Bay Street Bull Magazine: Luxury Business and Lifestyle

Business

The 2017 Bay Street Bull 30x30 Guide

Written by David King, Christopher Metler, Ross Vernon Dias, Daniel Macauley, Nicolas Mizera, Anjli Patel and Grace Wei. 

2017 has not had an easy start, but if it’s anything that we’ve learned from all the chaos, it’s that where there is despair, there is also hope. In our very first 30X30 guide, we’ve assembled a group of champions who have not only taken charge of their lives, but have made it their mission to do better and challenge the status quo. From FinTech disruptors and social entrepreneurs to sartorial architects and freedom fighters, these inspiring Canadians are our models for a better future; a better now.

Say hello to Bay Street Bull’s inaugural Class of 2017. Browse through the list here: visit a profile directly by clicking on a name below. 


Michael Katchen

Founder, Wealthsimple; 29

Interview by David King

Photographer: Janick Laurent

Stylist: Sharad Mohan

Hair and makeup: Demi Valentine

We don’t talk to people about interest rates or oil prices, we tell human stories about money and how it interacts with the way people live their lives.

With a boyish grin and Eddie Haskell-like charm, it’s easy to assume that Michael Katchen could be just like any other affable and approachable Canadian millennial. Just don’t tell that to the CEOs of the Big Five Canadian banks who may or may not have his picture on their office dartboard. Katchen is here to shake things up, and their deep fear of this nice guy, Wealthsimple (his emerging FinTech company), and his vision to disrupt the monopoly they’ve enjoyed for far too long, are the stories that dreams—and fortunes—are made of.

When did you realize that Wealthsimple, something that started as an idea and your passion, had legs and was going to work? 

We've been really lucky about how fast we've grown. I don't think we ever imagined we'd have come this far so quickly. That said, we're a long way away from where we want to be. We just launched in the US a few weeks ago and have plans to launch in other markets later this year. I think that focus on our big vision is really important and keeps us hungry. 

You need to really believe that you’re going to succeed and tune out anything that suggests you won’t.

How do you feel about being the face of the FinTech movement here in Canada, and even a growing presence outside our borders?

We have a lot of great FinTech companies here in Canada, so I don't know if I'd call myself the face! I am very excited about the momentum of FinTech and the broader tech industry in Canada at this point in time. We really haven't seen many global champions come out of Canada, and I think that's going to change with companies like Shopify and Hootsuite becoming really successful. We just launched in the US and are excited to be playing a small part in this important trend. 

As major banks and financial institutions get prepared for the onslaught of FinTech, what is Wealthsimple doing to maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace?

We're doing what we always do: focusing on the client. What can we do to make their experience even better? How can we make it easier for them to achieve their financial goals? So far, that laser-focus on our clients has served us really well. I think that dedication is our competitive edge. If we look at what our competitors are doing and set our priorities in reaction, we'll always be playing catch-up. We want to be leaders, so we don't look to the competition. We look to our team and our clients for how we can keep building a better product.

Do you see Wealthsimple becoming a bank down the road?

Becoming a bank is not in our current plans. But ultimately, we're open to evolving the business in any way that better serves our clients. I'm not ruling anything out.

Your company took on a major institutional investor in Power Financial, one of the largest players in the Canadian insurance sector. How was the experience of negotiating that deal? Did you have any founders remorse once the ink had dried?

Definitely no founder's remorse! I like to say that our relationship with Power has given us the best of both worlds. We still get to operate like a startup, but we have the trust that comes with the backing of one of the world's largest financial conglomerates. 

What kind of influence has Power Financial had on the direction of Wealthsimple since taking their stake in the company? 

I give a lot of credit to Power and Paul Desmarais III on this. In general, they give us the space we need to operate and innovate. They are thought partners and they try to support us. However, they are deliberately trying to avoid injecting “big company” thinking and process into the way we're building Wealthsimple. 

Has your day-to-day role changed much since they have become involved? 

Our partnership with Power hasn't changed my day-to-day role. But my role certainly has changed as the company has grown. Our first year, my day-to-day role really focused on growing our initial client base. Our second year, I focused on growing the team—we grew from about 20 to 65 in 2016, and it was important to me to be personally involved in those hires. Now my time is divided between day-to-day operations, growing the Wealthsimple brand in Canada and the US, and exploring new growth opportunities for the business. 

Scrutiny is something that comes hand-in-hand with not only being an entrepreneur, but when you achieve the level of success that you are starting to reach. What advice can you offer on mitigating criticism and staying focused on the end goal?

I think one of the key ingredients to being a startup founder—or an entrepreneur of any kind, really—is naive ambition. You need to really believe that you're going to succeed and tune out anything that suggests you won't. I've always believed and continue to believe in Wealthsimple's success, so I don't really pay attention to people who criticize our fundamental mission or concept. 
What I do pay a lot of attention to is criticism from people who want us to succeed—the Wealthsimple team, our clients and the people who support me professionally and personally. Our business relies on improvement through iteration, and you can't iterate effectively without listening (and I mean really listening) to the people who interact with your company and your product.

Suit ($1,195), shirt ($175) and pocket square ($75) by BOSS; shoes ($740) by Lanvin. 

Suit ($1,195), shirt ($175) and pocket square ($75) by BOSS; shoes ($740) by Lanvin. 

Who have you emulated and look up to in your career? What lessons, either directly or indirectly, have they taught you that helps guide your work and vision?

I've always been inspired by Elon Musk. We need more entrepreneurs with conviction and passion to solve big problems.

Wealthsimple has certainly invested in its visibility via its marketing campaigns. How do you see the conversation around personal finance changing with the growth of FinTech?

I think Canadians are becoming more open to looking beyond the big banks for financial services. A few things are driving this shift. One is technology—people my age expect to be able to use technology to access services, and the big institutions haven't been able to move quickly enough to meet changing demands. Another is trust. This generation came of age during the financial crisis and is more skeptical of the big institutions than perhaps their parents were. Transparency is really important to these clients: they want to see exactly what they're paying and to whom, and that's something we offer them.

