Written by Caroline Aksich, Tristan Bronca, Erin Nicole Davis, Karolyne Ellacott, Dave Gordon, Ed Hitchins, Ben Kaplan, Chris Metler, Christopher Penrose
For so long, Canada has been associated as the quiet and unassuming nation that shyly whispered its accomplishments from the sidelines. But those days are coming to an end. We have much to be proud of and as we continue to further establish ourselves as leaders in the global landscape, we’ve found our voice. And we’ve got something to say.
We believe in progress. We believe in innovation, growth, and reflection. We believe in cultivating talent and supporting local industries while simultaneously setting forth to conquer the world. We believe in charging into the future while honouring the past. Here in the Great White North, you’ll find some of the most groundbreaking companies and leaders in the world.
That’s what our Power 50 guide is about. In our fifth annual iteration, we’ve assembled the pathfinding change-makers and visionary companies who are shaping Canada and doing us proud. Feel free to be inspired. Be sure to use #BSBPower50 to share your thoughts on social media.
JAGMEET SINGH (Leader, New Democratic Party)
For leading with love and courage
Photo: Luis Mora
Jagmeet Singh isn’t here to make friends. “I stick to my principles and don’t cave, even when it’s uncomfortable,” says Singh, who made a name for himself at Queen’s Park by tackling police carding. He’s the first to admit that going after law enforcement wasn’t “an electorally successful strategy.” Singh’s political career hasn’t been defined by backroom deals or slick ads. He’s a fighter.
He's been kicked. He’s been punched. People have pulled his hair. Dirty, Paki, terrorist: these are just a few of the names lobbed at him as a kid. Growing up in Windsor, Ontario, Singh’s patka (hair covering) and brown skin made him a visible target.
Come October’s federal election, Singh will have been in politics for less than a decade. A second coming of the “Orange Crush” is unlikely, but that hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm, or his hunger, to call out some of Canada’s mightiest power abusers: telecom giants and tax evaders. In some ways, Singh’s been preparing for this David and Goliath fight his whole life.
As Canada’s first federal party leader of colour, Singh needs to not only get Canadians to buy into the NDP’s platform, he also needs to get them to buy into him. In the shadow of the MAGA era in the US, and a politically polarized landscape in Canada, Singh’s first task is to get Canadians to believe that he will fight for them— that he is one of them.
This spring, Singh released his first-ever memoir, Love & Courage. This is not the memoir you expect from the leader of a federal political party. It’s an examination of how to heal from trauma, an introduction to Sikhism (Singh’s religion), and a story of growing up as a person of colour in a mostly white and blue collar car town, and making it in spite of addiction, bullies, abuse, and bankruptcy.
This is not to say that Singh’s memoir isn’t politically motivated. Released mere months before the upcoming election, its timing is strategic. The 40-year-old politician is not using the 309 pages to bolster his House of Commons credentials (the book ends the day Singh decides to run in the 2011 election). Instead of a protracted political CV, Love & Courage focuses on Singh’s formative years spent growing up in Southwestern Ontario.
“There are a lot of sad parts in the story, but it’s still a story of triumph, of resilience, healing, and moving forward,” says Singh, who speaks candidly in the book about his father’s alcoholism and about being sexually abused by his childhood tae kwon do instructor.
Singh’s sexual abuse takes up only a few pages in Love & Courage, but the process of healing from the abuse echoes throughout the entire book. According to him, he decided to share this trauma because “I thought if I could share some of the stories about what I’ve gone through, it will help people who might need to hear that it’s not their fault.”
Singh decided to write this memoir because it was expected of him (most federal party leaders put one out), but he also “wanted to tell a story that would actually help people out.” And, although he won’t say it, the memoir also allows him to show Canadians that he truly practices what he preaches when it comes to politics. Many of the issues he supports, such as social services, are shown in the book to be programs that were pivotal to helping Singh’s family when they reached their nadir (Singh’s father’s alcoholism pushes the family into bankruptcy, nearly killing him at one point).
In his younger years, Singh finds refuge in the library, where fantasy novels provided some much-needed escapism from bullying and from his dad’s substance abuse. Later, Brentwood Recovery Home, a publicly funded rehab centre, saves his father’s life. “I wanted to show people why social services matter to me because I needed them and I wouldn’t be here without them,” says Singh before adding that he also wrote this book because he wanted to show people why he “deeply care[s] about everybody.”
