Why Glenn Gould may be the model for future T.O. startups

by Shane Schick

Just a block or so from the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where we held our second annual event this week, there’s this great bench that sits outside the CBC building that gave me a sense of what the future startup leaders in the city might look like.

Shane Schick, editor-in-chief, IT World Canada

Integrated into the side of the bench is a statue of the late, great pianist Glenn Gould. He’s dressed in a warm coat and gloves, and is leaning forward as though ready to engage whoever sits next to him in a serious conversation. As I passed this bench on my way to Technicity it’s not so much that I think our next generation of tech CEOs will look like Gould, but they may possess similar character traits.

Think about it: much like the wunderkinds behind some of today’s hottest IPOs, Gould made his mark as a very young man, releasing his rendition of Bach’s Goldberg Variations while still in his mid-twenties it remains one of the best-selling classical records of all time). While Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg ruffled feathers by wearing jeans and flip-flops to business meetings, Gould was flouting social convention long before that, using a rickety chair instead of a proper piano bench and air-conducting with one hand while playing music. The mad scientists we associate with startups all have their quirks, but Gould was a collection of eccentricities. Yet he shared their interest in using technology to improve end results, giving up live performances in his early 30s so he could spend more time on emerging digital recording processes.

Most relevant to, however – an event designed to help boost the local ICT cluster – Gould loved Toronto. Despite being urged to decamp to New York, London, or other classical music venues, he valued the people he knew here, the access to nature. He thought of Toronto as a first-rate city. And he proved that when you take someone with extraordinary talent who loves Toronto, you create an industry leader.

I don’t know if you can engineer that kind of genius, but I do think you can try to engineer the best environment in which genius can flourish. That’s the whole point of – we brought together the best people we knew to talk about what’s working in Toronto and what can be improved, how we can support and nurture talent and see more startups turn into worldwide successes.

Beyond the keynote speeches and the breakout discussions we will need to work on a lot more measurable activities that see Toronto firms produce more patents, narrow the skills/jobs gap and increase their overall revenues and growth. But along the way we need to ask ourselves: who will be the Glenn Gould of mobile application development? Who will be the Glenn Gould of high-performance computing? Who will be the Glenn Gould of venture capital, orchestrating a series of smart tech investments the way you would a collection of musicians? may not have been the conference where we found those people. But it’s the first step in the process of searching for them.

For more details on Technicity keep watching coverage on and download presentations from If you’re interested in being part of groups or committees that work on innovation/commercialization, intelligence/capability, integration/collaboration or talent, e-mail us at



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