Do you feel like there is still a large gap when it comes to educating people about FinTech? What are people most hesitant and wary of when it comes to robo-investing, and how do you acknowledge those fears? 

I think we've been able to tap into something that other financial companies haven't because we approach money and investing in a very human way. We don't talk to people about interest rates or oil prices, we tell human stories about money and how it interacts with the way people live their lives. This has allowed us to connect with people who may not have otherwise been thinking about investing at all. 

Do you feel like the model of traditional financial services as we know it is dead? Why or why not?

I don't think it's dead. I think it's evolving rapidly. People's expectations are changing, mostly driven by technology. Firms that embrace this change and enable their teams with technology will thrive. 

What do you see as the biggest barrier(s) to the success of Wealthsimple?

You know up to this point, everything that people told me would be a big barrier, we've been able to overcome. So I'm not really sure. When we launched we were told Canadians' relationships with the big banks was too deep-seated and we'd never be able to get anyone to trust us. Now over 20,000 Canadians trust us with more than $750 million. We were told operating as a start-up in such a highly-regulated space would be impossible, but we've worked closely with the regulators from the beginning and they've been very supportive. People told us that Canada was too small a market to build a successful business. We're now one of the only multi-national FinTech firms in the world. 

Similarly, what have you learned from your mistakes and hardships as an entrepreneur that have helped you achieve success?

I've learned that the hardest and the most important part of building a company is building an amazing team. The most rewarding moments as a founder have been seeing the team achieve a major milestone or project that I've had absolutely nothing to do with. It's really hard to do that well, especially when you care so much about the people you're working with. 

Where does your career take you next? Do you see yourself branching out or staying on course? 

My dream is to build Wealthsimple into a global company that helps people all over the world achieve their financial goals. I plan to be focused on that for the foreseeable future. Check back once we get there!

Suit ($1,195) and sweater ($185) by BOSS.

Suit ($1,195) and sweater ($185) by BOSS.

 

Jazz Cartier

Musician, 24

Photos courtesy of Roots Canada

Jazz Cartier may have been born Jaye Adams in Toronto, but living with a stepfather who put food on the table working as an international diplomat, his childhood was marked by periodic relocations around the map. Considerable chunks of Cartier’s youth were accordingly spent across the United States and Barbados, with one migration reaching as far as Kuwait.

 The time abroad consequently revealed untold genres of music to the maturing Cartier—something he openly attributes to his development as an urban performer.

 Having attended an eminent Connecticut boarding academy throughout his formative years, in 2012, Jazz Cartier unexpectedly turned down the opportunity to enroll in a Columbia College Chicago arts program. It would have been one move too many to a foreign place—without friends or family—and Cartier wasn’t prepared to stomach it. Instead, the prodigal son returned to his hometown and embarked on pursuing his passion for music.

While Cartier claims he began work on his first mixtape Marauding in Paradise in 2011, it was only once he came back to Toronto that he commenced a true push to complete the debut opus, unleashing singles like “Switch” and “Set Fire.” The singles gained Cartier feverish play on local radio and at Toronto Raptors games, as well as steady gigs at the city’s foremost live venues.

Not surprisingly, he began to garner a tangible buzz. Marauding in Paradise was finally released in 2015, earning Cartier a Polaris Music Prize nomination that same year. His follow-up, Hotel Paranoia, duplicated the honour in 2016.

Okay, now that we’ve offered up ample introduction to Cartier, here’s why we think he matters: beyond the man’s unique upbringing and arrival on the scene, Cartier is actively bucking the trend of how modern rappers are expected to carry themselves.

Despite multiple label offers, Cartier remains unsigned—by choice. Sure, when the right deal comes, he’ll take it, but he’s putting zero pressure or expectations on himself in the meantime. And rather than lay waste to the escalating riches that traditionally accompany increased exposure as an upstart rap artist, Cartier is content for now to funnel it right back into his creative process. 

Most impressively perhaps, in lieu of identifying himself within contemporary rap music’s chorus line of exuberance and excess, Cartier has instead chosen to be a voice against the avarice, substance abuse and lavish lifestyle that all too often comes hand-in-hand with industry notoriety. 

Toronto may have found its prolific global ambassador in Drake, and dark crooning soul in The Weeknd, but maybe Jazz Cartier is on the path to carve out his niche as something more; its untapped conscience. - CM

Sarain Fox

Television host and activist, RISE; 29
Photo courtesy of Vice Media

Photo courtesy of Vice Media

When Indigenous activist, Sarain Fox was approached by VICE to collaborate on RISE, an eight-part series investigating the current oppressions faced by Indigenous peoples and their fight to protect their ways of life, she quickly recognized the possible impact of the project. “It is so important for Indigenous youths to have role models; to see themselves in the [spot]light and see their stories in mainstream media,” Fox says. Through RISE, Fox shares the harrowing and hopeful stories of Indigenous peoples from the voice and perspective that is often forgotten and silenced. She says these stories are told with a level of closeness that can only be reached through the trust gained from shared experiences. With three of the eight episodes having aired during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, as well as the entire series playing on VICELAND, RISE is one of the widest-reaching explorations of contemporary Indigenous issues accessible to a mainstream audience.

Prayer, conviction, and spray-paint are the weapons of Fox’s RISE. With each episode opening on an example of Indigenous resistance art, Fox reiterates that art is the backbone of these movements. “You can’t disconnect the art from the frontline, because the message remains even when you silence the voice,” she says. With her background in various forms of performance communication, Fox sees RISE as an extension of the retaliation of the Indigenous peoples, and a mode to further communicate the movement. RISE marks a call for allies and a pressing need to reconsider the current approach to Indigenous issues.

