Indigenous Entrepreneurship Forum '22: A Journey of Resilience & Innovation

Last week I attended this year’s Indigenous Entrepreneurship Forum, hosted online by Enterprise Toronto, and the speakers provided just the grounding we all need.

While the conference was primarily geared toward Indigenous business owners and those looking to start business, there was plenty to takeaway for non-Indigenous businesses looking to be better allies to Indigenous entrepreneurs.

Amongst the two keynote speakers and all the panelists, two themes stood out: the importance of strong relationships as the foundation of any successful business endeavour, and the need to engage meaningfully with material reparations. Lucky for us, these are two areas that we as tech entrepreneurs have the skills to excel in.

Facilitating Connections

As a business without any indigenous staff or contractors, this is especially important to take the initiative to learn about the lands we live on. While much of the event was very Toronto-focused, this served to drive home the point that we can and should plug in locally, wherever we are, and start building our own connection to place and building our foundation of relationships.

Indigenous-owned businesses are often deeply connected to community and strongly oriented toward change-making. There were businesses represented at the conference involved in alternative energy, affordable housing and education.Paying indigenous-led businesses in our regions for their expertise is one great way to recognize the importance of this work and contribute to it.

Host Consulting is one such company in the Lower Mainland. While often focused on public art, this firm founded and run by three Indigenous women from the three host nations of Vancouver offer consultations for organizations of all kinds, from conventional businesses to non-profits, and also offers training and workshops.


Collaboration is another avenue for building relationships, and one that tech folks already love. We work in teams of people with a variety of skills. At Acorn, our team’s training comprises everything from web design and full-stack development to sales operations and quality assurance, and our backgrounds include journalism, fine art and music composition. We value a diversity of skills and perspectives inherently, so seeking out Indigenous-led companies to work with should be a no-brainer.

There are numerous companies working at the intersection of technology, innovation and indigenous sovereignty, not just in Toronto but across the country, too. The First Nations Technology Council, based in BC, partners with Indigenous communities across the province to provide training and skills for the digital age so they have the tools to shape reconciliation across the country. Connecting with organizations like this would be a great opportunity to share skills and orient our own work toward increasing equity in the industry and expanding access to these tools.

Tech is known for fostering new talent and sharing skills, whether it’s through free conferences, strong online support communities or a commitment to free, open-source software, we’re always sharing the love. Finding avenues to participate meaningfully in reconciliation and repair means we need to think strategically about where we direct our resources and act intentionally when it comes to the networks we build.

Reparation and Redistribution

As a company that lives and works primarily on Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh territories, but with contractors on Blackfoot territory (Calgary), Kanien'kéha territory (Montreal) and Quw’utsun territory (Cowichan Valley) we need to think both locally and more broadly about the tangible benefits we accrue from these lands. (Find your territory here!) A Victoria-based organization called Reciprocity Trusts has recently started a program that allows renters, homeowners and businesses to make regular payments that go into regional trusts and get distributed to the nations within that region.

For individuals, the amount is based on rent or property tax, and for businesses, uses the Pledge 1% model (think Mountain Equipment Co-op’s 1% For The Planet pledge). It’s a flexible model that allows companies to contribute 1% of time, profits, equity or product. Tech companies, regardless of size, can commit to paying 1% of profits out as reparations, or contribute time by offering opportunities for technology education for youth from local nations. There’s room for innovation and creativity in every part of the discussion.

One of the keynote speakers, Director of the Indigenous Innovation Initiative Sara Wolfe, told attendees, “Start with spirit.” If we build meaningful connections and take intentional action, the rest will follow.