#TechTO’s Jason Goldlist: Toronto bucks the trend with collaboration
Jason Goldlist is the General Manager of Wealthsimple, one of Canada’s fastest growing tech companies. Given the breakneck pace of growth at Wealthsimple, Jason finds himself in front of a computer screen most days, but spends his evenings hosting the popular TechToronto meetups (on a hoverboard!). Read on to see his global idea for tech and innovation.
How did you get involved in tech?
I started my career in consulting at McKinsey, but chose to optimize for travel. I got the opportunity to work on a pan-African telecom company’s digital marketing strategy, and I was hooked. From then on, I knew I wanted to help technology companies grow.
I spent just over a year helping a pan-African telecom company, then moved out to Seattle to join A Place for Mom, the world’s largest online senior care referral marketplace. I helped in their marketing efforts, and they’ve had a pretty great exit recently.
At the same time, I helped out a former McKinsey colleague, Mike Katchen, with some of his marketing projects at Ancestry.com, the company that acquired his first startup. When Mike left Ancestry and founded Wealthsimple, we kept in touch and I eventually joined in February 2015.
I also created TechToronto.org, running monthly events since 2014 with the mission to encourage knowledge sharing and help grow the Toronto technology ecosystem.
You have 3 hours to make someone fall in love with Toronto – where do you take them and what do you show them?
I start with a tour of the Wealthsimple office, located just across the street from Trinity Bellwoods park.
After that we walk through Trinity Bellwoods Park and up the Ossington strip, across Little Italy, casually stopping at Bar Raval. Then on to Kensington Market, and back through down to Queen West.
I know this is a great way to showcase Toronto because it’s what I do when trying to get candidates from abroad to move to Toronto and join Wealthsimple. I’ve had one success with someone moving here and potentially a second one coming soon!
Elevate Toronto is founded on three principles (#DiversityIsOurStrength, #DisruptTogether, #ItsOurTime). Which one resonates most with you?
It’s the most counterintuitive and, possibly, the one most unique to Toronto. Both ‘diversity being our strength’ and ‘it’s our time’ could apply to a lot of cities around the world, but only in Toronto do we buck the trend of newer, younger companies being on a mission to destroy older, ‘dinosaur’ companies.
This could have something to do with our traditionally risk-averse mindset, meaning we want the familiarity of a larger brand, but it could also be about our “Canadianness” of being nice, friendly, and empowering others versus being combative and tearing each other down.
What is your “global idea” for tech and innovation?
I think we need to make the process easier for great talent to move where they need to in order to make innovation happen.
I saw this first hand when I went to Seattle; the process was fraught with worries, costs, and uncertainty. Something similar happens in Canada. I ultimately was able to go to Seattle [as a Canadian citizen] and make an impact, but on the margin we could have so many more people making impact globally if they didn’t have to navigate a fraught process.
Companies will identify talent wherever it is and talent identifies great companies wherever they are, and you don’t want to separate or hinder that due to artificial bureaucracy.
What should the world know about the Toronto tech community?
There are cycles of entrepreneurs starting businesses, growing, moving on from the opportunity, and then helping more people.
Ten years ago, people had a lot of concern that there was nothing in Toronto for them if they wanted to grow in tech/innovation. Now, we are at the second or third wave of successful entrepreneurs starting to give back to the community with money, knowledge, and network to create even more successful companies.