With many of the Indigenous movements spearheaded by girls and young women, Fox celebrates the strength of these brave protectors. “This year has taught me a lot about what it means to be a woman in this fight,” she says, asserting that every moment she stands as an Indigenous woman is a retaliation in itself. “I want to acknowledge those young women, and I want to acknowledge the protectors.”

At the core of RISE is a selfless awareness that the fight is unlikely to be resolved in the lifetime of those involved. Rather, the retaliation is and always has been for the future generations. RISE depicts weaponless Indigenous demonstrators facing opposition armed with water cannons and rubber bullets. “I saw it over and over again, people wiping tear gas out of their eyes and going back to the frontline like they just relentlessly refused to back down, and that is, I think, blood memory [allowing] that kind of access to ancestral knowledge about being willing to stand,” Fox states, adding that she and the Indigenous communities can continue to fight because their ancestors did so.

A sharp reminder that these issues are not confined to the pages of history books, RISE is poised to change the narrative. “RISE doesn’t belong to me,” Fox says. “Or to VICE. It really belongs to the people…. The people get to have it now.” - DM

Milos Raonic

Tennis player, 26

Photo Courtesy of New Balance Canada

Milos Raonic had a big summer. No, let’s rephrase that—the top-rated tennis stud had an historic summer.

A near lifelong Southern Ontario inhabitant (by way of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), Raonic became the first Canadian male to compete for a Grand Slam title back in July of 2016. Not only that, he did it at the granddaddy of ‘em all; Wimbledon. And if that isn’t impressive enough, the underdog secured his finals spot in the world’s oldest tennis tournament by conquering the great Roger Federer.

So what if the all-court specialist ultimately came up short against rival Andy Murray? Win or lose, Raonic not only proved his mettle on the world stage, but left no doubt that he can hang with the very best at the most elite levels of the game.

Even without the coveted Wimbledon trophy, Raonic has already claimed more ATP World Tour titles and finals appearances than all the other Canadian men in the Open Era—combined.

At twenty-six years of age, he’s just getting warmed up. - CM

Cory Joseph

Basketball player, Toronto Raptors; 25
Photo courtesy of @doncharleone

Photo courtesy of @doncharleone

If you call yourself a Toronto Raptors fan, but are not yet acquainted with the much-publicized potential of backup point guard Cory Joseph, then we wager you’ll be growing quite enamoured by this young man’s talents in the coming months. 

Starting the last two games in Lowry's stead before press time, Joseph tallied 11 points and six assists versus the Boston Celtics, followed by 14 points and six assists in a game against the Portland Trail Blazers. Incidentally, in his only other 2017 start, Joseph hit a career high of 33 points chipping in another four assists and four rebounds. 

By chance or not, opportunities like the one currently afforded by Cory Joseph—along with the eye-catching stats to back it up—are how all-stars get made. When he decamped the San Antonio Spurs in 2015, his services were quickly snatched up by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. They inked the in-demand free agent to a 30-million dollar, four-year contract without hesitation.

If Cory Joseph can continue to shine in the leading role bestowed upon him, his acquisition should surely prove to be an investment well worth it. - CM

Connor McDavid

Hockey player, Edmonton Oilers; 20
Photo courtesy of Connor Mah

Photo courtesy of Connor Mah

He’s only just over a hundred games into his flourishing NHL career, but Connor McDavid (hockey’s latest next Gretzky) may already be the league’s most valuable player.

Although the prodigy from Richmond Hill, Ont. in all likelihood won’t be bringing home the Stanley Cup this year–Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all–consider the impressive fashion in which he’s powered the long-struggling Edmonton Oilers into competitive status. The boys in blue, orange and white currently rank fifteenth (as of press time) in shot attempts for the Western Conference, after having not previously cracked the NHL’s top half since tracking began in 2007-2008. The Oilers also maintain the division’s second-highest number of goals, plus they’re sitting pretty in eighth position when it comes to five-on-five save percentages.

It’s no real secret that McDavid is the turbocharged engine that powers this resurgent machine. In fact, so crucial is McDavid to the recent success of Edmonton’s squad, that when he’s on the bench their shot attempt differential matches that of the NHL’s worst present-day franchise. Stats like this suggest McDavid is carrying the Oilers on his shoulders. Not even Sidney Crosby (hockey’s previous next Gretzky) can claim such a distinction—the Pittsburgh Penguins still snag over 50 percent of total goals at even strength when ‘Sid the Kid’ is off the ice.

Factor these virtuoso talents with the riches that inevitably await McDavid in free agency, and there's no disputing that the sport's future MVP is a game changer. – CM

Penny Oleksiak

Swimmer, 16

Photo courtesy of Canadian Olympic Committee

When considering what makes Penny Oleksiak’s star shine so bright, these standout numbers speak for themselves.

2016: The year of not just the most recent Summer Olympics (officially known as the Games of the XXXI Olympiad) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil—where Toronto’s Oleksiak competed for Canada—but also one in which she was bestowed the Lou Marsh Trophy as the country's top sportsman/woman, as well as the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as top female athlete.

4: The number of Olympic medals she won as a competitive swimmer, specializing in the freestyle and butterfly events.

100m: The distance of freestyle race she claimed gold in, as well as a silver in butterfly and bronze in women’s freestyle relay.

200m: The distance of race she took home a second bronze in (women’s freestyle relay).

16: The record-breaking age at which she did it all, making her Canada’s youngest Olympic champion.

Sid Neigum

Fashion designer, 28
Photography by Mauricio Calero

Photography by Mauricio Calero

Sid Neigum has always paid attention to details, a necessary prerequisite for anyone aspiring to a career in medicine. But growing up in Drayton Valley, Alberta, where he observed his grandmother sewing outfits for his sister, Neigum steered himself onto a different path, eventually landing at the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, instead. Now a fashion designer with a growing list of high-profile clients (supermodel Coco Rocha, among them), Neigum’s analytical, procedural and experimental nature—hallmarks of a great physician—persists in his work, with references that vary from fractals to the golden ratio. 

