TakeOver Isn’t Your Typical Tech Conference

By Nathan Darko

Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting the TakeOver Innovation Conference hosted by the amazing folks at TribalScale. I had never been to a tech conference before, so I had been expecting a daylong event filled with tech buzzwords and a ‘tech-bro’ atmosphere. As I would soon find out, TakeOver was a completely different affair.

Anxious to work in the tech industry, I had just moved to New York City from Houston, Texas. Through networking with different founders and venture capitalists in the Empire State, I ended up connecting with the founder of a startup in Brooklyn, New York who just so happened to be speaking at the TakeOver Conference in Toronto. She suggested the event would be a great opportunity for me to network and build even more connections, and that I should apply for one of five diversity scholarships TribalScale was offering for under-represented groups in tech. This initiative gave me insight as to the culture of TribalScale and the tone that was being set for the conference. I applied, and next thing I knew, I was being flown out to Toronto.

The Sunday before the actual conference, there was a VIP dinner, with attendees mostly consisting of TribalScale leadership, conference panelists, other scholarship winners (much more impressive than myself) and other influencers in the Toronto tech community. Speaking to founders and investors in an intimate setting was really inspiring. I was able to learn from other’s stories and experiences, and took home valuable advice from it. Valuable networking experiences were already happening before the actual conference.

Monday morning, the day of the conference, we headed to the Arcadian Court in Downtown Toronto. The event kicked off with an eccentric and down-to-earth keynote by Sheetal Jaitly, Founder and CEO of TribalScale. After hearing the hip-hop transition music, and seeing some of the panel themes (AR panel discussion ‘my minds playing tricks on me’ to the ‘D.R.E.A.M. panel: Data Rules Everything Around Me’), I figured this might not be your typical tech conference. What I found more impressive than hearing Nas’ Illmatic playing after a panel discussion of crypto-currency, was the makeup of speakers in the program. More than half of the speakers and presenters of the TakeOver conference were female. This definitely set the precedent as to the diversity of thought and insight that would be shared throughout the event. I was looking forward to it.

There were three broad categories covered at the conference within the innovation space; human innovation, economic innovation, and industry innovation. With so many interesting discussions highlighting transformations and the future breakthrough technology in specific verticals, it was difficult to pick between panels.

First, I attended an interactive workshop led by Ben Baldwin and Mike Shaver (founders of ScaleDriver) which covered storytelling that predicts disruptive innovation. This was followed by several interesting lighting talks (i.e. Jodi Kovitz’s talk on building relationships) and a thought provoking panel on patient care and technological innovations impacting the healthcare industry.

The highlight of the conference was easily the Blockchain panel that was led by 6 brilliant women. It was really exciting to see a packed room with no seats remaining, forcing many to stand along the walls, eagerly listening to these amazing speakers discuss the current and future applications of blockchain technology.

The day was wrapped up with a post-conference afterparty. With unlimited hors d’oeuvres and free drinks, this created another opportunity to network (and casually dance to trendy hip-hop and R&B music). Throughout the event, I was blown away by the quality of people I continued to encounter throughout the evening. It really comes as no surprise that Toronto is well-positioned in the global tech industry, and will soon be the epicentre for future innovative breakthroughs.

Leaving the conference with a handful of business cards and LinkedIn connections, I was inspired and thankful to have the opportunity to attend. The TribalScale team executed well in organizing the event, leaving many (including myself) satisfied. TakeOver was far from anything I expected from a tech conference, and I’m definitely looking forward to next year’s event.


Nathan Darko, is an Engagement Operations Associate at a New York City-based startup, Emissary–a Google Ventures-backed platform that connects sales professionals with former executives of the company they are targeting.

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