A politician saying they “deeply care about everybody” is typically insincere. Especially when said politician is hoping to woo your vote come October. Though it’s all throughout Love & Courage that Singh, a practicing Sikh, aims to let you know that not only is he sincere in that sentiment, but it’s fundamental to his sense of self and his faith. “I really wanted folks to know where I come from, where my thoughts and beliefs come from,” he remarks before quickly noting that he wasn’t trying to proselytize.
“The theme that goes through the book is that we are all one and connected,” says Singh, referencing the Sikh concept of oneness. Singh is adamant that “that paradigm is incredibly important.” According to him, “It’s so easy to focus on differences, but every human being shares more than what divides us.”
Although Singh’s memoir looks to promote unity and draw parallels between all Canadians, he doesn’t avoid exposing Canada’s racism, an issue that is often swept under the rug. Calling out Canada’s racism rather than focusing on our do-gooder image won’t sit well with some, but for Singh, healing can only begin once the problem is exposed. “Healing is painful, even biologically when you have a wound, it’s uncomfortable to heal,” he says.
Love & Courage is the antithesis of your typical political memoir. It purposefully glosses over Singh’s political achievements in an effort to prove he is different from your run-of-the-mill lawmaker. “I do politics differently… I got into provincial politics and then just kept choosing enemies,” says Singh, who is hoping that his memoir will invite Canadians—who may be focused on his differences (his turban, his skin colour, his religion)—to see that they share far more with him than they realize.
Singh wants Canadians to know that he’s here to fight for them. “I’m taking on anybody,” he tells me with characteristic enthusiasm. “ If this is going to make people’s lives better, I’m ready. I’m not trying to make friends, I’m trying to make justice.” - CA
Captains of Cannabis
Canada is at the forefront of the cannabis revolution. As only the second nation to legalize the recreational use of the plant, the opportunity is ours to seize in establishing our country as the best in the business. Here are a few leaders who are paving the way.
Scott Hurd (CEO, Westleaf Inc.)
For forging a more inclusive space for all in cannabis
In a dizzying landscape that is only getting bigger, one cannabis company that’s elevating the industry through community investment is Westleaf Inc. Last year, the company announced a partnership with Thunderchild First Nation, which includes the development of a cannabis cultivation facility on land the brand owns near Battleford, Saskatchewan, as well as the creation of 150 jobs. “It is important to invest in and support the communities where we operate to develop meaningful, authentic relationships that are reflective of Canadian values – to date, one of Westleaf’s defining moments is our partnership with Thunderchild First Nation,” said Scott Hurd, CEO and President for Westleaf Inc. With its retail banner, Prairie Records, set to open approximately 30 locations across Western Canada by 2020 (three stores are now open in Saskatchewan) Scott Hurd is a role model – forging a path in the legal cannabis industry that is inclusive and profitable for all. - BK
Hilary Black (Chief Advocacy Officer, Canopy Growth)
For pioneering a greener landscape
Before becoming one of the most powerful executives in Canadian cannabis, Hilary Black opened the first medical cannabis dispensary in the country. How she rose from advocate to C-suite is extraordinary, especially since she’s a female in an industry rife with predominant (white) male power. Black began her cannabis career providing medicinal pot to gay men and intravenous drug users on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Her club served 10,000 patients at its peak (it’s still active today). Black’s advocacy through court cases and protests altered the last three decades of cannabis in this country—her seat at the head of power shows that, sometimes, the good ones can win. - BK
John Fowler (Founder, The Supreme Cannabis Company, Inc.)