In Neigum’s case, the execution of these ideas is as noteworthy as conception. Laser cutting is a preferred technique, creating the precise, clean lines that have become a trademark of the young designer. When applied to more intricate details like architectural blueprints or modular origami, the result is best described as a modern-day lace. In short, when technology nods to tradition, Neigum’s work sings.

Like all other creative disciplines, fashion is a patchwork of conscious and subconscious references, and so Neigum’s aesthetic hints at the work of great Japanese designers, like Issey Miyake, and French retro-futurists, such as Paco Rabanne. This has hardly prevented Neigum from carving out his own identity in the cacophony of designers vying for their own space in the industry. Just ask Vogue, ELLE, V or one of the other leading editorial industry titans from which he’s received critical applause. Neigum’s work not only stands alone, but also holds its own in the global fashion conversation.

Photography by Mauricio Calero

Photography by Mauricio Calero

The possibility of more design collaborations is what excites him most about the future; recent stints include consulting with Pfaff Auto (Porsche, BMW, Audi, McLaren) and the Vancouver Opera. “It was interesting to take a creative role in other projects that weren’t my own brand,” he says. Ideally it would be carte blanche at a brand looking to create a new category, like Jonathan Anderson designing ready-to-wear at Spanish leather goods label, Loewe, he adds.

While Canadian art, music, theatre, film and literature are established, accepted and most importantly, supported by Canada at large, fashion tends to take a back seat. That’s what makes Neigum’s journey all the more remarkable. From rural Alberta, to the city of Toronto, to the international fashion centre that is London, England, Neigum has accomplished so much in five short years of business—and his upward trajectory continues. – AP

Anjli Patel is a fashion lawyer and trademark agent who collaborates with designers, entrepreneurs and creative people in building their businesses. Sid Neigum is one of her clients.

Isha Datar and Erin Kim

Executive Director, New Harvest; 29

Communications Director, New Harvest; 28

Illustration by Vesna Asanovic

Illustration by Vesna Asanovic

In a world where a single pound of meat can take more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce—not to mention crops of grain that could be sustaining humans—raising more animals for meat may seem irresponsible. Yet our species’ appetite for the stuff only keeps growing, to the point that animal farming can be considered a serious barrier to global sustainability—maybe even the survival of our race.

But imagine if we didn’t have to sacrifice the environment for a steak, or slaughter an entire animal when we only want to consume a small part of it. Enter Isha Datar and Erin Kim, the dynamic duo behind New Harvest, a New York-based non-profit that funds research to create animal products—minus the animal.

Born in Edmonton, Alberta, Datar took up the mantle of environmentalism from an early age after observing her home province’s reliance on the oil industry. While studying molecular biology at the University of Alberta, a course in agriculture taught her more about the negative effects of meat production—its environmental impacts, the factory farms—and would end up meeting Jason Matheny, the founder of New Harvest.

Kim, on the other hand, took a deep dive into the legal world, mastering the craft with a law degree from the University of Alberta, alongside a stint at Pivot Legal Society. It was her interest in sustainability and risk mitigation that led her to New Harvest, working her way up as a volunteer to a full-time communications director, charged with spreading the gospel of cellular agriculture to the public.

While the technology has been around for a while within medical circles, it’s only recently that it has been purposed with finding a solution for the world’s food problem.

So far, the future looks promising. The foundation has helped make possible a portfolio of groundbreaking products and methods of culturing animal-like products, including eggs, milk, leather, and meat.

Probably one of the most famous results of New Harvest’s research funding is the world’s first cultured-beef hamburger. Researcher Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands crafted it from 20,000 individually grown strands of muscle, and it apparently passed the taste test. Then there’s a collaboration with North Carolina State University, looking into cultured chicken and turkey; research at Kent State University which is hoping to culture pork and lobster; and even an effort to create vascularized muscle tissue at Kings College in London, that may make actual cuts of beef (not just mince) a real possibility.

New Harvest has also helped launch companies such as Perfect Day, which produces milk without cows (a venture that has attracted almost $2 million in funding), and Clara Foods, which produces eggs without hens. Perusing the organization’s social feed, it even seems like cultured bacon may be on the menu in the near future.

At the moment, many of these innovations can be costly and difficult to reproduce on the mass scale required to replace factory farming—for instance, a prototype gallon of lab-made milk cost upwards of ten times regular dairy milk. But knowing that it’s possible to create synthetic tissue that not only looks like the real thing, but tastes like it, means that sustainable animal-like products could be in your fridge sooner than you think. - NM

Ian Crosby

CEO and Co-founder, Bench; 30
Photo courtesy of Bench

Photo courtesy of Bench

To say success comes from big ideas would be an oversimplification—just ask Ian Crosby. When he was working as a bookkeeper at the University of British Columbia, his alma mater, he was just another employee frustrated with an outdated process.  

“I couldn’t believe that such an important job was given to me when I had little to no experience in bookkeeping,” Crosby said. “It didn’t take long before I realized why—bookkeeping was laborious, time-consuming, and no one else wanted to do it.”

 Crosby saw a need to automate bookkeeping and source accounting support for small businesses. After creating the software, he focused on making it affordable and accessible for as many users as possible—thus Bench was born.  

Since launching in 2012, Bench has grown from four to over 250 employees in their Vancouver office. Its goal is not to transform just the bookkeeping industry, but the lives of millions of small business owners across North America.

So, a better way to describe Bench’s success is a regular one-in-a-million idea that was well nurtured into a competitive opportunity. As Crosby said, “The only truly sustainable advantage today in business is to become the best in the world at what you do.”  - GW

Satish Kanwar

Vice President of Product, Shopify; 30
Photo courtesy of Shopify

Photo courtesy of Shopify

Before Shopify, Satish Kanwar was another Toronto entrepreneur who quit a corporate job to realize a vision. In 2008, he co-founded his first company, design agency Jet Cooper. Like any other entrepreneur, Kanwar trudged through a long stretch of uncertainty before reaching the light at the end of the tunnel.

