Banff Venture Forum

Take a look below at our first 2023 Keynote Speaker! Be the first to know: Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media to keep up with our latest programming announcements.

2023 Keynote Speakers

A unique journey, Canada’s first women led tech unicorn exit | Fireside Chat with Shelley Kuipers, Co-Founder, The51

Laurie Schultz

Former CEO

Join us for a captivating fireside chat with Laurie, a visionary leader who built a Canadian tech unicorn. In a historic achievement, Laurie became Canada’s first women CEO to lead a company to a billion-dollar USD exit with Galvanize’s remarkable sale to Diligent. Drawing from her extensive three-decade tech journey, Laurie will engage in a candid conversation about her transformative experience, turning a dismissed tech venture into a billion-dollar success story.

Power of the Network

John Hill


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.

2024 Venture Survival Guide

Devon Thompson

Managing Director

Devon joined RBC’s tech practice in 2012 and is now the Managing Director, Banking at RBCx. RBCx is supporting visionary entrepreneurs at any stage of growth by providing access to tech-focused capital, marketplace services, and deep sector and operational expertise to help companies scale. She has spent 20 years in financial services with 10 of those years being a passionate connector, business advisor, and mentor within the tech ecosystem

Diving into Success: A Special Operations Approach to Venture Capital

Glenn Cowan

Retired Squadron Commander & Founder

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. Last year, Glenn was invited to join the Triple7 Expedition with Folds of Honor. Glenn and his Triple7 team mates executed skydiving jumps on all seven continents in seven days – decimating the previous world record.

The Art of Early-Stage Investing: A Decade’s Worth of Insights

Janet Bannister

Founder & General Partner

Janet is the Founder and General Partner of Staircase Ventures which invests in Canada’s most promising early-stage tech companies.  Staircase recognizes that founders are the bedrock upon which companies are built and therefore provides unparalleled dedication to accelerating founders’ development and performance.

Prior to launching Staircase Ventures, Janet was Managing Partner at Real Ventures, one of Canada’s largest and most active early-stage investors.  Janet is also a graduate of the prestigious Kauffman Fellows program, a global network of the world’s top 1% investors and innovation leaders.

In addition, Janet is very active in the Canadian tech ecosystem; she is the Co-Chair of C100 and on the Boards of Communitech in Waterloo, Vector Institute in Toronto, and Ivey Business School.  She is also a mentor at Creative Destruction Lab.

Janet has won numerous awards and recognition including Insider’s 2023 “Seed 30: The Best Women Early-Stage Investors s in North America”, Venture Capital Journal’s 2021 “Women of Influence in Private Markets”, Pitchbooks’ 2021 “Female Founders & Investors to Know”, and American Bankers’ 2019 “Most Influential Women in Payments”.

In 2004, Janet launched and grew it to become one of the most visited websites in Canada.  Subsequently, she led the Kijiji Global business, launching the website in new countries and accelerating growth in North America, Europe, and Asia.

Janet also spent four years at eBay in Silicon Valley where she helped transform eBay from a Collectibles to a mainstream marketplace.  She started her career as a Brand Manager at Procter & Gamble and then joined McKinsey & Co. where she was an Engagement Manager.  She also founded and built a successful consulting business and was CEO at a venture-backed start-up prior to joining Real Ventures.

Janet was a varsity long-distance runner and competed internationally in triathlons.  Today she balances her active lifestyle with being a wife and mother.

2023 VC 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.

Alumni Keynote Speakers

Leading from Idea to Impact - The Health Sector Opportunity in Alberta

Crystal Phillips

Health Lead/Community Manager

From an Olympic hopeful to not being able to walk overnight and coping with a diagnosis of MS at the age of 19, Crystal started a Neurological Foundation that has raised millions for research and is now thriving with MS without any of the traditional pharmaceuticals. She now helps Thin Air Labs find and partner with health startups in order to get more research out of the lab and into the community where it can make an impact on humans.

2021 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

Building & Rebuilding from the Ground Up: Lessons from a $60M Scale-Up to Closing the Doors

Neeraj Berry


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 VC’s, scaling his startup to 1,200 employees, and generating $20M in revenue, it all fell apart. 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.

"Mitigating Risk in an Uncertain World" - Lessons From A Special Forces Operator

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.

From Start-up to Scale-up: Israeli Innovation Ecosystem

Lisya Bahar


Catalyst is a leading Israeli multi-fund firm with years of experience in investment and value creation in companies at all stages of development. Catalyst typically invests in disruptive technology companies with an Israel nexus, which are focused on long-term growth and international expansion. Catalyst provides unique value-add to its portfolio companies – including a network of high calibre investors in markets across the US, Europe, China and Emerging Markets, significant business networks and vast transactional experience in global capital markets and cross-border M&A.


