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

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.

2022 Keynote Speakers

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

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.

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!