“In any entrepreneur’s journey, you have to put your vision before everything;” says Kanwar. “You only truly know how bad you want it to succeed when you start to make the difficult trade-offs.” For him, one of those trade-offs was leaving a stable job and using all his personal savings just to keep up with expenses in the first year of operations. But the biggest sacrifice was the isolation from family and friends, to enable Jet Cooper to scale fast. His hard work eventually paid off—Jet Cooper would gain a host of brand-name clients like Cineplex, Facebook, and Kik, before getting acquired by Shopify in 2013.

Now with increased experience under his belt, Kanwar is involved in Toronto’s tech community through mentorship and investing. “When I started as an entrepreneur, the Toronto tech community was small and hard to access,” says Kanwar. To pave the way for the next generation, he co-organized Startup Open House (an event series where startups open their offices to the public) and served as a mentor for the Next 36 (a non-profit focused on cultivating innovation and entrepreneurship). Currently, Kanwar is an associate at the Creative Destruction Lab at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business. - GW

Ted Livingston

Founder, Kik Interactive, Inc.; 30

Photography by Christopher Wahl, courtesy of Kik

Canada’s burgeoning tech start-up community in Waterloo, Ontario, is often called Silicon Valley North—a reputation largely owed to the rise and fall of technology giants such as smartphone-creator BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion) and numerous others who followed in its footsteps.

Carrying the torch into the new generation is Kik, a cross-platform text and video messenger created in 2015 by Toronto-native Ted Livingston. Valuated in 2015 at more than a billion dollars, the app is soaring in popularity among youth—one-in-three teens in America has an account—and, notably, Kik is vying for their attention.

Livingston, now 30, channeled funds from an inheritance, and money he’d saved up during placements, to found the company with a group of friends. The app, intended to connect BlackBerry users with iPhone adopters, spiked in popularity–at one point it scored more than a million downloads in a span of 15 days.

That’s when BlackBerry, Livingston’s former employer, shut down access to Kik’s app and sued the company for alleged patent infringement in November, 2010. The parties would eventually settle out of court, but the damage was done—Kik lost 99 percent of its users. Reeling, Kik still raised US$8 million in venture capital in 2011 and would manage to rebuild its base.

It didn’t take long. A big success—again—Livingston’s Kik now counts more than 300,000,000 registered users, according to its website. Its main competitors are WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, as well as China’s WeChat—whose developer, Tencent, made an investment in Kik which helped push it to its 2015 valuation. Kik is now entering its eighth year, employing 165 workers between Waterloo, Toronto, New York and Tel Aviv.

And Kik’s global expansion couldn’t be happening at a better time. With the free flow of information playing an increasingly important role in our personal and professional lives, messaging apps that bridge the divide—whether defined by distance or our choice of smartphone—have an undeniably bright future. - NM

Steven Keating

Healthcare researcher and patient advocate; 28

Photos courtesy of Steven Keating

When MIT student and Calgary-native Steven Keating was diagnosed with a large brain tumour in 2014, his curiosity led him to collect all the data available about the mass. Beginning by open-sourcing the initial information gathered from his MRI scans, Keating was able to find the surgeon best equipped to remove the tumour­, Dr. E. Antonio Chiocca at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Following the 10-hour surgery, Keating expanded his collection of data by gathering video footage of the procedure, CT scans, images of the tumour tissue, and everything else along the way until his collection of data grew to over 200 GB, all of which he made public. When given a choice between various post-surgical treatments, Keating hoped having a comprehensive collection of data pertaining to the tumour would help him make the most informed decision. Throughout the process he quickly discovered that the medical data available to patients is often restricted. As the DNA of Keating’s tumour was sequenced on a medical device not created for commercial use, any information gained from the device could not legally be shared with him despite the data originating within his own brain. In response, Keating has become a foremost proponent for open patient data. “Access to data, 3D printed models, genetic analysis, and visualizations of MRI scans have all been key to my understanding and healing, and to furthering broader research,” Keating stated. He shares all of the data from his own tumour online to help connect others with the rare disease, envisioning an open healthcare system that would allow patients to control their own data while simultaneously benefiting medical research. Keating has since received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from MIT in 2016, and he continues to lead discussions on the democratization of patient data. – DM

Daniel PenN

Co-founder and CEO, Shift Health; 28
Photo courtesy of MaRS Discovery District

Photo courtesy of MaRS Discovery District

“We can have a patient-driven health system like other industries that cater to clients. This will mean that patient perspectives can influence change and that health systems can have the right priorities as they move forward,” says healthcare advocate Daniel Penn. As co-founder and CEO of Shift Health, Penn is streamlining the communication between patients and medical providers for a more effective healthcare system. Winner of the 2016 Health 2.0 Global Retrospective Award and the first Canadian company to join StartUp Health–­an organization of entrepreneurs committed to reinventing the future of health–Shift Health is a patient-engagement platform that stresses the value of patient-reported data. Moving a step further than the quantifiable physical metrics of the modern healthcare approach, Penn aims to create more positive clinical experiences by treating patients as partners and putting people first. Shift Health is accomplishing this goal through TickiT, an easy-to-use interactive mobile survey platform that engages patients using simple language and friendly, intuitive graphics. The platform features personalized health promotion that gathers information while simultaneously educating the patient, thus preparing them for a more productive discussion with their physician. TickiT empowers the patient while effectively arming the provider with important information, allowing them to ask the right questions and collect the right data. “Patient perspectives are often overlooked in the healthcare system. While that input has transformed other industries, the health system doesn't have the data to start with,” says Penn. At only 28-years-old, Penn is the youngest Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) Health Board Director, as well as a two-time TEDMED (an annual conference that focuses on health and medicine) front line scholar. – DM

