SWO Angel Group

Toronto Global Forum’s 2018 Conference

December 13, 2018

By: Dennis Ensing

This week I participated, on a selective basis, in the Toronto Global Forum’s 2018 conference (The Forum). The Forum is an organization that fosters dialogue on national and global issues, held under the auspices of the International Economic Forum of the Americas (IEFA). IEFA organizes these annual summits to bring together heads of states, central bank governors, ministers and global economic decision makers. The Forum also offers exclusive opportunities for business meetings aimed at promoting partnerships among major Canadian and international corporations.

It was held at the Fairmont Royal York, and our membership in Angel Investors Ontario (AIO) afforded us access to The Forum. AIO held their AGM and annual Holiday Networking Reception in parallel with The Forum.

I don’t have time to dig into all the sessions I attended, but can touch on a few and share my impressions. This was clearly a place to share opinions and ideas. What it was not, was a place where action plans were an outcome, although progress and activities of note were clearly promoted.

Coming from a world of both strategic planning AND execution, this was mildly frustrating. It only confirmed that I would not function well in an environment where decision making timelines are politicized!

One of the keynote sessions I attended was from the Honourable Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, who continued his election campaign refrain that “Ontario is open for business”. He declared that his government would get out of the way of companies who want to come and invest and create jobs and used the regulatory environment as an example. Ontario has more than double the regulations to do business than British Columbia and their first goal is at least a 25% reduction in our 385,000+ regulations. He pledged however not to cut regulations that keep people & environment safe.

I could not stay away from a fireside chat with a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, and thoroughly enjoyed hearing from Luc Robitaille, President of the LA Kings. What stood out for me was the transformation that he personally made from the ice to the front office and the innovation he brought with him; forged from 19 years of high competition. Robitaille was drafted in the 9th round, behind a baseball pitcher drafted in the 4th round that pre-decleared he had no intention of playing hockey! So, this scrapper worked hard and became the highest scoring left winger in NHL history to date. He emphasized having an attitude of playing for the long term. His most influential coach was Scotty Bowman (of course) who taught him about playing with a vision and believing it.

The final talk I will mention was a panel discussion on Branding, Social Media and the Power of the Consumer. As social media accelerates the accessibility of brands and content, the power of the consumer has become unprecedented and unpredictable. Five representatives of global brands and technology companies discussed the new trends in digital marketing and how companies can adapt to these trends to drive growth. Also the the current and potential applications of machine learning and AI within marketing were emphasized. How a company can best plan for future disruptive applications and platforms will need to be a topic for a future post!