Business Life Politics Print

The 2018 Bay Street Bull Power 50

Contributors: Popi Bowman, Jordana Colomby, Dale Crosby Close, Erica Cupido, Brian D’Souza, Ross Dias, Jennifer Fryer, Francisco Garcia, Ed Hitchins, Sabrina Maddeaux, Chris Metler, Renee Sylvestre-Williams, Miroslav, Tomoski.

Canada: the Great White North, our home and native land. Now, more than ever, our nation stands as a beacon of progress — a trailblazer that continues to set the standard for the rest of the global community. In the fourth annual assemblage of our Power 50 guide, we gathered the major influences — the people, the companies, the ideas, the places — that are shaping our society, facilitating opportunities, and moving our nation forward. From business titans and record-breaking athletes to powerful politicians and inspiring movements, Canada is full of incredible stories that give us much reason to be proud.

Discover the 2018 Bay Street Bull Power 50 guide below, and use @BayStBull #BSBPower50 to share your thoughts.

THE CHANGEMAKERS 

Chris Wylie

Whistleblower


Photography by Antonio Olmos

Chris Wylie, the Canadian whistleblower at the center of the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook data scandal, knows that democracy is a fragile and vulnerable privilege that Western societies take for granted. After all, the 29-year-old is said to be responsible for creating targeted campaigns of disinformation, which convinced the United Kingdom to leave the European Union and helped propel Donald Trump to the presidency.

As a whistleblower, what Wylie has done is give Cambridge Analytica’s narrative its characters. At great personal risk, facing a ruinous lawsuit from a social media empire, pink-haired Wylie gave a faceless organization a public image that couldn’t be ignored. He introduced us to the architects of modern electioneering: Alexander Nix, Steve Bannon, and Aleksandr Kogan – all key leaders within the organization.

Most importantly, Wylie revealed to us that the most influential characters of this story, like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, could be hiding in plain sight. After all, we might expect organizations that work at the margins of notoriety to deal in the shade, and if this story were simply about secret organizations doing secretive things, it might have garnered a collective shrug from the general public.

Just as Edward Snowden’s story truly began with Verizon, Wylie’s story resonated with millions of Facebook users because it forced us to re ect on a daily activity that’s become so normal it de es questioning.

For many Facebook users, the platform is their gateway to the internet – the front page of their day. It has access to a trove of information that could be used to exploit biases and manipulate democracies. Where the Arab Spring of 2011 revealed social media’s power to organize an uprising, Wylie has shown us its potential to sew a passive revolution. 

In his interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Wylie explains how having a personalized version of the internet in the palm of your hand can not only affect a voter’s decisions at the ballot box, but their perception of reality.

“It used to be that if you were a candidate and you wanted your voice heard you would stand in a town square, ring your bell and people would gather and you would talk to them about your ideas,” he begins. “The fundamental fact of that scenario is that everyone is hearing exactly the same thing...and there is a common understanding of the reality of that situation.” He adds, “the difference here is that we are able to understand and get to know every single person in that town square. Understand how they tick, and then individually whisper something in each of their ears...fundamentally, you start to erode a common understanding...[of]...the reality of what this election is about.”

Wylie’s revelations have cast a light, not only on shadow companies, but on the influence of social media platforms in daily decision making. What’s become clear is that we are well past the days when tech giants like Facebook could simply be seen as private companies. In the age of big data electioneering, Facebook is the new town square.

Wylie’s decision to speak out was a personal struggle, which in his opinion, was crucial to the future of democracy. — MT

Navdeep Bains

Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development



Photography by Francisco Garcia

Coming from humble beginnings, Navdeep Bains’ dedication to his country plays into the great Canadian slogan, “Diversity is our Strength”.

A son of Sikh immigrant parents, Bains was appointed to the portfolio of Innovation, Science and Economic Development under the administration of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2015.

Under his tutelage, Bains has wasted no time making an impact. Among his portfolio of mandates, he’s set his sights on including diversity in the last frontier – the boardroom.

“Diversity isn’t something that should be an afterthought. That’s why we introduced a piece of legislation, C-25,” he says. “It’s really designed to promote diversity.”

With women having seats on 14 percent of the 600 registered companies on the TSX, Bains set forth on the Bill to make businesses more diverse. According to a catalyst report from Canadian Securities Administrators, only 14 percent of these companies have women in executive positions, and almost half of the those reported not having a single female on their board. With Canada ranking 16th in the world on the overall global index on gender diversity by the World Economic Forum (up 19 ranks from 2016), its clear that Bains sees there is more work to be done.

“On top of being the right thing to do, we believe companies that actually promote diversity in a meaningful way get better economic outcomes. It is good for their bottom line,” says Bains.

The reasoning is simple. When you build a team that consists of a wide spectrum of ethnicities, ages, genders, experiences, and more, you are effectively able to use this insight to inform key decisions that will better serve your consumers and shareholders, and thus, the financial health of your company.

This commitment to a more inclusive view of doing business is something that Bains believes could make Canada a leader on the global stage.

“What is it that allows us to be a jurisdiction that people value? I firmly believe that this is how Canada will differentiate itself. It’s 2018. We can and should demonstrate leadership in this area. We’re doing what we can politically, but we need corporate Canada to step up in a big way.” — EH


Bill C-25

Currently in the final stages of the legislative process, Bill C-25 encourages the business community to better reflect diversity on corporate boards. With almost 270,000 Canadian companies under its umbrella, Bill C-25 advocates that diversity makes businesses more innovative. The majority of these companies will be ones with major shareholders and house a security commission – including the 600 or so registered to the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Margaret Atwood

Author


Illustration by Jennifer Fryer

From Lucy Maud Montgomery and Robertson Davies to Mordecai Richler and Michael Ondaatje, Canada’s tradition of proudly homegrown authors is as prolific as it is rich. Of course, a CanLit list would not be complete without best-selling novelist and poet Margaret Atwood, whose contributions to Canadian literature are not only innumerable, but have long encompassed themes of gender and identity, religion and myth, climate change and power politics.

Even as she approaches her 80th year, Atwood’s ability to function as a barometer of what is relevant in society remains as apparent as ever. The acclaimed television adaptation of her dystopian classic The Handmaid’s Tale – which explores the various ways women attempt to gain individualism and independence – recently became the first effort on a streaming platform to win an Emmy for Outstanding Series. What’s more, despite being originally published in 1985, it was Amazon’s most-read book of 2017 – a testament to her ability to create something that not only resonates, but can withstand the test of time. — CM

Dan Doctoroff

Chairman and CEO, Sidewalk Labs



Photography by Francisco Garcia

Dan Doctoroff, chairman and CEO of Sidewalk Labs (a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet), is no stranger to multi-billion- dollar deals. Formerly a financier, New York’s deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding from 2002 to 2008, and then CEO at Bloomberg LP until late 2014, Doctoroff follows the money – or maybe, it follows him. Under his guidance, with “creative financing” and unprecedented vision, New York’s High Line and the nearby redevelopment of Hudson Yards have generated tens of billions in tax revenue, while reinvigorating an area that he admits was “a wasteland.” But profit isn’t his only priority; Doctoroff also founded a research consortium to find new treatments for ALS, and he accepted a $1 yearly salary for his government job, while helping New York City develop 165,000 units of affordable housing.

