Take a look below at our growing Keynote Speaker roster for #AVF2024. Sign-up for our newsletter to be the first to know about our 2024 speakers as they are announced!

Innovation and the Future Economy

Jeanette Jackson


Explore the pivotal role of innovation in shaping resilient economies amidst challenges like climate change, inflation, and global shifts. Discover actionable insights on accelerating ventures, redefining investments, and forging pathways toward sustainable prosperity. Join us as we navigate the evolving economic landscape of the future economy, offering clear, straightforward, and thought-provoking perspectives on success in tomorrow’s world.

A successful entrepreneur across multiple industries, Jeanette has secured millions in investment dollars, project funding and revenue, led cross-functional teams and developed innovative programs for entrepreneurs and industry. Jeanette is driven by her fundamental belief that collaboration is a critical success factor to large-scale transformation, and is leading ground-breaking pan-Canada sector engagement projects to align Canada’s long term economic, social and environmental goals.

Jeanette is currently the CEO of Foresight, a cleantech ecosystem accelerator that is empowering entrepreneurs and energizing a world-class cleantech industry across Canada. She is a multi-award winning sustainability champion, a sought-after public speaker, and a leading advisor to the cleantech industry. Since taking on the role of Foresight CEO, Jeanette has spearheaded the organization through a remarkable growth and vitalization pathway. Foresight’s programs and advisory work have now helped over 1000 entrepreneurial companies, generate over $2 billion in funding, $475 million in revenues and create over 7500 green jobs. The innovation adoption platform with industry is trending to over 70 mT of reduced GHG emissions by 2033.

Venture Capital, Technology and Climate Risk: Energy in the 21st Century

Tom Rand

Founding Partner

Tom Rand brings his trademark focus and clarity to an enormously complex issue – the economic, technical and financial dimensions of climate risk. As global fears over the risk ratchet up alongside increasing turbulent weather systems, the private sector looks at last ready join the fight in earnest. Is that the case, or just more greenwashing? Rand’s forthright speaking style takes on the old canards of both left and right politics in a passionate call to arms on climate risk and covers a broad range of subjects – psychology, finance, policy, economics, technology and science. His talk brings to life the focus of his third bestselling book: to articulate pragmatic ways to rewire the capitalist economy for the 21st century, with a focus on the highly leveraged role for technology, for a renewed “Climate Capitalism”. The Case for Climate Capitalism: Economic Solutions for a Planet in Crisis (ECW Press) was awarded the 2021 Axiom Silver Medal (Economics).

2024 Venture Capital Outlook

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.

An energetic and dynamic leader with strong political acumen, Kim offers a unique combination of government, corporate and trade association experience from both sides of the table. This provides an exceptional understanding of how to assess and deliver member needs. Kim ensures members interests are met, broaden industry awareness and promote sound public policy.

Prior to joining CVCA, Furlong was Director of Federal Government Affairs and National Policy and the voice of Amgen with the federal government, national regulatory, pricing bodies and trade associations.

Building Narwhals

Anne No

Managing Director

Join Anne No Delaide, Managing Director, Banking at RBCx for a look at the elusive Canadian narwhal. What can we learn from the companies who have paved the way? What do CEOs need to be thinking about today to get to that billion-dollar valuation tomorrow? And what can Canada’s innovation leaders do to help you get there?

Since her arrival at RBC in 2002, Anne has held a wide range of positions in commercial banking. In recent years, she has held relationship management positions, followed by an associate Vice-President position, in the South Shore of Montreal in 2013, a Vice-President position for the western region of Montreal in 2014 and a present position as vice-president Knowledge-Based Industries for Quebec. Throughout her career, she has propelled the bank forward high levels both with double-digit growth in business volumes, the highest employee engagement and customer satisfaction scores.

Anne is also very committed to the community, especially to the advancement of women in business. She cofounded the Quebec Employees Resources Group for Women in 2015. She is involved in Women in Governance Organization since 2016. She is committed to help young Canadians prepare for their future job as an ambassador’s leader on the Quebec Executive Committee for RBC Future Launch program. She is member of the board for a non-profit organization called Young Leaders Group that helps young teenagers to become legendary founders. Anne has been the co-chair of the RBC-United Way National Campaign for the province of Quebec in 2015 and 2016.

