The following article was originally written for The Vancouver Sun by Chuck Chiang.
One of the largest global corporate leadership networks will bring a major annual event to Vancouver this spring, and organizers say it has the potential to spark interest among world’s executives in doing business here.
YPO, which used to be known as the Young Presidents’ Organization, counts 25,000 CEOs and corporate leaders among its members from 130 countries. It will hold its Edge Conference at the Vancouver Convention Centre on March 1-3, the first time the event has been held in Western Canada.
Chief organizer Paolo Kalaw, CEO of Vancouver-based online dentistry platform Nimbyx, is a member of YPO and a former chair of the local chapter. Kalaw said he started pursuing hosting the Edge Conference for the city after seeing Vancouver’s burgeoning tech sector — with major players like Hootsuite and Vision Critical — growing fast.
“I saw an opportunity, in trying to bring the conference here, a really good chance to showcase Vancouver as one of the technology centres in the world,” Kalaw said. “I think we have a real opportunity to do that, and this is a backdrop for Vancouver to reinvent itself and really put itself on the map from a technology disruption and innovation standpoint.”
The March conference will bring together 3,000 CEOs, Kalaw said, with prominent executives slated to attend, including Mark Fields of Ford Motor Co., Ryan Holmes of Hootsuite, Ziv Aviram of Mobileye driverless car tech, Jared Cohen of Jigsaw/Google Ideas and Chip Conley of Airbnb.
YPO CEO Scott Mordell said the experiences of previous host cities such as Dubai, Melbourne and Istanbul is that the value of hosting the event goes far beyond the money spent by the visitors.
He said his organization’s members run enterprises with US$6 trillion in total annual revenue and 17 million employees.
Any personal connection that is created at the conference between a Vancouver executive and another organization member can quickly lead into business ventures, Mordell said.
“When you look at the global GDP, which is a little over US$70 trillion, you can realize the shear magnitude of YPO as a slice of the global economy,” he said. “You think about the impact of where those $6 trillion dollars go — in terms of suppliers, commodities and employees — and the ripple effect of these leaders is quite vast.
Kalaw said that, despite the heavy interactive nature of the conference, the meetings will be presented not as speeches but rather chances for conversation, which may be more effective in solidifying these initial contacts Vancouverites make with global executives into concrete business ventures in the future.
“It’s not made to be a sales pitch, because those things very seldom work,” he said. “But it’s more for people to experience things first-hand. The whole idea of YPO is to create better leaders through information and idea-exchange, and this is really a conference where members can interact with one another. That’s the focus.”