Now, his sights are set on Canada’s largest city. In collaboration with Waterfront Toronto, Sidewalk Labs is designing a master plan for more than 800 acres of a neglected, formerly industrial (and mostly vacant) corner of Toronto, starting with Quayside, a 12-acre plot closest to downtown. The underdeveloped Eastern Waterfront is soon to become what Doctoroff believes will be the world’s most innovative experiment in urban design: “One of the beauties about a location where you don’t have people and you don’t have infrastructure is your capacity to innovate is only limited, on some level, by your imagination and money,” he explains.

Described by his firm as “one of the largest and most complex urban real estate developments in North America,” the project will incorporate high-tech features such as autonomous shuttles and “smart” intersections; it may even redefine the idea of a “smart city.” You won’t, however, hear Doctoroff call it that. “I don’t like the term ‘smart city,’” he admits. “In general, cities are really extraordinary vehicles for human potential, and as Ed Glaeser said in his recent book, cities are among civilization’s greatest inventions – I believe that, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t be better.”

What makes this project unique is the ability to plan an urban community from the ground up – or, as Sidewalk Labs says, “from the Internet up.” With data scientists and software engineers on the team, technology will play a primary role in the design. Of course, with recent conversations around data privacy, Doctoroff is emphatic that this community will exemplify, as he says, “privacy by design.” For example, he explains, “If there’s a senior citizen walking across the street and the computer can detect that it’s somebody walking very slowly, we don’t need to know who that person is, we just need to know that they might need some extra time to cross the street."

“There are going to be dozens of elements across every range of urban systems,” Doctoroff continues, “from mobility to infrastructure to how you think about the public realm, to building innovation, to how you think about community – and in each case, I think there will be really interesting things to learn. What is really important is the opportunity to look at these urban systems and how they impact each other, because we think that’s where the real power actually lies.”

“At the end of the day, this is all about improving people’s lives. We can make money here and it could look like just a regular real estate development, and I would consider that to be not successful,” he admits. “For us, the most important thing is to figure out a new model for 21st century urban life that changes people’s lives, and demonstrates that what we’ve done here can be a model for cities around the world.” — PB

Sidewalk Toronto

Launched in 2015 and an Alphabet company (Google’s parent company), Sidewalk Labs is already making a significant mark on the cities it touches. In New York, it is an investor in Intersection, which is spearheading LinkNYC, the world’s fastest and largest free, public Wi-Fi network. The system was recently installed in London, Philadelphia, and Newark. Sidewalk Toronto is the division in charge of the Quayside project; throughout this year, a series of community roundtables, pilots and prototypes will be part of a $50-million planning and public engagement process to help create the master plan for the project. - PB

Danielle Martin

Physician; universal healthcare advocate



Illustration by Jennifer Fryer

As a professor at the University of Toronto, Dr. Danielle Martin is perhaps more well-known in the United States than she is north of the border. Four years ago, at the bequest of senator Bernie Sanders, Dr. Martin travelled to Washington, D.C. to defend the benefits of universal health coverage in Canada. In a now viral video, her staunch defence of a single-payer healthcare system against a Republican senator created an Internet sensation. Dr. Martin is an advocate for bringing down the barriers that persist in the Canadian healthcare landscape through technological innovations and increased efficiencies, while she also continues to stand by Sanders’ efforts to introduce a similar system in the States. — RD

Olivia Nuamah

Executive Director, Pride Toronto



Photography by Nick Wong

After almost a year and a half as executive director of Pride Toronto – which hosts North America’s largest LGBTQA+ event – Olivia Nuamah admits her career feels predestined, especially since she “came out” only a few years before accepting the job. The organization’s first black female leader, Nuamah is uniquely qualified, especially when considering the contentious intervention by Black Lives Matter in 2016, when they demanded the removal of uniformed Toronto police from the parade. Although the topic remains controversial, Nuamah is clear where she stands: “To be honest, it’s a conversation I love having and don’t see it as particularly problematic,” she explains. “The Pride festival is a protest. Black Lives Matter are a part of Pride, they’re a part of this organization – these are real stakeholders who have spent as much time as anybody else building Pride up, and so the sense that this was some outside organization swooping in on our event is the first thing I had to disabuse people of.” Now she’s focusing on rebuilding the rapport between the police force and the LGBTQA+ community: “We are engaged in conversations about how to change the relationship, so that the next time they’re in the parade, it is absolutely based on work we’ve done, that we have communicated with the public about.”

Nuamah describes her ability to build relationships as, “my only stock and trade – I always knew that was my passion, and the only thing I did well at all, is to work with community.” This mission led her to London, UK, where she worked in social service among immigrant communities much like those she grew up with in Toronto. “I’m happy to engage in conversations with people about what inclusivity means and what it means to create voices for people who are voiceless, and to stand beside them as allies,” she continues. “As I sit here, the support for me amongst this community has been actually quite overwhelming – it’s been absolutely amazing!”

Even so, Nuamah admits her path to success was difficult, “One of the biggest barriers has been the combination of my race and gender,” she admits. “I boast some incredible practice and policy successes that have impacted this province and the country, and have been great pieces of work. But in the end, I did have to come to an organization that’s committed to understanding the intersections of gender, race and sexuality, for me to be sitting in front of you now.” — PB

Doug Ford

Leader, Ontario Progressive Conservative Party



Illustration by Jennifer Fryer
Skyrocketing energy bills, economic uncertainty, and frivolous spending from an out-of-tune government – sound familiar?

What was echoed during the Bob Rae government in the early 1990s has been mirrored by the scandal-riddled Liberal government of the last 15 years. 

In a world where populism has become the norm, Doug Ford stands out from the shadows. Becoming leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada earlier this year, his vow to ‘clean up’ the wasteful spending at Queen’s Park has brought him in line with an Ontario population that cries out the echoes of change.

With a background in municipal politics, one that included being a councillor during the administration of his late brother and former Toronto mayor, Rob, Ford’s hands-on approach had many Ontarians placing their bets on the contentious politician on June 7th, securing his spot as the province's new premier. Yes, some may consider him abrasive and direct, but perhaps that’s what people are looking for. — EH

 

Jagmeet Singh

Leader, New Democratic Party



Illustration by Jennifer Fryer

It’s safe to say that Jagmeet Singh’s political career has been more or less about breaking down barriers and uniting Canadians.

Singh was the first Member of Provincial Parliament in Ontario to wear a turban. And while to some, that may not be anything worth mentioning, others have taken it as a beacon of inclusivity – a shifting of tides. His friendly personality and unique approach to politics made him endearing to a New Democratic Party (NDP) that was feeling divided after the leadership of Tom Mulcair.

It was no surprise then, that Singh was elected as federal leader of the NDP last October. In doing so, he became the first person of a visible minority group to lead a federal party in Canada, championing the cause that allowed the NDP, under Jack Layton, to win the of official opposition after the 2011 election.
With federal politics now shifting to leaders who carry youth and exuberance, Singh faces an uphill climb in 2019. Both opposing parties have track records on their side, but with a turbulent political spectrum, it may be time for a change.

