBerry, Zafin and presently at Microsoft, Adam combines his unique experience in scaling startups, venture capital, corporate technology integration and global technology partnerships. Adam is currently the Managing Director of Canada for Microsoft for Startups, board member of The Canadian Innovation Exchange, and a member of the management board of The Ismaili Centres Canada in Vancouver and Toronto helping bridge the gap between poverty alleviation, knowledge sharing and access to cutting-edge technology between different faith communities including the public and private sectors.

Positioning for Startups: How to Make Your Product Obviously Awesome

April Dunford

Executive Consultant, Investor, Speaker & Author

April Dunford is an executive consultant, speaker, and author, who helps technology companies make complicated products easy for customers to understand and love. She is a globally recognized expert in positioning and market strategy and has launched 16 products to market in her 25-year career as VP Marketing at a series of successful high-growth startups. April advises leadership, sales, and marketing teams through training, workshops, and keynote presentations. She is also a board member, investor, and adviser to dozens of high-growth businesses.

April acknowledges that we operate in markets that are insanely crowded, thus companies struggle to reach customers who are completely overwhelmed with choices. She believes that positioning has never been more important, yet most companies fail to strategically choose a market position for their products.

At #AVF2019, she is going to draw on her own experiences and teach you how to recognize the common signs of weak positioning and what to do about it. Don’t miss out on a chance to learn from an expert who knows how to leverage market trends and unlock rapid revenue growth through a strategic shift in positioning!


Embracing The Power of Change

Paul de Gelder

Navy Diver, Shark Attack Survivor, Author & Motivational Speaker

As an active adventure-seeker, Paul’s life has taken him down many different paths, from a substance-fueled stint working in the nightlife industry, to climbing his way to the upper echelons of the defence forces as an Army Paratrooper and a Navy Clearance Diver. In February of 2009, a brutal shark-attack in the Sydney Harbour left Paul without two of his limbs and clinging to life. With his daredevil career at stake, Paul took a traumatic experience and turned it into his greatest opportunity: a chance to leave a positive impact on humanity. 

Nine years later, Paul has now traveled the world as a top motivational speaker, passionate environmentalist, author of the book, No Time for Fear, and co-host of nine documentaries for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, as well as one for National Geographic! Don’t miss Paul’s exhilarating story about how he inspires others to Embrace The Power of Change, face every challenge head-on and why you should have no time for fear!


AVF 2018

Tech Talk Speaker: Answering the Unanswerable Questions

Chris Burns, PhD

President & CEO

As a former Senior Battery Research Engineer with TESLA Motors, Co-founder and CEO of Novonix, Chris Burns, is no stranger to the world of renewable and sustainable power. Novonix was created to determine and test the lifespan of lithium batteries, something that was seemingly unknown. Since inception in 2013, Novonix has now grown to be a global manufacturer of the highest accuracy battery testing equipment worldwide and boasts clients that include leaders in automotive, electronics, and battery manufacturing!

A Dalhousie University doctorate alum, Chris will share his knowledge about the future of renewable power sources, and how he’s gone from a top research expert to an international technology entrepreneurLearn more about Chris and Novonix here.

Don’t miss Chris on stage as he shares his inspiring exit story at #AVF2018 in Halifax!

Tech Talk Speaker: No is an Acronym - "Not Ordinarily"

Bonnie Halper

Co Founder

With over 24 years of experience, New York-based Bonnie Halper has worn many different hats in the technology startup world including, entrepreneur, talent recruiter, journalist and industry expert, to name a few! As the co-founder of Ladies Who Lead, an event that aims to provide premium mentorship to the next generation of women in business, Bonnie has built her career around mentoring, inspiring and educating those in the technology space in an effort to bridge the gap among industries. Columbia and Oxford University educated, as well as an avid writer and commentator, Bonnie has been quoted in notable publications including the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, MarketWatch, and Time Magazine. In addition to Ladies Who Lead, Bonnie also acts as an advisor to three top global accelerators and has founded StartUp OneStop, a platform designed for startup communities to network, exchange industry knowledge, and hear from Bonnie herself.

Don’t miss the opportunity to hear Bonnie’s story at #AVF2018 and learn about the importance of adaptability, community, and not taking “no” for an answer!

Tech Talk Speaker: "The Art of the Raise"

David Brennan

Chief Financial Officer

As a seasoned executive with over 30 years of experience within accounting, finance and investor relations, David Brennan is a force to be reckoned in the world of VC, M&A, and high growth business. David has spent his career making a name for himself as a leader with a knack for raising significant capital and attracting top talent while working in multiple industries including, SaaS, hardware and software, public accounting, and banking. As the current Chief Financial Officer at Ecobee, he has recently completed a capital raise of $50 Million, for a total of over $130 Million in financing. David is passionate about developing people and businesses as well as achieving innovative solutions with authority and integrity!

