Dave Wilkin: Technology should focus on making human connections
Dave Wilkin is an entrepreneur passionate about creating opportunities for genuine human interaction and collaboration. Currently, he does this through his company, Ten Thousand Coffees. Read on to see his global idea for tech and innovation.
How did you get involved in tech?
I’ve always been pretty entrepreneurial, but was not always in tech. I went to the University of Waterloo to study Biochemistry and Business, and in that time started Redwood Strategic – a consultancy designed to help brands connect with youth.
We hosted numerous events, engagements, and other creative marketing activities, and I got to learn a lot about the senior executives at my client companies.
During my conversations with them about their biggest problems and their proposed solutions, they kept mentioning how they wanted to connect with the next generation of ideas and people, but didn’t know how.
I then got about 300 business leaders to give us an hour of their time, over coffee, to give away on the Internet. We saw the potential in connecting leaders with the next generation for coffee chats, but realized that we needed tech to come up with a scalable solution.
That’s how Ten Thousand Coffees was born.
Now, I’m building up the Ten Thousand Coffees platform to have both an open networking community and a private mentorship network offering that we use with hundreds of companies around the world.
You have 3 hours to make someone fall in love with Toronto – where do you take them and what do you show them?
We’d go around the city, checking out a few different areas. We’d start at Trinity Bellwoods Park, then head to the Toronto Islands, then stop at a house party.
One of the great things about Toronto is that someone is always hosting a party, a patio, or a BBQ, and those are great places to bring someone.
Elevate Toronto is founded on three principles (#DiversityIsOurStrength, #DisruptTogether, #ItsOurTime). Which one resonates most with you?
I would say #ItsOurTime.
Diversity is part of our DNA. It’s what makes us unique as a city, but it’s also just who we are. I think it’s our time because we have a unique window of opportunity to shape a global city and have a chance to turn Toronto into the premier tech capital of the world.
This all happens because Toronto is an entrepreneurial community at heart. You can test out new ideas and businesses here. The first few may not be the ‘billion dollar idea,’ but when you find that idea, you can make it happen in Toronto.
We also have our stuff together in a way no other city currently does, so it’s our responsibility to take advantage of this window in time.
What is your “global idea” for tech and innovation?
My global idea is to further leverage technology to connect people in a genuine way that leads to the “collisions” that build innovation and new ideas.
In my view, if you are building a company or taking on a new project and not actively working to connect people in some way, you are wasting your time.
What’s unique about places like San Francisco is that their whole culture has been designed to connect people so they can collaborate. It’s fertile ground for connections and networking, and we’ve seen it a ton that genuine human connections, mentor networks, and opportunities to learn from one another are the ways to promote innovation.
If someone wanted to get a coffee with you to ask for advice, what would they need to come prepared with?
Come with an understanding of the pain points your customers are facing and then be prepared with your Minimum Loveable Product.
People talk a lot about Minimum Viable Products, but the reality is you need to build something people will love, not just something that’s alive. If you can show me you’ve thought of that, we’ll have a really productive coffee meeting.
What should the world know about the Toronto tech community?
First of all, the weather is not as cold as you think it is. We have the same weather as New York City.
Second, Toronto is an amazing city with so many different types of people and talent that make it a place you can both live and work. No other city, in my view, has so many great people in such a livable city.