Words of Wisdom from 5 Innovation Leaders


As we all take a collective deep breath and prepare to face the year, we could use some words of wisdom from today’s leaders to bolster our courage for the next 12 months. We have a choice in January to maintain the status quo or treat it as a fresh start. Today’s founder and CEOs will tell you: we cannot take anything for granted, we need to take risks and make moonshots if we want our innovation ecosystem to thrive.

1. “Make sure your business has a purpose and has a mission and is aligned with the emergence and creation of this new world.” -Al Gore, Chair of Generation Investment Management

Will we use our technological prowess to save the planet? Al Gore talks about the unprecedented developments in technology that have created high-performance and sustainable solutions across all sectors. We are in the middle of a sustainability revolution and Al Gore believes that companies today need to be at the forefront of this wave. Consumers are becoming more conscious and are pushing companies to clean up their act and bring about a better world. To face the future, we need to take a hard look at our practices and start working towards sustainability.

2. “We are stronger when there is a local competitor, all of us. The ecosystem gets better when we work with them… It’s not a zero sum game. We can win, the startups can win, and in all cases, Canada wins.” -Eric Schmidt, Technical Advisor & Board Member of Alphabet Inc.  

It might sound counterintuitive to encourage the competition but Schmidt believes that all ships rise with the tide. He uses Google’s TenserFlow as an example. It’s not only one of the best AI platforms out there, but it’s free. Why give it away? Google benefits from applications that interact with the platform and build the ecosystem, and competitors benefit from free software. Everybody wins. Next time we’re thinking about how to get an edge on the competition, we should try to think in terms of mutual gain and how we can all build the ecosystem.

See the full talk with Eric Schmidt here.

3. “Every single thing we do is all about pushing our values, and that is why we grow… My advice to anyone growing a business, you have to have a northern star and you have to make sure that is what your team gets out of bed for every day.” -Whitney Wolfe Herd, Founder & CEO of Bumble

Ever since Simon Sinek told us to start with why, companies have learned the importance of putting values at the centre of their business. The next generation of talent is looking to work at companies that are mission-driven; a foosball table in the office just isn’t going to cut it. For Wolfe Herd, a sense of purpose helps Bumble navigate every decision because she believes doing good should be part of every company’s bottom line. This year, we need to ask ourselves if we understand our own why behind the work we do and whether that same motivation is shared across the company.

Watch the rest of our chat with Whitney here.

4. “There is a type of company that is important for the future of the Canadian or anyone’s economy…what we need is a couple of anchor tech companies because they have an outsized impact on the ecosystem.” -Tobi Lütke, Founder & CEO of Shopify  

Canada needs to break its pattern of seeing scale-ups sell before they hit the billion-dollar mark. Hyper-growth companies, like Shopify, are like freight trains, according to Lütke, and we should let them be freight trains. He suggests the Canadian government create a hyper-growth passport for companies that are performing at this rate so they can continue to grow. Before Canadian startups sell, the government and industry need to start collaborating to give them a reason to stay.

See Tobi Lütke sit down to speak with Navdeep Bains, Canadian Minister of Innovation here.

5. “If you don’t look like your customers, how can you possibly understand their struggle. It’s good for business when you have more diversity” -Sarah Friar, CFO of Square

Understanding your customers’ struggle is key to creating products that solve real problems. Friar shares how Square encourages developers to go stand behind a point-of-sale during a rush so they can appreciate the challenge their customers are up against. Friar believes great ideas can come from anywhere in a company no matter what role. When you build a diverse company where everyone has a voice, your company will be better equipped to respond to the needs of its customers.

Check out Sarah Friar’s full talk at Elevate here.

2019-02-08T12:45:19-04:00By |