A proud PEI native, David is a graduate of the University of Prince Edward Island. With specialties in human capital, high growth businesses, and operational efficiency, there are more industries that he has impacted than not! Don’t miss the opportunity to hear David speak at #AVF2018 and hear how he is coming up with the best ways to develop and engage top businesses in the technology space!

Our Species & Technology at a Crossroads

Jim A. Gibson

Innovation Leader & Author, Tip of the Spear

With 30 years of experience at the forefront of technology and change, Jim Gibson is a passionate advocate for “paying attention” to what’s coming and providing concrete examples of how we can all be leaders and role models for change. As an active leader in the innovation community, his talk will take themes from his newly-released book, Tip of the Spear, and challenge the #AVF2018 audience to understand and respond to a new world that sees infinite possibilities meeting serious global problems head on.

Jim has an MBA from the Schulich School of Business at York University, a B.Comm from the University of Toronto, and holds his Certified Management Consulting Designation. Jim lives in Calgary, Canada with his family, and travels the world sharing his experience, business acumen, and start-up wisdom.

Tip of the Spear

Passionate, experienced, and an infinitely curious entrepreneur, Gibson shares his cautionary tale of innovation and disruption in a human world. Tip of the Spear is the product of his life’s work – spanning over 30 years at the forefront of technology and change. Tip of the Spear is a comprehensive study of the state of technology and its impact in the near term on the fate of our species. The three Laws of Disruption are at the center of the story which recognizes that:

  • The slope of the technology curve is dramatically increasing;
  • The technology genies never go back into the bottle; and
  • Our linear systems of organization are not prepared.

It takes a look into the future through the eyes of two thirteen-year-old girls from very different parts of the world. And concludes with a message of hope that is focused on creating a new social contract with those around us and a new definition of innovation that speaks more to Innovation of Ways than to Innovation of Things.

Don’t miss Jim Gibson Keynote #AVF2018 – Register today!

Tip of the Spear is a comprehensive study of the state of technology and its impact in the near term on the fate of our species – Purchase online now

A $200 Million Exit Story

Josh Simair

Co-Founder, SkipTheDishes

Startup Community Leader

After leaving a career in banking, Josh Simair went on to co-found the largest restaurant delivery network in Canada, SkipTheDishes. Founded in 2012, SkipTheDishes is Canada’s leading and North America’s fastest-growing food delivery company. Now serving 90 North American cities and delivering millions of orders a month in partnership with 10,000+ restaurants, the on-demand food delivery network was recently acquired by Just Eat in 2016 in a deal worth over $200 million, marking one of Western Canada’s largest tech exits to date.

With a passion for creating value for his customers, his employees and shareholders, Josh has become a poster child for the virtues of doing business in  the Prairies and was recently named one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40. With SkipTheDishes, the vision was to address the service gap for popular Winnipeg restaurants and eateries that were in high-demand, but didn’t offer home delivery. He needed to create a way to facilitate a relationship between the customer with a need, and the vendor with a product.

Since Just Eat’s acquisition of SkipTheDishes, the company has revealed that its performance targets have been achieved nine months in advance. With that milestone met, Josh has recently announced his resignation as CEO and he will leave Skip in good hands to pursue new opportunities

John Hill

VP of Network, Techstars

John is the Network Catalyst for a company that dreams big, global and accelerates the growth of tech companies. Techstars is a mentorship driven seed stage investment program. To date, hundreds of companies have gone through the Techstars accelerator, and John is charged with supporting and growing a global network of tech entrepreneurs, mentors and investors who surround them and the Techstars team.

As a speaker, John often implores others to have the audacity to “Dream Big”!

Hill traded one passion for another which led him to leave Michigan State University to become the Higher Education Evangelist at LinkedIn. And, then one more time moving from LinkedIn to become the Network Catalyst for Techstars. Hill believes “changing the world” can be more than hyperbole. Building relationships and connecting people with opportunity are at his core, and he relies heavily on online and offline networks to facilitate each.

AVF 2017

Sunny Lenarduzzi - Video Marketing Maven, Social Media Rockstar & Branding Expert

Social Media Strategist & Consultant

Award winning social media strategist and consultant Sunny Lenarduzzi has made a huge name for herself as an social media expert. Working with hundreds of clients from tech start-ups to companies like Hootsuite and Applebees, her mission is to turn your purpose into profit and #monetizeYOURmessage.