For bringing respect back to the plant
Third quarter revenue for John Fowler’s company showed a 382 percent increase from Q3 2018, but the 31-year-old always has said first and foremost: “respect the plant.” Fowler, Vice Chair, Adult Use of the Cannabis Council of Canada, is an innovator, industry leader and aiming to separate The Supreme Cannabis Company, Inc. from their peers by doing something radical: producing better weed. His company’s diverse, his Twitter’s a must-read, and his politics are a net benefit to his burgeoning industry—Fowler lifts his industry with his standards. - BK
Alison Gordon (Co-CEO, 48North)
For creating more seats at the table for women in cannabis
The former Rethink Breast Cancer boss is an outspoken activist whose perch at the highest ranks of Canadian cannabis marks an achievement for the entire (white, old, male) industry. As her company produces medical and recreational product, Alison Gordon’s found value in catering to women, while others ignore women in weed. Gordon’s undervalued LP—which she runs with another woman, Jeannette VanderMarel—innovates with both forward-thinking product and ethics: a combination that can change the world. - BK
Canada continues to foster a thriving entrepreneurial community that has given rise to an innovative group of companies and leaders looking to reshape the way we go about doing (and financing) our businesses. Strides have been made in the field of fintech thanks to a dynamic cohort of pioneers who have catalyzed the business landscape as we know it.
For backing the next wave of exciting entrepreneurs
Accessing financial resources without sacrificing substantial business equity continues to be a commonplace challenge for budding businesses looking to grow. Clearbanc provides entrepreneurs the capital to expand — with no equity, no fundraising, no dilution, no warrants or covenants, no board seats and no BS demanded in return. Built by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, Clearbanc currently backs startups in Canada, the United States and the UK with a portfolio that includes more than 500 e-commerce brands. What’s more, co-founder Michele Romanow, the youngest-ever entrepreneur to join Dragons’ Den, is a business woman with a proven track record of success that understands the struggles of building a business. "I saw hundreds of entrepreneurs on Dragons' Den every year, who had great businesses but needed a better funding model," said Romanow. "Whether an entrepreneur needs $10 thousand or $10 million, we started Clearbanc to serve them efficiently and scale in a manner other investors cannot." (Above photo: Janick Laurent) - CM
For making the money landscape a little easier to navigate
Professional investing made simple and affordable with smart technology — this is Wealthsimple. The online investment management service helps you build an intelligent portfolio of low-fee funds designed to meet your financial goals. Holding over $4.3 billion in assets under management, Wealthsimple combines a robo-advisor platform with access to live advisors. And with its new partnership with TurboTax (an innovative new collaboration enabling retirement savings contributions into the tax filing process), in addition to the introduction of Wealthsimple Generation (allowing clients with $500,000 or more in their accounts to get more advice, more planning, more expertise and more perks), the focus on making investing easier for millennials has never seemed clearer. - CM
For taking the headache out of personal finance
As the way people work changes, banks must rethink how they service their valued customers. Enter Sensibill, a receipt management solution designed to meet their needs, which imports data from paper or digital receipts, then uses machine-learning technology to structure the receipt data for easy searching and categorization. The result for the global financial institutions that Sensibill works with? The ability to engage more meaningfully with customers and glean insights from data, enabling them to develop better products and empower small businesses. - CM
Scotiabank Digital Banking Lab
For accelerating our collective fintech understanding
Established at Ivey Business School as the very first university research centre focused on financial technologies, the mandate of the Scotiabank Digital Banking Lab isn’t just to study and understand the implications of digital disruption for banking and financial services, but to prepare students to operate in an environment of changing technology and innovation. Promoting student engagement, publishing targeted research and engaging in outreach to stakeholders in Canada and abroad, the Lab has one eye fixed on homegrown Canadian innovation, and the other toward generating thought leadership and developing future talent in the digital space. - CM
How We Work
Traditional definitions of the typical workplace no longer apply as business culture has evolved. Coinciding with this shift is the way we go about doing our work. In the age of "smart" working, savy entrepreneurial minds have found unique ways to modernize the workforce, propel productivity, optimize communication, and harness great talent.