Don’t be surprised if Singh paints the nation orange soon. — EH

Big Ideas and Bold Moves

Canada’s Cannabis Revolution

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s relentless momentum for the legalization of marijuana will occur sometime this summer. Canadians will gain the right to use and grow their own marijuana — but overall, the country will be gaining so much more.

In the bigger picture, there are issues and opportunities that will reinvent our culture in exciting, new, and possibly unforeseeable ways. At a glance, here are a few areas that people are talking about and will have a significant impact around the discussion of cannabis.

LEGALIZATION

Each province will have separate guidelines for the legalization of marijuana. In Ontario, those who are 19+ years of age will be able to purchase up to 30 grams from the Ontario Cannabis Store or grow up to four plants. Consumption is officially curtailed to private residences or balconies, but if one gets the itch to light up in a public area, the first offense nets a $1,000 fine.

Ontario has created a Cannabis Intelligence Coordination Centre to help shut down illegal storefronts and suppliers. Furthermore, more resources and tools will be deployed to combat incidents of impaired driving.

DECRIMINALIZATION

As everything stands, police and other judicial authorities retain their right to charge individuals with drug offenses. The government wants to effectively control the cannabis market through known growers, suppliers, and distributors rather than any other independent entities. Illegal distribution has a penalty of up to 14 years in jail. It remains a potent—and unanswered—topic whether pardons will be issued for Canadians who have been convicted of marijuana possession prior to legalization.

LUXURY

The marketplace has already segmented in order to provide high-end products like designer vaping pens, sumptuous edibles, trendy skin products, and so forth. There are also retailers who plan on catering to specialized clientele. Tokyo Smoke is a chain of upscale coffee shops that hopes to become the cultural connoisseurs of cannabis. Above and beyond accessories, the Toronto-based brand is fully-invested in providing a superior experience to patrons. Depending on how sales of marijuana are regulated, Canadians can expect to experience the full extent of the industry’s creativity, such as cannabis-infused dining experiences.

SECONDARY MARKET

Sales of products such as vaporizers, pipes, and Doritos will likely grow in the wake of legalization, but the creation of an entire industry will also drive demand for indirectly related products and services as a way to fuel other sectors, like lifestyle and health. Technology and cannabis will create synergy as many contenders in the marketplace for apps, websites and other tech will emerge. To combat the glamorization of drug use, advertising of marijuana itself will be strictly regulated, however, companies will need to become highly creative at marketing to differentiate themselves from the pack. Other areas for growth include those geared towards the home cultivation of plants, luxury products, as well as colleges and universities offering educational courses designed to train people for new employment opportunities in the marijuana field.

INVESTING

Marijuana stocks themselves have seen rapid growth with news of legalization, with some timely investors having already reaped returns based purely on speculation. However, the divide between companies that will show a return—and the ones that are just blowing smoke—is stark. The 150 planned stores that will supply cannabis will be able to impose their own demands on growers regarding pricing, which means profits will be impacted.

One company that has posted profits of $4.6 million during its last two fiscal years is grower Aphria Inc. based in Leamington, Ontario, which has retail operations in 11 countries. - BD

Power Clubs

While boardrooms and golf courses have their place, entrepreneurs and creative types are flocking to a new generation of social clubs where they can expand their network, close deals, and enjoy a few drinks in-between. These aren’t the dusty, boring boy’s clubs of the past – they’re impeccably designed, offer a diverse range of members, and a full-service destination where entertainment and business collide. 

Soho House
Creativity is at the core of Toronto’s Soho House. The local branch of the global social club, which caters to A-list celebrities and creative talent, is more focused on bringing together like-minded individuals in an effort to promote cross-industry collaboration. Walk in and don’t be surprised to see a filmmaker brainstorming with a producer in one room, or an entrepreneur discussing their next venture over dinner at the club’s second-floor restaurant.

Power 50
Twenty7 Club
With over 26,000 square feet in space, Mississauga’s Twenty7 Club is a dream for the business person that revels in the bask of luxury cars. Complete with a clubhouse lounge, private boardrooms, and event space, they have all the trappings of a typical members club. The differentiating factor? An auto garage where members can gain access to the club’s collection of exotic vehicles when they’re not networking or closing deals with one another.

Power 50
Vancouver Club
The Vancouver Club is over a century old and lives inside a historic building in the heart of Vancouver’s financial district. Despite its pedigree, it brings together young business professionals in the city. There’s no shortage of activities for both men and women, including a barber, spa, and bar. Members also have exclusive access to fine dining, fitness centres and events, making the Vancouver Club the west coast hub for local professionals.


Power 50
The Halifax Club
What’s old is new again – that’s the adage that applies to the century-and-a-half-old Halifax Club. Thanks to a fresh new redesign and approach to management, the east coast social club offers a refuge for individuals looking for a premium experience. Members can still enjoy fine dining and networking events, but in a contemporary atmosphere catered to young professionals.

Deciphering the Cryptocurrency Landscape

By now, most of us are familiar with someone that won’t stop talking about their investments in cryptocurrency. Annoying as it may be, digital currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have gone from the living rooms of coders to legitimate disruptors of the financial market.

Navigating this new landscape can be downright confusing for those unfamiliar with it. The good news is that it continues to show promise and by examining the roles of several players, you can better understand what this exciting, emerging technology is about and where it may lead.

EXCHANGES

These are your go-to place when it comes to buy, sell or trade a handful of popular cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum. Online exchanges offer a much more favorable rate than say, a Bitcoin ATM. In Canada, most use QuadrigaCX or Coinsquare, with other players moving swiftly to enter the marketplace.

Security is always a chief concern, with exchanges utilizing a variety of methods to avoid being hacked. The best way to keep your cryptocurrency safe is to hold the private keys within your own secure wallet. This means your cryptocurrency is storable on your PC, smartphone or offline in cold storage (such as a USB key).

MINERS

The decentralized nature of Bitcoin exists because there is a public ledger (also known as the block chain) of every single transaction. Miners who compile transactions and solve a complex mathematical problem are rewarded with new Bitcoins and transaction fees. You can mine cryptocurrencies using a computer and free software, but specialized machines operating on a larger scale are the most effective methods at generating profits.  

Canadian companies, such as CryptoGlobal, have thousands of machines that mine cryptocurrency. Because of the sizeable energy demands and heat generated from doing so, Canada’s cold temperatures and inexpensive electricity means many other crypto mining operations are flocking to the Great White North to set up shop.

RESEARCHERS

Groups of dedicated researchers are taking up the gauntlet when it comes to solving the problems of blockchain. These include the Blockchain Research Institute, founded by Blockchain Revolution authors Alex and Don Tapscott and ColliderX, a crowdfunded blockchain research and development hub that crowdsources researchers to apply their talent to industry challenges.


REGULATORS

Regulation will set the tone for investor and consumer confidence in cryptocurrencies. The Ontario Securities Commission has announced that it wants to support financial technology innovation, while undertaking the mandate of protecting investors. This is important, with so much controversy over dubious Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), which are quickly replacing VC funds for where startups seek investment. Currently Singapore and Switzerland are global leaders for ICOs, much of this due to their respective government’s open-minded attitude towards crypto.