Building Billion Dollar Businesses: Why Corporate Innovation is the New Gold Standard for R&D

Ravi Belani

Managing Director

Vital for the longevity of any business, corporate innovation is imperative for the success of both large corporations and startups alike. Ravi – a seasoned veteran having been on both sides of the spectrum – will share his insight on how VCs identify disruptive opportunities, the differences in corporate R&D compared to VC, and the key challenges of corporate innovation in the world of venture capital.

Ravi Belani is Fenwick & West Lecturer of Entrepreneurship at Stanford University, and Managing Director of the Alchemist Accelerator, an enterprise seed accelerator backed by Cisco, DFJ, Khosla Ventures, Salesforce, Sapphire Ventures, and USVP. Alchemist grads include MightyHive, Rigetti Quantum Computing, and Zipongo. Ravi formerly spent six years as part of the investment team at Draper Fisher Jurvetson’s Menlo Park global headquarters, where he led investments and served on the boards as the first institutional investor in companies such as Justin.TV & Twitch (acquired by Amazon for $970m), Pubmatic, Vizu (acquired by Nielsen), and Yield Software (acquired by Autonomy). Ravi formerly worked in product management at two Kleiner Perkins enterprise startups, and as a consultant in McKinsey and Company’s San Francisco office. Ravi is a Phi Beta Kappa and Tau Beta Pi graduate of Stanford University, holding a BS with Distinction and MS in Industrial Engineering. Ravi also holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

The Foolproof Formula for Finding Product-Market Fit

Sean Sheppard

Founder, Entrepreneur, VC

Products and markets may be unique, but the path to finding product-market fit is not. It’s formulaic. During his keynote, Sean Sheppard will share the formula – a proven method of learning, testing, measuring and validating to decide whether you should iterate or scale.

Sean is a globally recognized sales and marketing thought leader with over 20 years of experience bringing new products to market, including as a five-times sales founder. In addition to helping dozens of startups find product-market fit and predictable revenue models, he helps global multinationals to identify new applications for their existing technology portfolio, bring new products to market with profitable business models, and organize and train self-managing early product-stage sales and marketing teams. Sean was named as One of the Top Sales Influencers You Should Be Following On Social Media, as well as Top 20 Inside Sales Influencers. Sean is an active mentor, advisor and guest lecturer at global startup accelerators, innovation conferences, and colleges and universities including Galvanize, Alchemist, GSVLabs and the London Business School.

Pursuing the Unknown: Conquering Fear & Taking the Plunge

Benjamin Jordan

Professional Athlete, Aerial Adventure Travel Photographer & Filmmaker

Benjamin Jordan is a professional paraglider, aerial adventure travel photographer, and award-winning filmmaker. Ben didn’t get into paragliding because he was fascinated with the sport, instead he chose to paraglide because he wanted to prove the doubtful voice in his head wrong. He believes that the key to overcoming fear of failure whether it’s in business or sport, is fully trusting yourself.

On a daily basis, Ben launches himself into the sky without being completely sure where he is going to land. He is known for a 39-day, 1000km paragliding trip, that began in Vancouver, BC and ended in Calgary, AB. Ironically enough, the journey he is most known for is the one he spent the first decade of his flying career running from. Ben overcame his fear of the Rockies, with their remoteness, unpredictable weather systems and sheer butt-puckering size, by trusting in his abilities. He crossed the entire span of Canada’s southwestern mountain ranges, ultimately leading to the final hurdle, Canada’s Rocky Mountains and his first ever crossing of the Continental Divide.

Join us at #BVF2019 as Ben shares his insight on the mindset and motivation required to push forward in the face of such risk.


Why Artists Make Great Founders

Raine Maida

Entrepreneur & Lead Vocalist of Our Lady Peace

Raine is an artist, entrepreneur and humanitarian. He is the founder and lead vocalist of Juno award-winning, Canadian alternative rock band, Our Lady Peace and with over 25 years of experience in the music industry, Raine is shifting his career towards his new venture, MolotovProjects. MolotovProjects is in essence is a virtual incubator whereby Raine and his team develop innovative ideas, both within and outside of the music industry, and work with fellow entrepreneurs and their group of tech experts to make these visions a reality. From a technology that revolutionizes music therapy, to the first direct-to-consumer solution for craft breweries, the ventures within MolotovProjects’ portfolio are sure to make waves.  Raine has always considered a band as somewhat of a start-up and as someone who has endured a dynamic paradigm shift within the industry, it is no surprise he is well-equipped to take on this newest venture!

Why Artists Make Great Founders

Brent Holliday

Founder & CEO

Brent has been in the technology finance industry for 24 years and is the co-founder and CEO of Canada’s first technology-focused boutique M&A advisory firm, Garibaldi Capital Advisors. Founded in 2013, Garibaldi helps private technology companies across Canada grow by planning and executing on their capital strategy needs and assisting them through M&A transactions. With offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Saint John, Garibaldi has completed 20 transactions in 5 years in technology centers across Canada.