Stewart Butterfield (Founder, Slack)
For centralizing how we communicate at work
Slack has become the almost universally recognized short-hand for “how I talk to my colleagues at work,” and that’s thanks largely to the work of one visionary entrepreneur. Stewart Butterfield, the 46-year-old BC native, launched Slack in 2013 and in the few years since has helped drive the company to a $7-billion private valuation. In 2015, just eight months after Slack's public launch, it hit the $1 billion valuation becoming one the fastest ever enterprise software companies to do so. Butterfield taught himself to code at a young age, and designed websites as he was earning a philosophy degree at the University of Victoria. After that, he delved into the startup scene. You might also know him for co-founding another well-known tech company: Flickr, an image hosting service, which sold to Yahoo in 2005 for a relatively modest $22 to $25 million. - TB
For streamlining the office with robot assistants
“Enterprise-grade workplace automation solutions” is probably the most accurate way to describe what Zoom.ai does but, at serious risk of dumbing things down, what we’re really talking about here are robot assistants. The Toronto startup, founded in 2016, has developed software for office workers to automate simple administrative tasks. As a human assistant would, it also acts as a kind of barrier between you and all the things that are stopping you from getting what you need to get done, done. They’ve won a slew of awards, raised $5.2 million in seed investment, and are promising to give workers back between one and three hours a week. A little adds up to a lot. - TB
Caterina Rizzi (Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Breather)
For redefining the workplace
Imagine — slick and flexible for-rent workspaces, a company much in the same spirit as Airbnb, but for meetings. You’re imagining Breather. Co-founded out of Montreal in 2012 by Caterina Rizzi and Julien Smith, their operation has since expanded to 10 cities across the globe. But a tech-slash-real-estate company, this is not. Their vision is to create “a quiet place to go;” an experience at once affordable and comfortable, but also with everything a worker needs to be productive in this new more transient era of work. - TB
For bringing joy back to the workplace
A “happiness consultant” almost sounds like an oxymoron, as if the best way to boost morale is to hire a number-cruncher. But the Waterloo-based Plasticity Labs has determined that is exactly what works best. The service begins with anonymized surveys to find out what’s dragging employees down and they work from that data to help fix it. Of course, every office is different. Happiness is not always as simple as installing a ping pong table or ripping off some hot new Silicon Valley trend. Plasticity helps companies figure out what’s best for them and their employees, an especially critical offering in a landscape where businesses compete to best empower and energize their workforce. - TB
Lindsey Goodchild (CEO and Co-Founder, Nudge Rewards)
For bridging the management communication gap
Lindsey Goodchild worked in a restaurant while she was a student, but when her studies pulled her away she often missed information about new promos that the business offered. When she returned, she found she couldn’t answer a lot of questions her customers asked. Advertising, it felt, moved quicker than internal communication. It was out of this insight that she created Nudge, a Toronto-based app for hospitality and retail companies to communicate directly with their workers, and track engagement. "We are extremely dedicated to becoming the digital revolution that is needed for the frontline, non-desk workforce. We want to be the tool that brings them to the next generation through performance and digital management," said Goodchild about her company. The app also allows companies to add rewards to incentivize performance, a feature that has boosted adoption rates as high as 85 percent with many of her clients. - TB
Women still continue to face an uphill battle when it comes to building businesses, accessing capital, and occupying C-suite positions. There's clearly much work to be done. Fortunately, there is a growing group of female leaders who have surpassed hurdles, achieved success, and are paving the way for those behind them. One fact remains true: when women win, everyone wins.