START-UPS

Building applications on blockchain technology has the potential to be an incredibly lucrative enterprise. For example, Polymath is a Toronto-based company that foresees a huge demand for tokenized securities. Lendroid is another Canadian start-up that is developing an open protocol to allow for decentralized lending, margin trading and short selling. The list of Canadian start-ups that are developing blockchain technology continues to be healthy and growing.  

Redeveloping the Nation

Major redevelopment projects continue to shape our nation’s most prominent establishments, further enhancing Canada’s diverse array of offerings. Here are a few upgrades worth noting.

Amazon

Earlier this year, Amazon announced plans to expand its operations in Vancouver, creating an additional 3,000 jobs (on top of an existing 6,000 already in Canada) in areas including e-commerce technology, cloud computing, and machine learning. The move further fuels Canada’s recent efforts to cultivate its tech landscape. The corporate giant will move into a 416,000-square-foot Development Centre located in the redevelopment of Vancouver’s iconic landmark, The Post, in 2022.

Power 50

MAC

Canada’s largest museum dedicated to contemporary art, Montreal’s Musée d’art contemporain (MAC), is on its way to getting a major facelift – to the tune of $44.7 million (the majority funded by grants from all three levels of government.) Expected to finish in 2021, the renovation project will see one of Canada’s major art institutions morph into an airy oasis, nearly doubling its exhibition space, as a way to accommodate larger crowds and add to Montreal’s rich cultural landscape.

Power 50

Union Station

Canada’s busiest and, undoubtedly, most important passenger transportation hub, Toronto’s Union Station Revitalization Project is a $823.5-million initiative with a three-pronged goal: enhancement of transportation functions, restoration, and the creation of a vibrant retail destination. A National Historic Site that sees over 300,000 commuters daily, Union Station’s upgrade will also transform one of Toronto’s most iconic buildings into not only a transit center, but a cultural destination.

Canada Comes Together for Humboldt

On the fateful afternoon of April 6th, a coach bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos – an ice hockey team that plays in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League – collided with a semi-trailer truck. Sixteen people were killed – including the driver, ten Broncos players, head coach, his assistant, two play-by-play announcers and the squad’s athletic therapist, who was the lone female aboard – and another thirteen injured.

More than two dozen families were directly affected, many irreparably. A sport so close to our national identity shrouded in heartbreak. Perhaps the only shimmer of hope was glimpsed in the crash’s immediate aftermath. Vigils were held not just across the country, but continent. The NHL and CHL offered multiple tributes. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, US President Donald Trump, Queen Elizabeth II, Pope Francis and a host of celebrities and public figures extended their condolences. A movement known as #JerseysForHumboldt took centre stage, while mourners started leaving hockey sticks out on their front porches in salute. Crowdfunding efforts even topped $15-million in a matter of days, this in addition to many fundraisers to support the victims and their relatives.

Yes, the fatal accident which befell the Humboldt Broncos brought many of our worst fears about life’s fragility to the forefront. But in rallying Canada and beyond to come together in eulogy, this horriffc event proceeded to reveal the very best of our nation’s collective character.

Rest in power. — CM

POWER PLAYERS

Yung Wu

CEO, MaRS



Photography by Francisco Garcia

For Yung Wu, the concept of “personal success” is almost an oxymoron. The CEO of MaRS, one of the world’s largest urban innovation hubs, insists his career “has never been about me – it’s always been about my team, it’s always been about my organization, it’s always been about the impact on a category or the world at large.”

Before joining MaRS, the self-described serial entrepreneur had “anonymously retired” after a successful career of launching and backing health and tech startups, including Castek Software, where he gladly remained behind the scenes. “I had always tried very carefully to orchestrate a below-the-radar presence for myself. And MaRS is about the furthest thing from an anonymous experience that you can get, just because its stakeholder map is so huge,” Wu admits. Now he is the face of an organization that supports 1,200 ventures – “they drive somewhere over $2 billion in revenue right now,” he adds. “We’re starting to see some really great leading indicators, for the fact that Canada is now turning into a destination – not just a source – for entrepreneurs and talent and innovation,” he remarks.

He continues, “Now we have to find a way not to lose our most promising companies, we have to find a way to surround them with what they need, whether it’s growth capital or talent or market customers and partners. For Canada to succeed, we need them to succeed.”

Wu’s passion for Canada is rooted in his background as a Taiwanese immigrant: “I think I owe everything to this country. I can trace every single one of the business opportunities or companies that I have built or invested into or grown, to the fact that we had opportunities here that we never would have had anywhere else,” he enthuses, “so this was a chance to make a difference – this is a unique opportunity to do that.”

With just over six months at the helm of the Toronto-based non-profit, which continues to fuel some of today’s most promising and exciting tech opportunities, Wu is clearly fulfilling a personal mission: “Here at MaRS, our core ideology is ‘we before me,’ and that resonates for me. It’s more about what we can do for others – it’s not about any one of us, individually.” — PB

 

Sarah Segal

Founder, Squish Candies



Illustration by Jennifer Fryer

For Sarah Segal, possessing a strong entrepreneurial spirit is hereditary. She is the daughter of Le Chateau’s founder, Herschel Segal, and worked for years in product development at DavidsTea, which was co-founded by her cousin, David Segal. Using lessons she learned from her family after leaving DavidsTea in 2012, Segal became the founder of her own company, Squish Candies. While artisanal chocolatiers were popping up in New York and Toronto, Segal realized a gap in the marketplace for gourmet candy. Seizing the opportunity, she created the company and honed in on creating a diverse product offering of specialized flavours, like Yuzu Mimosa and Chili Ginger, eventually leading to the expansion of 14 locations across Canada.

In 2017, Segal was one of only 13 women, and the only Canadian, to be selected as a winning female entrepreneur by multinational business firm, Ernst & Young. “Sarah exemplifies what women, and all early-stage entrepreneurs, should strive for in Canada’s business community, finding something you’re passionate about and not letting anything get in the way,” said a representative of the company. — RD

 

Michele Romanow

Co-founder and President, Clearbanc



Photography by Janick Laurent

Freelancers don’t have it easy. When they’re not working, they’re chasing down invoices and trying to get loans for things like equipment or a mortgage. Mainstream banks make it very difficult for them to borrow capital so Michele Romanow, an entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den judge, launched Clearbanc, a fintech company for North America’s nearly 50 million freelancers and self-employed workers. Romanow is used to helping people find and save money. She also built Buytopia and the mobile saving platform, Snapsaves, which was acquired by Groupon.

What Romanow found was a broken system. Freelancers and entrepreneurs are required to back a loan with a personal guarantee when seeking capital from banks to grow. That means that if your business can’t pay it back, you’re personally responsible and could end up with a lien on your home. “At the end of the day that felt so fundamentally unfair to me,” says Romanow. “In a world where we use data for so many things, we couldn’t use that data for underwriting.”