Brent spent five years prior to founding Garibaldi doing technology transactions for Capital West Partners in Vancouver. Before that, Brent was a technology focused venture capitalist, raising over $40 million with two other partners in 1999 to invest in 15 early stage companies. In the Internet 1.0 days of the mid-90’s Brent helped found an Internet Software company, later known as Maximizer Technologies and worked for BDC’s venture capital group before founding his own fund.

Reaching the Peak: Assessing Risk & Navigating the Grey Area

Craig McGee

ACMG Mountain Guide & Area-Manager – Nomads, CMH Heli-Skiing

Craig McGee is a professional, fully certified International Mountain Guide (IFMGA), who has been guiding for 20 years, 17 of which have been with CMH Heli-Skiing, the world’s first and largest Heli-Ski company. Craig grew up with a passion for skiing and has always striven to challenge himself and push his limits. Similar to building and growing a business, guiding the outdoors is never black and white, especially when faced with unpredictable terrain and external pressures. Understanding how to navigate the grey area and assess risk accurately is how Craig has gotten to where he is today.

Craig will take the #BVF2018 stage and share his experience in becoming a top Mountain Guide and how a strong knowledge of risk-assessment can help guide you through the grey area of business and reach your own peak! Learn more about Craig and CHM Heli-Skiing.

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

Paul de Gelder

Navy Diver, Shark Attack Survivor, Author & Motivational Speaker

This mantra is something that Australian Navy Clearance Diver, author, and speaker, Paul de Gelder, has lived by since his early Army days. 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 then 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 this traumatic experience and turned it into his greatest opportunity to leave a positive impact. 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 and one for National Geographic!

Don’t miss Paul’s exhilarating story about how he inspires others to face every challenge head-on and why you should have no time for fear!


Voice-Enabled Technology: The Next Digital Disruption

Zain A. Gulamali

Director of Worldwide Corporate Development, Alexa Fund

Zain A. Gulamali manages the Amazon Alexa Fund, Amazon’s $200 Million venture capital fund investing in artificial intelligence, enterprise, healthcare, IoT and connected devices, robotics, voice technology, and more.  Zain has led the Alexa Fund’s investments in Tact, Greenlight Financial Technology, June Oven, Owlet Baby Care, Mojio, Embodied, Rachio, and TrackR.  He was also responsible for establishing the Alexa Accelerator in partnership with Techstars, now running its 2nd class.  Zain is also part of the broader Corporate Development team at Amazon.  Prior to Amazon, he worked in mobile gaming (Pocket Gems), private equity (Warburg Pincus and Monitor Clipper Partners), and investment banking (Goldman Sachs).  Zain is a graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Voice-Enabled Technology: The Next Digital Disruption

John Albright

Co-Founder & Managing Partner

John is a Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Relay Ventures. John has over 20 years of experience helping entrepreneurs shape their vision and capital plans for long-term, sustainable growth. John’s tenure in finance spans both venture capital and private equity, where he has assisted entrepreneurs through all stages of the startup lifecycle, from seed financing to IPO and M&A. His ability to work alongside company management teams and offer guidance around hiring, governance, and scaling has been vital to the success of Relay’s investments.

Finding The Startup "Magic"

Jonathan Ehrlich

VC, Serial Entrepreneur, Tech Evangelist & Corporate Trailblazer

Former Head of Marketing at Facebook and EVP, Online at Indigo Books and Music, Jonathan Ehrlich, has discovered his startup “magic”, having founded several successful companies and ultimately building a +$100 Million revenue business. Learn about his transition within the tech world from founder, to tech evangelist, to corporate trailblazer, to VC and how he has realized a new passion for helping other entrepreneurs find their own magic!

Jonathan is currently a Partner at Foundation Capital, a VC firm based out of San Francisco, with portfolio companies including Netflix and Uber, the fund invests across a broad range of tech sectors from fintech, SaaS, consumer tech, and energy tech. Don’t miss the opportunity to hear Jonathan’s story at #BVF2018 and gain insight on finding your own “magic”!

Finding The Startup "Magic"

Salim Teja

Salim Teja is the President, Venture Services for MaRS, where he leads the overall strategic direction of MaRS’ venture services areas: Energy & Environment (Cleantech), Finance & Commerce (FinTech), Health and Work & Learning. He is an experienced entrepreneur and active early-stage technology investor, with deep industry expertise in software and digital media. Salim joined MaRS in May 2013, providing strategic direction and leadership for MaRS’ ICT venture services group, leading corporate and venture capital engagement, and overseeing MaRS’ expanding international collaborations in the ICT sector. In this role, he has also provided direction to MaRS’ JOLT accelerator, overseen entrepreneurship initiatives with academic partners in the ICT arena, and has been responsible for the MaRS Commons, an 8,500-square-foot co-working space for entrepreneurs in the ICT sector.