Anne holds a degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Brest, located in France. After which, she completed her MBA at HEC Montreal, in finance and entrepreneurship. As a musician, Anne is very passionate about the arts and creation. She translates her desire to learn, her innate curiosity and her entrepreneurial mindset into remarkable results.

2023 Keynote Speakers

Staying Afloat in 2023: What Founders Should Focus On?

Tony Barkett

Head of Banking

With significant market uncertainty, how do you know what is most crucial to focus on or keep in mind over the next period? Tony Barkett (Head of Banking at RBCx) will talk you through the patterns and learnings of past downturns to look at the future of funding, venture debt, and what it means for your startup. There’s a lot of noise in the ecosystem. Tony will help you filter through it, and walk away with tangible, actionable, and strategic advice.

The Road Less Traveled: My Entrepreneurial Journey

Suzanne Sinatra

Founder & CEO

Suzanne Sinatra is the Founder and CEO of Private Packs, a New York-based startup that designs wellness products to empower people of every gender and at every life stage to address their intimate body part pain.

Suzanne, born and raised in Brampton, Ontario, and a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces, left home at 21 yrs old to work on Wall Street for a lucrative 20+ years, lastly for Deutsche Bank in 2017, where her doctors diagnosed her with stage 3 metastatic breast cancer.

Being an immigrant, black, a female, and having cancer has propelled Suzanne always to be hustlin’. Launched in 2021, Private Packs, a Techstars company, is distributed in CVS and Target and backed by Andreessen Horowitz.

Hear how Suzanne, a self-made entrepreneur who built her innovative startup in what many consider taboo category from her hospital bed, deals with the widening fundraising and growth gap challenges. Suzanne’s story is one of resilience and determination; you won’t want to miss it.

2023 Venture Capital Outlook

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.

Power of the Network

John Hill


Once a Higher Education Evangelist at LinkedIn, now Techstars Evangelist, John is a huge proponent of “the hustle” and believes “changing the world” can be more than hyperbole. A firm believer that a network needs love and attention, John’s presentation will outline how you can build a diverse network that can actually help forge your career forward. Whether you’re focused on online or offline connections, his speech highlights valuable tips and tricks that every entrepreneur needs to know when it comes to networking effectively!

Learn how to navigate networks to support your primary needs as a founder: funding, talent, customer acquisition, mentorship and knowledge share. This talk is based on the in-program talk we give at our accelerators to help Techstars founders grow and scale. To date, Techstars has invested in 3,000 companies and has had six companies go public. Additional learning will focus on what Techstars does and how to build an effective entrepreneurial community.

Glenn Cowan

Founder and Managing Partner

Glenn Cowan is a Canadian venture capitalist, retired special operations officer, accomplished investor, adventurer, and skydiving world record holder.

Glenn founded ONE9 in 2013 while serving as an Assaulter Officer in Joint Task Force 2 and has grown ONE9 into one of Canada’s leading defence and security ecosystems with a focus on investing in dual-use technologies that are validated by national security end-users.  Having deployed on multiple combat tours in Afghanistan, sensitive information operations in the Middle East and hostage recovery efforts in Africa he experienced first-hand how decisive action, technological implementation and high functioning teams are a force multiplier for success.

In 2023, Glenn was a jumper on the world record breaking Triple 7 skydiving expedition, where a team of US and Canadian retired special operations soldiers successfully skydived onto 7 continents in 7 days raising money for the children of service members killed in action.

Glenn sits on the board of Ventus Respiratory Technologies (https://www.ventusrt.com), and holds board observer positions with Tomahawk Robotics (https://www.tomahawkrobotics.com) Strider (https://www.striderintel.com) and Hidden Level (https://hiddenlevel.com) He is an advisor to publicly traded Red Light Holland (CNSX: TRIP) (https://redlighttruffles.com)

Causes important to Glenn include countering human trafficking, mentoring transitioning service members and supporting special operations and other military charities.

Glenn is a graduate of McGill University, The Army Operations Course, The Special Operations Assaulters Course, Canadian Securities Course, and Ivey’s Executive Leadership program.

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

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!