Clearbanc launched in 2015 in a deal with Uber. It provided the rideshare company with revenue-based financing for all its US drivers via a Clearbanc branded debit card.

In 2017, the company announced a program with Facebook that would allow five million online merchants in North America access to up to $500,000 in financing without having to put up equity, fill out paperwork, or undergo a credit check.

This ability to give entrepreneurs and freelancers the ability to borrow in order to grow their business is personal for Romanow because she couldn’t raise capital for her first business. Now she’s using fintech to disrupt the traditional lending space and giving more people, including women, the ability to grow their businesses.

“I think the greatest moments for me is when you see other people take action based on something you did that you thought had no impact,” she says. “I had a seven-year-old girl who came up to me in a grocery store a few weeks ago and she watches the show. She said, ‘Michele! I have an idea.’ I was like, ‘Ok, hit me.’”

“The idea was a vegetable lollipop because she hates vegetables and loves lollipops,” Romanow says with a laugh. “I don’t know how that’s going to work, but the fact that a seven-year-old is thinking of starting a business because she’s watched Dragons’ Den – I think that is so cool,” she says. “There’s the reality of ‘you can’t be what you can’t see.’ Highlighting some of these stories has been really incredible,” says Romanow. — RSW

Eva Wong

Co-founder and COO, Borrowell



Photography by Francisco Garcia

Borrowell co-founder and COO Eva Wong is giving Canadians what they desperately need: the knowledge to be smart about their finances. She’s also one of the few Canadian women operating in fintech. Wong, who joined Borrowell in 2014, wants Canadians to be financially literate with free credit score and report monitoring, personal loans, and product recommendations. While she’s giving us financial freedom, she’s also building a company that is inclusive and diverse.

First, empowering Canadians. Wong and her co-founder, Andrew Graham, saw consumer finance shift away from the big banks to smaller institutions that focused on customer needs. They found that there was a market to provide loans at a reasonable rate to Canadians with good credit scores. That way, people can borrow without relying on their credit cards, and without compromising their financial goals. Since the launch, Borrowell has helped more than 500,000 Canadians check their credit score.

Diversity is a core principle for Borrowell; the company is almost at gender parity. More than 40 percent of employee – and 50 percent of the management – roster are women, which is a rare demographic in tech companies that continue to be dominated by men.

“It was really important to attract candidates of diverse backgrounds,” says Wong. “We go out to where underrepresented groups are present.” One example was her recent talk at a hackathon, where 50 percent of the developers were women.

The company also evaluated their job descriptions. “We wanted to make sure we weren’t being biased in our descriptions. Some attract more men because they use language like ‘we want a rockstar ninja for this role’ and promote benefits like free beer, which can evoke a bro culture,” says Wong. Instead, Borrowell focuses on language that appeals to everyone like ‘flexible hours’, ‘parental leave’ and ‘we have a full benefits policy.’

The numbers support a focus on diversity. A 2015 McKinsey study found that out of 350 North American, Latin and UK companies, those who were in the top quarter for gender diversity tended to outperform the other companies by up to 15 percent. Investors like what they’re seeing. Borrowell has partnered with CIBC and received over $15 million in funding from investors including Power Financial Crop.’s Portag3 Ventures, White Star Capital, and Equitable Bank.

“We’re not perfect,” says Wong. “We’ve got a long way to go and it’s a hard road. But it’s not only the right thing to do; we think it’s going to make us a better company.” — RSW

Aamir Baig

Co-founder and CEO, Article



Illustration by Jennifer Fryer

Think about the last time you bought a nice couch. That probably cost a pretty penny thanks to an overly complicated supply chain and an astronomical markup. Aamir Baig, CEO and co-founder of Article, decided to eliminate the middleman by creating a company that designs and manufactures modern furniture and sells it directly to consumers. Think Casper, but instead of mattresses, Article sells the rest of the bedroom furniture, plus dining room chairs and outdoor loungers.

Baig, with his co-founders Fraiser Hall and Sam and Andy Prochazka, started the Vancouver-based company in 2013. They’re engineers so they always wanted to talk to the people who made items, not the ones who sold them.

Article is on track to make $200 million (US) in 2018 with its beautifully designed modern furniture offered to customers at a fair price. — RSW

Dave Hopkinson

CCO, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE)



Photography by Francisco Garcia

Most chief commercial officers would call it a “major win” to secure an $800-million deal. And while David Hopkinson is excited about Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE)’s upcoming 20-year sponsorship agreement with Scotiabank – which will transform Toronto’s Air Canada Centre (ACC) into the Scotiabank Arena this fall – he views success and “winning” from a pragmatic perspective: “I don’t know where we are in the journey, but we haven’t come close to arriving,” Hopkinson explains. “This business will continue to grow, and we are hungrier than ever. We’ve started to see some success – Toronto FC won a championship, we had a parade, we’ve got rings coming – so we’ve really delivered the goods, but everything else is a work in progress.”

Hopkinson remembers when the arena was “a hole in the ground” – it opened in 1999, several years after he joined the newly formed Raptors as part of the ticket sales team. A merger with the Maple Leaf Gardens created the MLSE organization – and as it has grown, so has Hopkinson’s role; however, he admits, “I’ve failed as much or more than I have succeeded. I think one of the things that I’ve done is been thoughtful about where I’ve failed and why, and we learn not through our successes. We learn through our mistakes.”

He points to an example when his management team realized a hypocritical approach to teamwork: a leaderboard highlighted the top sales people. “We took it out and threw it away,” Hopkinson explains. “We revised the entire compensation system to incent cooperative and team behaviour, not individual behaviour.” Focusing on teamwork rather than internal competition was transformative. “What I noticed is that we gained immediate credibility with the staff. That correlation every day between what we’re saying and what we’re doing is so important to establish trust and credibility.”

Trust is a theme that reappears throughout our conversation. “One of the ways that an organization can really hurt itself is when what they say and what they do are not aligned,” he explains. “Even a mild misalignment really destroys the credibility of leadership, and the culture of an organization.” He’s not the only employee to boast decades with the company. “My two most important lieutenants each started with me as interns, so we have worked together more than 20 years. I actually do think the depth of a relationship you can build over time, that’s based on trust and a common vision, allows us to go fast in so many ways because we believe in each other. When you look at the organizational values, teamwork is central – we are aligned around a common purpose.”

Not surprisingly, that purpose is clear: “I don’t think you can be fully satisfied unless you, again, have a parade, have a trophy and win the ultimate prize – that is the currency of our business: winning! We want to have a good game, but we want to have a good game in pursuit of a championship.” At the same time, lately Hopkinson has a more flexible definition of personal success: “Earlier in my life I had the idea that there might be some magical finish line, and having abandoned that concept, I’m a lot happier. I think a huge piece of success is realizing that happiness during the journey is success.” — PB

Chris Overholt

CEO, Canadian Olympic Committee (COC)



Illustration by Jennifer Fryer

Chris Overholt believes that there is a distinct Canadian character that epitomizes the values of sport at the highest level: virtue. It is this assertion that makes his role as CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) the highlight of his storied career in professional sports.