Winnie Harlow

Activist, model; 22
Photo by Lance Gross

Photo by Lance Gross

What hasn't Winnie Harlow done? Ever since debuting as a contestant on America's Next Top Model, the Toronto-native has appeared in everything from Diesel campaigns to Beyoncé's Lemonade. But what’s more impressive is how she has used her platform to break down barriers and take the world to task when it comes to anti-bullying and inclusivity. You see, Harlow has vitiligo, a condition that affects roughly one percent of the world’s population and is characterized by the loss of pigment in the skin. Growing up, the now 22-year-old was constantly ridiculed by her peers, being the target of severe bullying. Harlow has turned that experience—something that in many instances would break others down—into a source of empowerment and strength, channeling it into her work as an activist for body confidence. On loving herself, she said in an interview with Teen Vogue last year, "That was something instilled in me from my family and my mother, but I lost it due to being bullied and things I experienced growing up. For me, it was more about finding that again and realizing that any opinions that were negative towards me were not worth my time or emotion. Know that feeling different is not wrong or negative. We are all different!" - RD

Alaa Murabit

Physician, United Nations High-Level Commissioner; 27
Photo courtesy of Alaa Murabit

Photo courtesy of Alaa Murabit

Intrepid physician… unflinching United Nations (UN) High-Level Commissioner on Health Employment and Economic Growth… accomplished MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow… TED speaker… one of just seventeen Global Sustainable Development Goals Advocates… “Libyan Doogie Howser”, as dubbed by Jon Stewart…

… Shall we continue?

Few Canadians at such a young age—actually, anybody at any age—are making the kind of difference in the world that Dr. Alaa Murabit is. The Saskatchewan-born activist has been championing women’s participation in the peace process and conflict mediation ever since she graduated high school at the age of 15 and relocated to Libya.

It was there that Dr. Murabit first began challenging societal conventions. Upon encountering the inequality and overall gender discrimination that females were being confronted with, it drove her to create the Voice of Libyan Women at 21, an organization, which has, in six years, gone on to shape policy, shift norms, challenge taboos and turn foes into unlikely allies and architect movements like the Noor Campaign (which appealed to Muslim scriptures to condemn widespread violence against women in the country).

These kinds of resolute efforts did not come without their fair share of hazard, however. When Dr. Murabit delivered her TED Talk challenging the legitimacy of exclusively male religious interpretation, it shone a spotlight on her work that many in the community fervently opposed. 

Steadfast and undeterred, Dr. Murabit’s mission has held strong. In the years since, she has received her medical doctorate, a master’s degree in International Strategy and Diplomacy from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and been specially honoured by The New York Times, BBC, Harvard University and received the Ashoka Fellowship.

Nominated to address the UN General Assembly on several occasions, Dr. Murabit today serves as a trustee with International Alert, Keeping Children Safe and the Malala Fund, and as a counselor to various international security boards, think tanks and organizations—the UN Women Global Civil Society Advisory Group for one—as well as multiple governments and regional bodies.

Yes, there are a lot of Canadians on this list who deserve your respect. Dr. Alaa Murabit commands it. – CM

Erin Flanagan

Federal Policy Director, Pembina Institute; 28
Illustration by Kara Pyle

Illustration by Kara Pyle

Erin Flanagan is the program director of federal policy at the Pembina Institute, a Calgary-based research organization advocating for policies that reduce environmental impact of infrastructure projects. The institute’s mission is to support Canada’s transition to clean energy use.

Flanagan advocates for policies and infrastructure decisions that reduce adverse environmental effects on the environment. She has been vocal about the Canadian government’s accountability to sustainability goals. In a response to a Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) meeting in October 2016, Flanagan urged provincial and federal levels of governance to ‘do even more’ to uphold clean energy standards. In January 2017, she published an article in Policy Options that urged Prime Minister Trudeau to be proactive in his delegations with President Trump regarding environmental policies that fall in accordance with The Paris Agreement.

Flanagan graduated from the University of New Brunswick, where she studied chemical engineering with a minor in public policy. Prior to the Pembina Institute, she was a fellow at Engineers Without Borders Canada. Her contributions to engineering and social advocacy have been included in the Canadian Engineering Memorial Foundation, the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of New Brunswick, and the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering. – GW

Emily HickS

President, FREDsense; 27
Illustration by Kara Pyle 

Illustration by Kara Pyle 

Emily Hicks is the CEO and co-founder of FREDsense Technologies, a Calgary-based operation whose aim is to not just improve, but completely revolutionize water quality diagnostics. Designed to provide sensitive on-site measurement of chemicals, FRED (the Field Ready Electrochemical Detector) achieves one parts per billion detection of select compounds, and is also modular—allowing sensors to be developed for nearly any compound of interest to any industry where water is important.

In layperson’s terms: it lets you know exactly what’s in your H20.

A synthetic biology graduate from the University of Calgary—holding a degree in biomedical sciences—Hicks has already led a genetic engineering competition at MIT, as well as seen herself marked as one of the top-five global finalists at the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s PATW competition. But measure Hicks not just in her achievements thus far, but by the sheer number of people her research will be able to impact.

Water is essential to our lives, industry and environment. It is our most precious resource. From metals mining and oil and gas operations, to agricultural communities and urban municipalities; there are countless stakeholders who require access to real-time water quality data. With a system that can be implemented anywhere, the FREDsense technology provides a viable solution to a real problem, which can ultimately change the way we think about water monitoring. - CM

Gavin Armstrong

Founder, Lucky Iron Fish; 30
Illustration by Kara Pyle

Illustration by Kara Pyle

Self-styled impact entrepreneur, Dr. Gavin Armstrong, is someone doing some real good in this world. Armstrong is the President and founder of Lucky Iron Fish—a social enterprise which aims to make iron deficiency around the world less severe by utilizing a simple health innovation: an iron ingot cast in the shape of a fish. The cast is sold in the developed world for just $25 and can decrease occasions of iron deficiency when employed for cooking.

