Founding InForum: How Two New Grads Set Out To Inspire Social Change


For Ian King and Theresa Do, TEDx Toronto ’14 was less about sipping on wine or making small talk with others, and more about brainstorming ideas that would eventually lead to their latest project: inForum initiative. 2015-05-06 13-03-37

Bonding over their love of John Cruickshank’s talk on news and civic engagement given earlier that day, Ian and Theresa managed a brainstorming session focused on bringing their love of politics, technology and entrepreneurial sprit together. Theresa describes the original idea for inForum initiative as something with the capability to “to create a positive space for people of all ideological backgrounds to come together to discuss issues that matter to all of us.”

Ian and Theresa didn’t know it yet, but that brainstorming session would eventually lead to the creation of inForum2015 – a networking session, design jam and hackathon which will take place over two weekends to bring like-minded people together, as well as generate buzz about the venture.

Success for Ian and Theresa is a multifaceted image. They hope to inspire others to create their own conferences and platforms where like-minded people can share ideas. Also, like all ambitious dreamers they hope to facilitate positive change through their own product. For them, it’s about collaboration and inclusivity not partisanship.

The early days

For Ian, the dream of becoming a lawyer changed the day he became involved with the burgeoning tech startup scene in Montreal. Heavily occupied with student politics throughout his first two years at McGill University, Ian became actively engaged with the Impact Entrepreneurship Group (IEG) and the Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference Foundation (CUTCF), which he says is where his love of startups began.

Ian Gerald King
Co-Founder, inForum initiative
Bachelor of Arts, McGill University 2013

For Ian, the inspiration for inForum initiative came partly from his desire to do something more with the tech scene in Toronto. Instead of creating another photo sharing app, Ian dreamt bigger, envisioning inForum initiative as an “avenue for directing the technologically empowered towards working on relevant issues.” Ian cites his experiences outside of the classroom that helped to get inForum initiative off the ground. His earlier involvement with not for-profits and student politics gave him the confidence to pursue projects he otherwise wouldn’t have.

It was through InteCreation, an events company that Ian created to help pay the bills, that got him noticed by Toronto based Extreme Startups, the leading startup accelerator at the time. It was after being invited to work on various projects and eventually being hired as Community Manager for HIGHLINE – an amalgamation of Extreme Startups and Vancouver’s GrowLab – that led Ian to TEDx Toronto ’14 and ultimately Theresa Do.

For Theresa, the idea of the inForum initiative was born out of love and frustration. Her love of events that allowed like minded people to come together and share ideas, and frustration over the apathetic nature regarding today’s youth and Canadian politics.

Theresa Do
Co-Founder, inForum initiative
Bachelor of Journalism, Ryerson University 2013

“So then, to me, it was a matter of figuring out, OK, well what do young people care about? Because for sure, young people care about a lot of things (sic). Why aren’t our elected officials doing more to reach out to young people to address those issues?” she said.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from launching a start-up?

“Focus. It’s easy to get distracted on non-issues; it’s easy to get pulled away from your core purpose; it’s easy to lose confidence. You just have to focus on what you want to bring into the world and build it.”
Ian Gerald King
Co-Founder, inForum initiative

“You just got to do it and figure it out as you go along. There’ll be mistakes, but you learn from them and improve. It’s all a giant experiment.”
Theresa Do
Co-Founder, inForum initiative

Theresa attended the Ryerson University school of Journalism and upon graduation was awarded the Joan Donaldson scholarship; a four-month paid internship with CBC News. Theresa cites her knowledge of crafting good pitches – something learned from her time spent at Ryerson – as something that has helped her and Ian establish inForum initiative’s presence in the startup market.

Theresa refers to inForum initiative as a platform “which embraces the spirit of entrepreneurship and technological tools to empower citizens for positive social change,” and believes her and Ian’s main goal is to empower youth towards creating social change with inForum2015 being their outlet to make that happen. Theresa’s goal is to empower young people, and she believes inForum initiative has the right tools to do so. Understanding not everyone is apathetic about politics by choice, Theresa is confident inForum initiative can fill the growing void between politicians and young people.

Forging ahead

The inForum Conference even attracted the attention of Toronto's mayor, John Tory
The inForum2015 conference even attracted the attention of Toronto’s mayor, John Tory

With Ian managing Thoughtkite, his own personal education start up, and Theresa working a senior reporter for, time management is critical. Taking a break while moving between responsibilities is something Theresa says helps her with the stress of managing two serious jobs. At the end of her day at CBC Theresa will often go for walks to unwind, before focusing on her inForum2015 to-do list. For Ian, time management is key – making distinctions between the different types of work that comes with each venture is critical to the success of the inForum initiative. Meeting with potential investors and creating a visible brand are high priorities for both of them, and Theresa cites the ability to make mistakes in a safe environment during university, that’s made it possible to stay confident in their decision making moving forward.

“I am a perfectionist who always has to make sure everything is thoroughly researched, prepared and ready before starting anything… which can often mean I don’t ever get around to starting anything,” said Do. “Launching the inForum initiative really taught me how to bite the bullet and do things anyway — even if you feel like you’re not ready. You’re never going to be ready and it’s just going to be an excuse that prevents you from going after what you want.”

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“I distinctly remember one of my mentors telling me something to the extent of: “You have an idea? Launch it. Stop brainstorming and get out of the building. Ask if people need what you want to build.” It was a defining moment.”
Ian Gerald King
Co-Founder, inForum initiative

“It comes from my mom and it goes something along the lines of, “There is no honour without suffering.” It’s a really puritanical saying that’s defined my work ethic since I was a kid. Basically, you’ve got to hustle to be successful.”
Theresa Do
Co-Founder, inForum initiative

The varying interests Theresa and Ian share, is evident throughout inForum2015. With Theresa supplying the political focus, Ian brings the technological aspect to the preverbal table. Meshing these two worlds together and effectively creating a symbiotic relationship is something Ian describes as “very few techies have channeled their abilities into reshaping the political landscape,” which is where they’re hoping to succeed. InForum2015’s slogan “together we are powerful,” says it all, the duo is looking to embrace those who have been forgotten about by the political community. An example of where inForum initiative’s ambitions lie is evident when Theresa describes her first federal election.

“My first federal election was the one where Rick Mercer challenged young people across Canada to go out and vote and that really stuck with me,” she said. “The vote mobs rallied together at different universities and people voted! It was a movement of young people responding to a challenge and it was amazing.”

While the expression “the harder you worker the luckier you’ll be” has become somewhat of a cliché, it’s been a stark reality for Theresa and Ian. It’s never a sure bet which ventures will succeed and which will fail – even a solid business plan, steady focus, and a healthy amount of coffee won’t guarantee success. But Theresa and Ian continue with their hard work and sleepless nights in the hopes of creating “access to spheres of influence and actions for young Canadians who aren’t necessarily well-off or well-connected.”

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