One of the most powerful shifts he has made during his tenure has been to provide a stronger focus on the Olympians. “People care about the Canadian Olympic Team, not the committee,” explains Overholt. How they have done this is through sharing the stories of their athletes – the resilience of snowboarder Mark McMorris coming back from a near-death injury and the life-saving love story between speed skaters Josie Spence and Denny Morrison. These are just a few examples that speak to the way that sport can bring out the best in people.

His passion for the Olympics is both visceral and infectious, having had a front row seat to some of the most storied moments in Canadian Olympic history. “You never know what those historical moments in sports will be and when they will happen until they do,” he says. “What’s really great about the Olympic games is you don’t know what the story is going to be.” — CP

Joanna Griffiths

Founder and CEO, Knixwear



Photography courtesy of Knixwear

After more than a decade working in music and entertainment publicity, Joanna Griffiths reinvented herself – and the idea of what an intimate apparel line could be in the process. Inspiration for Knixwear, the company she founded in 2013, first struck while Griffiths was pursuing her MBA at INSEAD in France. She wanted to create leak-proof underwear for women that were functional in their busy, to-do list-filled everyday lives. Not only was she sure that women couldn’t find a product like hers, but she knew that no underwear brand was speaking to them like Knixwear.

Five years later, she’s built one of the fastest growing companies in Canada, a notable brand and an empire that empowers women. Most importantly, through Knixwear Griffiths has created a community of supportive, inclusive and body-positive consumers. Her customers are not only part of this community, but they have an active role in her company’s growth. Griffiths relies on her consumers for feedback, ideas and even recruits them to model for the brand (over 500 real customers have participated in photo shoots). Knixwear’s website and social media are filled with images of women of all shapes and sizes, and Griffiths celebrates that. She also spearheaded the company’s first fashion show and video campaign in 2017, which dropped in time with the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. The tagline? “Every Woman is an Angel.” Her approach has propelled Knixwear forward to become a reliable, size-inclusive brand – with plans to add more to their collection this fall.

Since taking a chance on her initial idea, Griffiths has launched the 8-in-1 Evolution Bra, sweat-proof tank tops, sleepwear, the youth-friendly line Knixteen, and more. In the last year, she and her team have seen online shoppers from over 55 countries get their hands on Knixwear, selling one of its products every 10 seconds, according to the company. — EC

Rhiannon Traill

President and CEO, the Economic Club of Canada



Photography by Francisco Garcia

Rhiannon Traill, the preternaturally young president and CEO of the Economic Club of Canada, may mingle and do business with the best and brightest C-suites in the country, but she shouldn’t be confused with the establishment. Traill, inspired by her own experience as a young woman and mother in the male-dominated corporate world, is a warrior for youth and women in the workplace and beyond.

“My entire beginning and middle of career was peppered with ageism. I struggled with it a lot. I tried everything: dressing differently, embodying something that wasn’t really me, but eventually I got to a point where I couldn’t live in that inauthentic skin anymore,” says Traill. “I finally realized: I’m damn good at my job because of who I am. When that happened, I witnessed a transformation not only in myself, but how others treated me.”

Discovering part of her power was rooted in being a young professional with an outsider’s perspective. She founded the not-for-profit Junior Economic Club of Canada with the goal of inspiring more youth to be financially literate, politically engaged, and recognizant of not only their potential, but current value to society. She’s made a particular point of reaching out to Inuit youth with the aim of advancing reconciliation.

Traill doesn’t treat the organization like a siloed-off kids table; she expects them to think, engage, and act like everyone else: “I’m fighting against the notion of the traditional hierarchy, because I don’t believe it works. I see so many young people waiting for that seal of approval, for the gate to open, for their ideas to matter. I’m trying to tell them their ideas matter now.”

This was the case when she hosted former first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, for a moderated conversation in Toronto and donated half the capacity to youth. The discussion with Obama was no ‘junior version,’ either. It was as elevated and complex as a normal Economic Club event.

When Traill speaks, you can’t help but lean in to what she’s discussing. She somehow manages to espouse the assuredness of a well-seasoned CEO combined with the irresistible charisma of a life coach and the approachability of a school counselor. It’s a potent mix that allows her to successfully bring previously estranged communities together. “We’re so segmented off in Canada,” she says, “but I see how important it is for us to come together as a nation. The world is shifting.” — SM

Mike McDerment

Co-founder and CEO, FreshBooks



Photography by Francisco Garcia

Sometimes the best way forward is to take a perfectly functional and very successful platform, put it aside and build a brand new one from scratch. That’s what FreshBooks co-founder and CEO Mike McDerment did in 2015.

“When I looked into the future, three to five years, I asked myself, ‘do we have the best product?’ and the answer I came up with was ‘no,’” says McDerment.

Toronto’s FreshBooks isn’t a new platform but it is one that has kept up with the changing needs of the job market. McDerment spent three-and-a-half years in his parent’s basement building the original version of FreshBooks. Like all good creations, it was born of out necessity when McDerment saved over an invoice in 2003 by mistake. After that, he was determined there had to be a better way of creating and tracking invoices, and FreshBooks debuted in 2006.

In 2014, McDerment decided it was time for a change with the company. A secret company, BillSpring, debuted online a year later, and was then officially released as the new FreshBooks (to the tune of a $7 million upgrade) in 2016. That’s a big change for a successful platform, but McDerment has never been one to sit back and relax.

So why reinvent something that wasn’t broken? He knew that stagnation could lead to the death of the platform. While it was a new concept when it launched, by 2015 there were other cloud-based accounting software out there and they were making a play for FreshBooks’ customers. They also didn’t have the technology problems FreshBooks faced. McDerment admits his programming skills were limited when he built the original platform and the rapid growth meant those problems were compounded.

The company created a side team to work on the issues and launched the reimagined version to great success, with even bigger plans ahead. In 2017, it raised $57 million CAD in a funding round led by Georgian Partners, with participation from Oak Investment Partners and Accomplice. The money went towards future North American growth and investment in its accounting software. The entrepreneur economy isn’t going anywhere and they’re going to need a platform that can keep up with them.

Now when McDerment looks into the future and asks himself if they have the best product, the answer is yes. “Technology is no longer a limiting factor. It increases my confidence that we capitalize on the opportunity and deliver more modern and better experiences for people through software.” — RSW

Ray Reddy

Co-founder and CEO, Ritual



Illustration by Jennifer Fryer

Ray Reddy is why you can swipe and skip the lunch line without wasting your lunch hour. Debuting in a few local restaurants, the Toronto-created Ritual app launched in 2015 and has since expanded across the city and the continent, popping up in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

What makes Ritual different from other food-ordering apps is that you have to pick up your meal. Delivery costs extra, sometimes up to 30 percent. That extra cost may discourage a restaurant from signing up, but Ritual’s fees are about 10 percent, which encourages restaurants to join and reach potential new customers.

Investors love the app as well. In 2017, Ritual secured $43.5 million US in funding, directed towards expansion and growth. Reddy wants to grow from seven cities to the next 50 with a continued focus on North America and a push into Europe, further fuelling this homegrown brand’s skyrocketing growth. — RSW

Jamie and Lyndon Cormack

Co-founders, Herschel Supply Co.