Ariel Garten (Co-founder and Chief Evangelist Officer, InteraXon)
For bridging the tech-mind gap
It’s not often that the scientific mind can reconcile with the artistic one. But for Ariel Garten the two have always coexisted, allowing her to tap into the emotional side of technology. Garten co-founded InteraXon, a tech company that builds computing software controlled by thoughts. By translating the power of the brain into signals, tasks — like, say, lighting the CN Tower during Canada’s Olympics — can be completed through the power of the mind. Years of research in this vein led to new ways of thinking about technology’s relationship to humans. Enter Muse 2, Garten’s latest product through InteraXon. This multi-sensor meditation headband helps achieve focus through real-time brainwave feedback, enabling wearers to decode how their brains work. Know thyself, as they say. - KE
Noura Sakkijha (Founder and CEO, Mejuri)
For adding luxury to the everyday
Noura Sakkijha was brought up on a diet of diamonds and gold. Early on, the third-generation jeweller pinpointed a gap between high-end jewels and cheap-over-chic baubles. The solution? Dispose of the middleman and sell directly to the consumer online. Familial connections helped Sakkijha access valued suppliers, while marketing to millennial women helped break the dated man-buys-woman-fine-jewellery pattern. Mejuri’s minimalist silhouettes are made for daily wear, handcrafted in the likes of solid gold and diamonds. While sales are online-only, brick-and-mortar showrooms let customers indulge in pre-investment play. A weekly micro-collection has contributed to the company’s 400 percent year-over-year growth, while obtaining $38 million in funding means an upcoming global expansion, Sakkijha’s concept of putting luxury in the everyday has truly resonated. - KE
Aurora James (Founder and Creative Director, Brother Vellies)
For teaching fashion to be more responsible
After years in the fashion industry, Aurora James needed a wake-up call. It arrived during a trip to Africa where she was wowed by the skills of local artisans. Brother Vellies, her footwear and bag label, was born as a way to nurture and empower that talent while sourcing materials responsibly. Leathers used in the shoes are often byproducts of the food industry while car tires have a second life as soles. Winning the CFDA award helped cement the importance of James’ sustainable — and fashionable — vision. - KE
Jodi Kovitz (Founder and CEO, #movethedial)
For creating more seats at the table for women
Time and again, Jodi Kovitz found herself amidst a sea of white males at executive meetings. The tech CEO knew the true value of mentorship, having been supported on her upward path. But it was lonely at the top: just six percent of tech companies have a female CEO. Kovitz wondered, how could young women in STEM possibly believe in something they couldn’t see? With #movethedial, she tackles this head-on, working towards closing the tech gender gap, turning industry leaders into mentors and leading by example. The organization has made significant strides, engaging with some 10,000 people in the STEM community in Canada and the US and launching a global summit that will return this November. For Kovitz, there's nowhere better for women to sit than at the head of the table. - KE
The IT Crowd
Canada has worked hard to solidify itself as one of the great global technology hubs. From advances in machine learning to data advocacy, our nation is a hotbed of brilliant pioneers and entrepreneurial gladiators who have a clear vision of a brighter, faster, and smarter future.
Sascha Mojtahedi (CEO, Bunz)
For making data work for your wallet
Sascha Mojtahedi believes that data is the most valuable resource in the world, and if you look at a list of the world’s richest people—most of them leaders of the companies sitting atop the vastest troves of information in human history (cough, Facebook)—you’d be hard-pressed to disagree. But as the CEO of Bunz, a digital marketplace, Mojtahedi has a plan to return the value this data generates back to its rightful owners: the people it came from. #PayPeopleNotPlatforms has become the new rallying cry for Bunz, since they committed to return 60 percent of revenue generated through brand partnerships back to its users in the form of its own payment tokens: BTZ. "Data will be the most valuable resource in the world, and is the currency of the internet today. There is a massive shift happening in terms of how people value their online data," says Mojtahedi. "As innovation on features slows, and all platforms start to look the same, the distinction will become value distribution. Which would you rather use: a platform that makes money off your data, or a platform that pays you?" As the conversation around the responsible practice and commercialization of data forges on, Mojtahedi continues to be a champion for the democratization of its use. - TB
Ben Alarie (CEO and Co-Founder, Blue J Legal)
For creating law’s AI crystal ball
Having a reasonably strong prediction of the outcome of a court case is, needless to say, a major advantage for any lawyer. Ben Alarie’s company Blue J Legal has developed an AI that examines relevant past legal cases in order to find patterns and predict likely rulings in tax and employment cases. Alarie, who is also the Osler Chair in Business Law at the University of Toronto, began his work on a prototype after acting as a judge in a competition that included IBM’s Watson in 2014. Blue J has now raised $7 million to expand south of the border. - TB