As a broadcaster and online entrepreneur, with a background in journalism, Sunny knows that the key to connecting with your audience is Authentic Communication. Sunny has a deep understanding of video strategy, and a track record of successful online business strategy working with authors, entrepreneurs, and brands.Her educational background is in Broadcasting from the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

Patrick Lor - Zealous Entrepreneur, Exit Maker, Investor & Tech Evangelist

Partner, 500 Startups Canada

An active investor, mentor and entrepreneur in the Canadian technology startup ecosystem, Patrick believes that Canada’s culture of cooperation and knowledge sharing are key elements for success in the startup community. As co-founder of iStockphoto, he helped pioneer the microstock industry – the world’s first crowdsourced stock photography community – disrupting the stock imagery marketplace. Upon his departure in 2006, the company was selling over 12 million images annually, and was sold to Getty Images for $50 million. Afterwards, he was head of North American operations for Fotolia, a stock photography community acquired by Adobe for $800 million in 2014.

Currently, Patrick is Managing Partner at 500 Startups Canada, a $30M venture fund that seeks to become Canada’s most active seed stage investor in Canada. Overall, 500 Startups is headquartered in Silicon Valley with $330M in committed capital and 1,800 companies across 50+ countries. Other organizations he contributes to include: thea100.org, thec100.org, democampcalgary.com, University of Calgary, Mount Royal University, and Creative Destruction Labs West.

J. Kelly Hoey - Networking Guru, Writer, Investor & Connector

Author, Build Your Dream Network

Kelly has been lauded from Forbes (“1 of 5 Women Changing the World of VC/Entrepreneurship”) to Fast Company (“1 of the 25 Smartest Women On Twitter”) to Business Insider (“1 of the 100 Most Influential Tech Women On Twitter”) and Inc. (“1 of the 10 Most Well-Connected People in New York City’s Startup Scene”). EBW 2020 included her on their list of the “100 Most Influential Global Leaders Empowering Women Worldwide”. She has appeared on CNBC’s Power Pitch, contributes to publications such as Fast Company and Inc., and works with inclusive companies including Comcast, Capital One and Turnstone.

Kelly’s career story is one transformation, and can only be explained by her unique ability to tap into networks and make valuable connections. Her career started in corporate law, eventually transitioning to the management side of Big Law. A chance opportunity in 2009 to work with a visionary leader sparked her transition from earning a paycheck to seeking equity. Co-founding a startup accelerator then an interim CMO role with an emerging tech company are just part of her journey of reinvention as an author, influencer and investor. In addition to her portfolio of angel investments, she is a limited partner in two venture capital funds and an advisor to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. On top of her professional pursuits, Kelly is the Chief Tech Ambassador for the YWCA of NYC’s Girls Geek Club.

AVF 2016

Michael Katchen

Founder & CEO, Wealthsimple Financial Inc.

Russell Tencer

Co-Founder & CEO, United Wind

Ted Graham

Innovation Leader, PwC Canada

AVF 2015


CEO, Honest Dollar

Co-Founder, Chaotic Moon Studios, 2008 Best Evil Genius; Apple Design Award Winner; IBM Master Inventor; 2012 International Genius Grant Recipient

Leonard Brody

Co-Founder, HIGHLINE

Investor, Entrepreneur, and Author

Warren Macdonald

World Renowned Entrepreneur, Adventurer, Motivational Speaker & Survivor

"Return on Resilience”

AVF 2014

Howard Bornstein

Principal, Bain Capital

"SaaS: Why we're not in a bubble, why that's not entirely true and how to fundraise through it

Dan Park

Vice President, Azure Capital Partners

"It's Azure Thing: Silicon Valley VC Keynotes at AVF"

AVF 2013

Charley Lax

Co-Founder & Managing Partner

"Driving Your Company into the Pathway of Liquidity"

Yona Shtern

Co-Founder & CEO Beyond the Rack

"From the Corner Coffee Shop to a Venture Backed E-Commerce Juggernaut"

Paul Singh

Partner & Master of the Hustle 500 Startups

"Blowing up Startups with Design, Data and Distribution "The Rise of the Angels"

Brian Underdown

Managing Director Lumira Capital

"Trends in Venture Capital and Big Themes in Life Sciences"

Ben Yoskovitz

Author of: Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster CEO – Standout Jobs & Founding Partner at Year One Labs VP Product – GoInstant (Acquired by Salesforce.com, 2012)

"Lean Analytics: Build a Better Startup Faster"