The real virtue here? Lucky Iron Fish operates on a ‘buy one, give one’ business model. For every iron fish sold, another gets donated to a family in Cambodia, where it’s estimated 50 percent of the population is affected by iron deficiency. With this widespread form of anemia impacting at least three-and-a-half billion total people worldwide, Lucky Iron Fish is a cause that possesses the ongoing potential to help untold numbers of people.

The resolve should come as no surprise. The University of Guelph graduate has long been a perennial advocate and activist in the crusade against hunger and malnutrition. While pledging his services in the World Food Programme, he grew disillusioned with the established system behind organized philanthropy. Sure, those providing generous grants of food and shelter were making a difference, but the donations did not always tackle the underlying factors that contributed to such global concerns in the first place.

So, Armstrong quested to modernize the humanitarian process in a way that could not only provide scientific evidence of its tangible headway, but one he would be able to manage, as well as turn a profit with—a profit he’d then invest right back into the organization.

Enter Lucky Iron Fish, which to date has moved over 70,000 units and thereby contributed another 70,000 to those in need of this inventive concept. The goal within the next five years is to exceed the million mark in both categories.

While the success of the endeavor itself has been reward enough for Armstrong, that hasn’t stopped him from being recognized for his efforts. Not only was he the first Canadian to receive the William J. Clinton Award for international work against hunger, but he also became the inaugural recipient of the international Michaëlle Jean Emergency Hunger Relief Award. The Edison Foundation has also endorsed his work with their Silver Innovation Award, and Armstrong’s claimed multiple Cannes Lion awards on Lucky Iron Fish’s behalf. - CM 

Dennon Oosterman and Alex Kay

Co-founders, ReDeTec; 25, 24
Illustration by Kara Pyle 

Illustration by Kara Pyle 

ReDeTec’s first product, the ProtoCycler, sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel, but the concept is simple. It’s a desktop recycler that turns your plastic waste–like water bottles and coffee cup lids–into free ‘ink’ for a 3D printer to make new creations. The idea was conceived by the duo while they were studying engineering physics at the University of British Columbia. When they were making 3D models for their classes, they realized that the process could be improved to make it cheaper and utilize plastic waste.

Oosterman attributes his success to a strong perspective that businesses are about people, not money. “A lot of people say this product is about saving money, but that’s not what it’s about,” says Oosterman. “It’s about anyone who might not have the budget or access to the development labs that we were lucky enough to have at UBC to bring their ideas to physical, tangible creations.”

Oosterman calls this vision ‘creative empowerment,’ and it’s one that he and Kay hope to implement globally. Although ReDeTec is still in its early stages, it has already made sales in all six contents. After fulfilling pre-orders, Kay and Oosterman are looking beyond established markets for 3D technology and focusing on making an impact on emerging markets to creatively empower people around the world.   – GW

 

David Gingera

Founder and President, CitiGrow; 25
Illustration by Kara Pyle 

Illustration by Kara Pyle 

All you need to do is take one quick glance at him on LinkedIn, and it becomes immediately clear why Canada is talking about David Gingera.

You could start with his bio, where the Winnipeg local is listed as a “dedicated young business leader with entrepreneurial experience and proven track record of turning environmental problems into commercial opportunities.”

Or you could look at his résumé, which prominently highlights Gingera’s work with CitiGrow, the innovative business model he launched in 2012 to establish urban micro-farming as a viable means of sustainable food production on a commercial scale—a true farm-to-table experience. The endeavour has led to the development of 22 urban micro-farms in and around Winnipeg, with Gingera managing and achieving year-over-year growth in each of CitiGrow’s three major businesses: wholesale, food service and consumer subscription. In fact, CitiGrow has not only become one of Manitoba's leading local agriculture companies, but their products are now featured in a number of Winnipeg's finest restaurants and retailers, plus delivered weekly to the subscribers of their produce box program.

Yeah, we’ll click the ‘Endorse’ button on this profile. - CM

Katherine Hague

CEO and Founder, Female Funders; 26

Photos courtesy of Pam Lau

At age 23, Mississauga-born Katherine Hague could already call herself a self-made millionaire. Prior to her current venture, Female Funders, Hague founded ShopLocket­– an e-commerce platform that helped entrepreneurs access the market. After ShopLocket was acquired by PHC, Hague continued her vision of helping the Toronto entrepreneur community. This time around, she zeroed in on an underserved sector of the start-up sphere—female investors. Her mission for Female Funders, when it was conceived, was to empower 1,000 women to make their first investment. Today, the company has had over 1,000 community members–more than 300 women– attend its courses, and an 80 percent investment rate upon course graduation. It’s safe to say that Hague has been making good on her promise.

With coverage from the New York Times and The Oprah Winfrey Show, Hague’s success at a young age hasn’t gone unnoticed. However, like many other Torontonian entrepreneurs, she attributes her success to proactivity from humble beginnings. In high school, she planned conferences for aspiring student entrepreneurs to provide resources and networking opportunities to help realize their goals; this community leadership continued into university and beyond. Through organizing for opportunities for others, Hague ultimately built a network for herself and a launch pad for her career as an entrepreneur.  – GW

Bethany Downer

Founder, One Step Shoe Recycling; 23
Photo courtesy of Memorial University of Newfoundland

Photo courtesy of Memorial University of Newfoundland

Being an astronaut was always a childhood dream of Bethany Downer. However it took a conversation many moons later with the first Canadian to walk in space, Commander Chris Hadfield, to convince the Newfoundland and Labrador resident that she could reshape this fanciful notion into reality.

But Hadfield was also sure to counsel Downer that before she ever applied to a space agency, she would need to make a name for herself.