Bilal Khan (Managing Partner & Head, Deloitte Data)
For championing the bigger picture around how we use our data
For many of the world’s biggest corporations, the word “data” has mostly been equated with dollar signs. In fact, most “stewards” of this data still seem almost exclusively interested in maximizing the dollars they could extract from “their” data. But any business strategy with such singular focus is doomed to fail. Bilal Khan, managing partner and head for Deloitte Data, is one of the Canadians who seems to best understand the complexities of data-dependent markets, products, and businesses. His work looks at the finer points of privacy, value (for companies and user) and, perhaps most importantly, Canada’s position in the international landscape. If our country is to remain ahead of the curve, and competitive with the tech giants of the global community, it is people like Khan that we turn to to build a foundation that will harness data’s full potential. - TB
Geoffrey Hinton (VP and Engineering Fellow, Google)
For creating the foundations of artificial intelligence as we know it
Geoffrey Hinton’s CV is about as stacked as one might expect from the man who’s come to be known as “the godfather of deep learning.” He’s a VP and Engineering Fellow at Google and a Companion of the Order of Canada. In 2010, he was the recipient of our country’s top award in science and engineering and has since won more than half a dozen other distinguished accolades. But even this doesn’t capture the magnitude of his contribution to the development of artificial intelligence. He and his team in Toronto have, in plain terms, revolutionized the ability of machines to understand speech and recognize objects, two vast gaps that have long since separated human intelligence from generalized machine intelligence. - TB
Caitlin MacGregor (CEO and Co-Founder , Plum)
For helping companies unearth great talent
Caitlin MacGregor probably wouldn’t have launched Plum in 2012 had she not launched two other companies before it. At her first, she went with the traditional resume-to-interview hiring process, but in her second she tried something new: a psychometric assessment of applicants. MacGregor discovered incredible talent that she had overlooked by going the traditional route. Plum aims to use AI to similar effect, automating the process by which the intangibles that separate great new hires from adequate ones come to light. The idea is to make the hiring science once reserved for Fortune 500 CEOs accessible to all companies. - TB
For protecting us against the threat of infectious disease
Interventions during pandemics can be largely guesswork, which is terrifying given how many lives can be at stake. But under the guidance of Dr. Kamran Khan, an infectious disease specialist in Toronto, BlueDot has developed an AI that has helped to change that. In 2016, using predictive models, they anticipated an outbreak of Zika in Florida six months before it happened and in 2014, they tracked Ebola as it spread out of West Africa. As infectious diseases continue to evolve and spread, such tools will be essential to the collective safety of our future. - TB
We The North
Canada may be cold, but if it’s one thing that we know best, it’s how to keep ourselves warm. Our nation continues to hold the throne when it comes to the standard of excellence for outerwear purveyors. Alongside our winter dominance, we’ve also carved out a reputation for leading the way as masters of the retail landscape, from the echelons of luxury fashion to technological innovation.
For creating the global consumer’s new outerwear staple
A legacy that spans over a decade with technological innovations, Nobis bills itself as a brand that you could take against the backdrop of literally anywhere in the world. No kidding: with a presence in over 40 countries, Nobis (latin for ‘us’) caters to the unique palette of international consumers, with a fashion forward emphasis on highly functional collections geared toward both distinct regions of the world as well as the ever-changing impact of global inclement weather. VP and co-founder Robin Yates says part of the mission at Nobis is “our uncompromising fixation for style, fit and function. We want ours to remain unparalleled in the highly competitive outerwear landscape”. Having a foothold all over the world, it’s clear that for the foreseeable future, Nobis products will stay that way. - EH
For reminding everyone of Canada’s dominance in cutting-edge outerwear technology
Named after one of the first known flying birds, Vancouver-based Arc’teryx lives up to the reputation of indeed being a rare breed. With a philosophy that is guided by the belief that the strongest path to sustainability is durability, Arc’teryx made its mark in the early '90s with a mountain climbing harness using thermolamination technology. With the addition of the Bora backpack just a few years later, Arc’teryx generated some $126 million dollars in revenue in 2018. Despite the ever-growing practice of outsourcing, Arc’teryx continues to produce gear catered to the outdoor crowd, with some of it still being produced in North Vancouver. Their commitment to technological innovation further proves Canada’s reputation as a leader in cutting edge winter fashion. - EH
For injecting a little personality into the outerwear market