Photography by Tanya Goehring

Working backwards has been the key to Jamie and Lyndon Cormack’s success. When they set out to start Herschel Supply Co. in 2009, the brothers and co-founders of the massively successful accessories company thought of the person who’d be carrying their bags to help conceive of the product itself. That approach not only helped sell their first collection, but has also led to the Vancouver-based brand’s expansion to include apparel, luggage, tech sleeves and more. With more than 15 million units sold in over 70 countries, Herschel’s bags – especially their signature backpacks – have become ubiquitous at airports, on subway platforms, and city streets.

Before starting their company, the two brothers saw a space in the market for affordable, design-driven bags with high-quality details and a nod to nostalgic style. Since then, both consumers and companies like Apple and Coca-Cola have taken notice. Herschel has collaborated with them, as well as Disney, Stussy, J. Crew Kids and New Balance on exclusive lines. While everything they create is made with the well-travelled in mind, Jamie and Lyndon will celebrate at home this summer when their first flagship store opens its doors in Vancouver. — EC

CULTURE CROWD

Jeffrey Remedios

President and CEO, Universal Music Canada



Photography by Francisco Garcia

In a trade where the sheer number of entry points and platforms which can be taken advantage of seemingly swell by the minute, you’d be forgiven for convincing yourself that success within the music industry is more easily attainable than ever.

Just don’t presume that Jeffrey Remedios, president and CEO of Universal Music Canada, feels the same way.

Sure, Remedios concedes we’re in an environment where anybody who wants to produce music can. After all, traditional barriers to access, distribution and then promotion and marketing are largely removed. But as a consequence to that: anybody who wants to, well, does.

There’s more noise, more choice and more options on the market than ever before, which means Remedios doesn’t necessarily believe achieving success as a musician in modern times is any easier or harder. It’s just different. “The great artists evolve because they transcend their influences,” he contends. “They have a point of view and bring that forward. We’re here to help them do that.”

Remedios himself looks at music as the great translator and connector. “Whether that’s soundtracking your first dance as you’re marrying your love, or saying goodbye to the person you love,” he says, “music plays a critical role in all of that.”

This viewpoint and Remedios’ litany of corresponding technologically-progressive initiatives have led the McMaster University alum – who began his post-school career at Virgin Music Canada – to getting routinely hailed as a key insider in reshaping the music biz’s future.

“It’s a leadership approach. When things are changing, you can look at the world and say that it’s full of threat. Or, you can look at the climate and say it’s full of opportunity.”

Still, Remedios is reserved about measuring his own influence, even with a proven track record of creative and entrepreneurial instincts to support it. “My true yardstick is through the lens of the artists I work with,” he reasons. “Are they reaching their expectations? How has the journey been to that place? Are we getting there? That’s ultimately how I would judge it.”

While the goalposts for success and influence here so far remain open to interpretation, longevity certainly doesn’t. And when considering his own in a notoriously what-have-you-done-for-me-lately landscape, it’s not just those aforementioned instincts Remedios modestly credits.

“The business looks completely different today than it did when I started. I’ve been evolving with that.” — CM

Jessica Mulroney

Brand consultant



Photography by Francisco Garcia

Walk a mile in Jessica Mulroney’s shoes and you’ll get a small taste of a multi-hyphenate woman that is redefining Canada’s reputation on the global fashion landscape.

Her numerous roles include brand strategist for the Hudson Bay Company’s fashion and bridal divisions, contributing magazine editor, co-founder of The Shoebox Project (an organization that distributes gifts in shoeboxes to women who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness) and an upcoming consulting firm that will introduce premium international brands in hospitality, retail and fashion to the Canadian marketplace with co-founder Krystal Koo, of Dream Realty. That’s on top of her being a mother to three young children. To say the least, she’s got her hands full, but relishes the entire experience.

Mulroney’s seemingly ubiquitous presence and continuously rising star aren’t simply thanks to great fashion sense. She’s a business powerhouse who cut her teeth working in the industry at the young age of 14. She understands what can propel a brand to the next level, and how to wield a perfectly-tailored Smythe suit or extravagant Lucian Matis gown to communicate agendas and exert influence. For her, fashion is about much more than about looking good.

She champions Canadian fashion designers, connecting them to the world’s biggest stages and stars. It was her special touch that introduced homegrown brands such as Sentaler, Greta Constantine, Smythe, Mackage, Lucian Matis, and Line to Meghan Markle and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau.

These two women’s Mulroney-inspired habit of wearing Canadian designs breathed new life into a struggling industry, providing local brands with countless media clips, international recognition and, most importantly, sales. “The power that some of these people have to make or break a brand is truly unlike anything else. It’s like magic in a bottle,” says Mulroney. She continues, “access to capital and international markets is vital. I’d love to see an industry proud of its Canadian roots but successful all over the globe.”

While she’s been responsible for catapulting local designers into the spotlight, she’s also had to deal with her own brand of growing celebrity – something that hasn’t always come easy. “The more you put yourself out there, the more you risk being judged. You just have to develop a thicker skin. This year, especially, I’ve had to seriously develop one,” she says.

Add to that balancing professional success with motherhood, and Mulroney has more on her plate than most CEOs. “There’s a lot of pressure on women in general, but there’s extra pressure on moms, whether they work or not,” says Mulroney. “As a mother of three who works pretty much all the time and as a wife,
you have to know that you’re going to fail constantly. I fail all the time, and I have major guilt all the time. There’s also a lot of judgment. If you can just block out all that noise, that’s when you’re really going to be able to achieve anything you want.”

Mulroney isn’t about to let a few internet trolls stop her from reaching her goals. While she’s undeniably made large gains for the Canadian fashion industry, she knows there’s much more work to be done and is up for the challenge. “There’s so much undiscovered talent here; so much talent that’s hungry to make it. It only takes one small opportunity to change their lives.” — SM

Cameron Bailey

Co-Head and Artistic Director, Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)



Photography by Matt Barnes

For most, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) ends once the storied gala officially closes shop every September until its next installment, and the veritable who’s who of industry elite that routinely descend upon the city decamp back to Tinseltown. But for the rest, TIFF has morphed into a year-round destination for the impassioned film community, offering visitors a presentation that spotlights new and vintage releases alike, live events, and an interactive gallery.

Whichever category you may fall into, the vibrant and inclusive stewardship behind-the-scenes of TIFF has long been entrusted, in one form or another, to Cameron Bailey. The Canadian film critic joined the Festival’s ranks as a programmer in 1990, was made co-director in 2008, artistic director in 2012 and, this very spring, elevated to its newly-created position of co-head and artistic director.

With TIFF entering its latest five-year strategic plan – an audience-first initiative stressing transformative experiences through celluloid, rather than the simple screening of films – Bailey wants to ensure the Festival isn’t just giving moviegoers the best of whatever they want, but that they’re also able to reach them wherever they are.

“We start by listening, by paying attention,” reveals Bailey. “We know, for instance, that audiences are watching more moving images than ever, but on a new variety of screens – from smartphones to IMAX. We want to be there with them. We know that demographic changes and online communities have amplified a vast array of audiences beyond the mainstream. How do we engage those audiences through our programming and how do we talk about it? That’s some of what we’re working on.”