So she did.

Following Hadfield’s words of encouragement, Downer founded One Step Shoe Recycling—an organization that promotes sustainable consumerism by collecting and restoring discarded footwear, then supplying it to low-income families across Canada, as well as at-risk youth, the homeless and others around the world. It’s estimated the program has now stopped well over 10,000 pounds of waste from going to local landfills.

The initiative took off. Subsequently, so did Downer’s earliest ambitions –quite literally. Last September, as one of forty students selected from thousands of annual global applicants, she commenced a Master of Space Studies at the International Space University in Strasbourg, France.

In addition to potentially completing a thesis project in her optional second year, the enrolment has afforded the aspiring astronaut a platform to inspire similarly determined women. With only a small number of females in the space industry, Downer would like her example to help enforce the belief that, no matter your gender there are no limits in life—not here on earth, or in deep space. - CM

Chakameh Shafii

CEO and Co-founder, TranQool; 26
Photo courtesy of MaRS Discovery District 

Photo courtesy of MaRS Discovery District 

The therapy industry is about to get disrupted, and much of that can be attributed to Chakameh Shafii’s efforts through her company, TranQool. Together with her friends, Shafii created an app and website that matches users with cognitive behavioural therapists for 45-minute sessions over encrypted video. Therapy can often be costly and hard to fit in with busy schedules. The best part about the app, which costs less than a $100 per session, is that appointments can be scheduled with a therapist for the weekend or after-office hours to accommodate the lifestyles of today’s busy individual. Most of the apps' users are city-based for now, but the service could potentially give access to therapy for dozens of far-off communities, or people on the go. Therapists on the app receive extensive police background checks, as well as multiple interviews with the TranQool team before they begin offering sessions. Clients can filter through practitioners according to gender, specialty or language. Working for a Fortune 500 company after graduating university came with a multitude of responsibilities and frequent travel, leaving Shafii’s mental health on the backburner. Creating TranQool was her solution to overcoming these challenges that she, and so many others, face. - RD

Bianca Lopes

Vice President of Marketing and Global Alliances, BioConnect; 27
Photo courtesy of Bioconnect

Photo courtesy of Bioconnect

As apps and websites increase our dependence on accounts, both online and off, the notion of identity—both securing it and confirming it—is more important than ever. Bianca Lopes, Vice President of marketing and global alliances at tech start-up BioConnect, is hoping to help replace traditional passwords with biometric security measures that are not only more secure and fraud-proof, but more convenient.

Toronto-based BioConnect’s security platform can passively authenticate an individual using their face, eyes, fingerprints, voice and even some behavioral measurements, like how they walk—all in various combinations—to eliminate the need for people to memorize a password (backup or otherwise) ever again. No need to deal with sweaty fingerprints on your iPhone’s scanner when a few words will do.

With smartphones becoming ubiquitous accessories for North Americans, access to sensors ranging from cameras to accelerometers, and secondary devices like fitness bands, is commonplace. A mass-market security option like BioConnect’s is becoming more feasible than ever. The company’s work has attracted the attention of high-profile companies including Visa, which recently announced a partnership with the stated goal of eventually replacing all passwords on its mobile apps with multi-factor biometrics.

All this say that you shouldn’t be surprised if in a short few years, accessing the apps that make you, well, you is simply a matter of showing up. - NM

 

Maria Qamar

Artist, 27

Photos courtesy of Maria Qamar

Maria Qamar started a movement. Not many people can say that, but then again, Qamar isn’t just any person. Her relatable and humorous art has gathered South Asian women in the diaspora to laugh at their collective experiences living as first- or second-generation immigrants. Inspired by the work of pop artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Qamar is not afraid to challenge presumptions on both sides of the coin using topical subjects like gay pride and cultural appropriation to create her signature stamp on the art world. One work asks, “Is this Gori (white woman) wearing a bindi again?” while another shows two mustachioed men locking lips. In an era where race, culture and religion are at the crux of today’s dialogue, Qamar wields a paintbrush and humour as her tools of choice to battle prejudice, and celebrate her roots. - RD

 

Derreck and Samuel Martin

Co-founders, East Room; 28, 27

Photos courtesy of East Room

“I want to live here.”

That’s the first thing you’ll say to yourself after walking into Toronto’s beautiful, design-centric shared workspace, East Room. The communal hub has become a shining gem in the city’s cluster of shared offices thanks to brothers Derreck and Sam Martin, who together have built a flourishing business geared towards Toronto’s vibrant creative class.

East Room comes at an opportune time where professionals are increasingly exploring careers driven by freelance work. According to Harvard Business Review, individuals who choose to work in a shared environment see their work as meaningful thanks to not only a diversity of people around them, but also a stronger individual identity with autonomy. Perhaps most importantly, those who work in a shared space report a sense of community that can foster collaboration and productivity.

And that’s just what the Martin brothers have evoked in their business. What sets East Room distinctly apart from the myriad of other shared workspaces is its investment in cultivating a community. Industrial fixtures are offset against repurposed furniture and luxurious antiques spread out across the sprawling 8,000 square-foot space so that members can instantly feel at home, a testament to the brothers’ exquisite taste and pedigree in antique dealing (their other family business being 507 Antiques.) Above this, members are able to engage with each other outside of their work via an upcoming restaurant and ‘Room Service’, the company’s monthly performance incubator that has showcased talents like Lion Babe and Jazz Cartier.

“We are currently in the works of building out our programming here at East Room. Each program will run on an ongoing basis, focusing on the areas of entrepreneurship, health and wellness, music, visual art and more. With a different program running every week, this initiative encourages our members to connect outside of working hours and engage with East Room’s creative culture,” says Derreck.

According to Samuel, with further plans to, “include a recording studio, screening room and expansion of the Club space,” the Martins have not only built one of Toronto’s most inspiring spaces, but a vehicle for others to realize their creative dreams.