In short, Bailey says he’s learned film is a great way to connect people, but that we crave connection in ways that make sense to us.

“One size does not fit all.“ — CM

Director X

Producer



Illustration by Jennifer Fryer

Music video visionary. In-demand filmmaker. En vogue couturier. Meet Julien Christian Lutz, also known as Director X, the influential multi-hyphenate who appears to do everything. Don’t just take our word for it.

Go ahead and call Drake – on his cell phone, of course. Drizzy’s instantly iconic Hotline Bling video was conceived and shot by Director X. Boasting the 42-year-old Torontonian’s trademark of tweaking the letterbox format and employing a high-budget, visually distinctive technique, the effort serves as a definitive example of his celebrated method – one that’s evolved over two decades, and can be traced right back to his work in the late 1990s and early aughts with seminal hip-hop acts like Common, Ghostface Killah, Ice Cube, Kanye West, Redman, and Talib Kweli. To put it mildly, Hotline Bling was an online sensation and to date, has racked up well over a billion YouTube views and counting. This is a trend now routine for Director X.

Or you can ask Sony Pictures that has entrusted Director X to helm Superfly, a highly stylized remake of the 1972 blaxploitation crime drama classic. Slotted for a summer release, the movie’s producers were banking on Director X’s lavish, kinetic approach to not only update the enduring story for a modern generation, but curate a soundtrack to rival Curtis Mayfield’s timeless original. If the first trailer and early buzz is any indication, he’s done just that.

Or maybe you should give Canadian clothing company Ice Gear Fitness a buzz? They produce Director X’s eponymous fashion label, X Fit, after all.

And while you’re at it, hit up Busta Rhymes, Iggy Azalea, Jamie Foxx, Justin Bieber, Kendrick Lamar, Miguel, Rick Ross, Rihanna and Wiz Khalifa – just a handful of illustrious artists that have recently benefited from the vaunted Director X touch. Or even Hype Williams – his predecessor as far as establishing a unique ocular calling card goes. He formerly mentored the prodigious auteur, as well as gave him crucial visual consulting duties on the 1998 film, Belly.

We’re confident they’ll all tell you the same thing we are: that Director X is a phenom who has transcended traditionally restrictive Canadian boundaries, and continues to shape the urban cultural landscape at large. — CM

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir

Olympians, Ice Dance



Photography courtesy of Danielle Earl

Go back and look at the headlines during the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and you’ll find a sampling of salacious stories about Canadian ice dance pair, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. The ice dancers brought home gold medals for Canada – their record-breaking fourth and fifth overall. All of them baseless, mind you. The two-decade partnership remains strictly platonic. But such is the magnetism of the London, Ontario-born team’s on-ice chemistry, which continues to hypnotize and enchant a world- wide audience.

Frankly, not since Tonya Harding’s attack on Nancy Kerrigan a month before the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway – and its frenzied aftermath – has figure skating made for such tabloid fodder.

Currently, Virtue and Moir are the most decorated Olympic figure skaters and Canadian ice dance team ever. They are the first and only tandem to achieve a grand slam under the current International Skating Union judging system, as well as win the World Championship and Grand Prix Final as both juniors and seniors. This in addition to being current record holders for the highest technical score in a short dance, plus historical record holders for the original dance.

But to speak exclusively of Virtue and Moir’s pervasive will-they-or-won’t-they presence in the press would do both a tremendous disservice. International media darlings? Yes. Flash in the pan success story? Heck no.

Their litany of accolades continues to stretch on. And at ages 29 and 30, respectively, the pinnacle of their triumphs may still be around the corner. — CM

Eric Radford

Olympian, Pairs Figure Skating



Photography by Francisco Garcia

Eric Radford knows a thing or two about perseverance. His familiarity on the matter is something that has served him well en route to winning gold with skating partner Meagan Duhamel at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang – making him the first openly gay man to score a gold medal at any Winter Olympics. It’s a resolve he developed over rough spells of trying to accept himself and his sexuality. “I kept my head down and had to just push through when kids were making fun of me, either for skating or for my mannerisms,” recounts the Montreal resident who is originally from Balmertown, Ontario.

When he finally came out in 2014 after the Sochi Winter Olympics, Radford was the first competitive figure skater ever to do so at the peak of his career, or as an active contender for championship titles. Most wait until they are near or past retirement. But after more than 20 years on the ice, Radford had observed the landscape in sports and culture beginning to shift in the right direction, especially pertaining to the inclusion of the LGBTQA+ community.

“In terms of the atmosphere, I think there is a growing movement of acceptance,“ he remarks. “That it’s becoming more and more of a non-issue. That an athlete’s sexuality has nothing to do with how they’re performing out on the field.”

Radford concedes a good deal of work still needs to be done, though. There remains a lot of out-dated attitudes about LGBTQA+ involvement in sports. He reasons that people in general are afraid of what they don’t understand, and if a system was in place to get rid of that fear, gay athletes wouldn’t have so much apprehension about coming out.

But make no mistake, Radford’s immensely proud of all the progress achieved so far and to be a part of it. “Not only did I get to stand on top of the Olympic podium,” he beams, “but I happen to be gay. Through that, I get to represent my community in an extra dimension that I probably wouldn’t have if I was just a normal, heterosexual athlete.” — CM

Jeanette Stock

Co-founder, Venture Out



Photography by Francisco Garcia

Jeanette Stock used to feel a sense of isolation at tech events, like she was the only LGBTQA+ person in the room. Statistically, that couldn’t be true,
but she knew that if she felt this way, then others must too. So she did something about it.

Venture Out, part of a larger organization, which is named Start Proud, empowers LGBTQA+ individuals and is a conference that connects the burgeoning tech world with this very community. The first of its kind in Canada, young LGBTQA+ folks have the chance to break into the industry by networking with representatives of established companies, while businesses can learn about the importance of inclusivity and visibility.

Their mission is not only to build bridges, but to also spread stories of success from the intersection of these sectors. “I think we hear it in every context: you can’t be what you can’t see,” Stock explains. She wants people to find role models in tech who reflect their own experiences.

LGBTQA+ folks disproportionally face depression, mental illness and homelessness, and those realities call for a deeper understanding of the LGBTQA+ experience that goes beyond just flying a rainbow flag on pride day. These experiences also add a new dimension to the workplace, especially in the fast-paced world of start-ups and product development. “Every different perspective and experience helps round out that vision and makes it stronger,” says Stock. — JC

Antoni Porowski

TV Personality, Queer Eye



Illustration by Jennifer Fryer

 

Calling Netflix’s Queer Eye a makeover show would be to dramatically undersell the series. This year, viewers got much more than wardrobe upgrades and redesigned rooms from Antoni Porowski and his co-stars. As part of the Fab Five, the Montreal-born food expert doled out cooking tips and anecdotes about finding confidence with equal aplomb. He and his castmates helped to showcase a nuanced view of the LGBTQA+ community, dismantle gay stereotypes and discuss social issues, all while reminding those they met – and frankly, us at home – that a little self-love goes a long way. — EC