While Moose Knuckles’ name may allude to its nonchalant personality, make no mistake, their commitment to quality is world-class. With a legacy that stretches as far back as the early 1920’s, the brand is on a mission to ensure that its jackets come loaded with personality and warmth— a prerequisite for any self-respecting Canadian outerwear brand. With a diverse range of different styles, their consumers come for the fashion and stay for their technical durability and strength. What makes them even more unique is their deep investment in Canada. With designs coming out of Montreal and jackets being produced in Winnipeg, they are a testament to honouring homegrown production with a global aesthetic - EH
For cementing Canada’s fashion status credibility
Bojana Sentaler’s passion for fashion has been a monumental climb, both literally and figuratively. A brief encounter with designer Karl Lagerfeld propelled the Schulich School of Business graduate into founding the outerwear company that bears her name in 2009. Sentaler’s signature outerwear stands out in the fact that it’s sustainably made from Alpaca wool, an animal native to the Peruvian Andes. While most Canadian outerwear brands tend to focus on technical performance, Sentaler’s appeal is in its luxurious designs that are fitting for any occasion, from your morning commute to a holiday gala. And the world has certainly taken notice. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Kate Middleton, Gigi Hadid, and the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, are among a few of the brand’s clientele, proving that Canadian designers have what it takes to cater to a global consumer. - EH
For always staying loyal to its community
Founded in 1957 by Jewish immigrant Sam Tick, Canada Goose is the example of a true Canadian dream. Headed now by Tick’s grandson Dani Reiss, Canada Goose generated $591.2 million in revenue during its 2018 fiscal year. Outfitting everyone from civilians in New York to Canadian rangers in the North, its down-filled products have circumvented the globe, without losing touch with its roots. Despite obstacles such as minimum wage hikes and growing pressure to outsource its production, Canada Goose continues to manufacture its outerwear on home soil. It has also kept a close relationship with Polar Bears International, and its launch of Inuit designs in 2019 shows that despite its popularity, the brand is committed to keep its base at home with warm jackets, and a warm heart. - EH
October’s Very Own (OVO)
For merging music, sports, and fashion together to create a cultural phenom
When Drake said, “I let Ollie take the owl, told him brand it for me” on the song “NONSTOP”, he was offering a nugget on the backstory of October’s Very Own (OVO). Co-founder Oliver El-Khatib took what he learned from working for Toronto Hip Hop clothing retailer The Lounge (where he and Drake met) to a line of luxury-inspired streetwear, which is projected to reach $50 million in revenue from robust online sales and their seven retail shops across Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The brand has also created coveted pieces through collaborations with Jordan, Canada Goose, Roots, Timberland, and Takashi Murakami. Not limited to clothing, the empire has also expanded to the OVO Sound label and OVO Sound Radio on Apple Music. Of particular note is their partnership with the Toronto Raptors, which includes team gear that can’t be stocked quickly enough (including in-game jerseys), a redesign of the court the team plays on, and a renaming of the Raptors practice facility to the OVO Athletic Centre. - CP
For pioneering fashion’s e-commerce millennial makeover
Co-founded in 2003 (with an e-commerce extension in 2006) by Rami Attalah and his two brothers, SSENSE specializes on selling a mix of luxury and streetwear brands. While the Montreal company has a number of larger competitors, they have a business model that has them moving in their own lane with sales projected to reach 1 billion Canadian dollars by 2020. SSENSE’s strength has been in its ability to harness business in the digital and social media landscape, building the voice of their brand through a strong editorial strategy and catering to the millennial demographic. According to Business of Fashion, SSENSE’s workforce is 70 percent comprised of millennials, while 77 percent of their audience is of the same generation. They’ve further earned the loyalty of emerging designers by taking a chance on them (including now-Louis Vuitton men’s creative director, Virgil Abloh), all of which has proven to be valuable in an industry whose customers are obsessed with access, exclusivity, and newness. - CP
For powering Canada’s cannabis takeover
As more and more businesses continue to expand (or start) their offerings on digital platforms, they can thank Shopify for pioneering much of the progress that has been made in the space. With the platform founded in 2006, the Ottawa-based e-commerce platform has seen incredible growth. A quick run through some of their numbers makes that case: they have 800,000+ merchants in 175 countries, and have 4000+ employees that have helped them reach 100 billion in sales since founding. Toronto became an important part of Shopify’s operations, where they have plans to expand their space to over 500,000 square feet by 2022 and double their workforce. One of their signatures has been a commitment to supporting entrepreneurs through meet-ups, learning opportunities, and workshops (often held in their office spaces). And of particular significance, when cannabis was legalized in Canada, Shopify was selected to handle online and retail sales for provincial governments including Ontario, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland, and Labrador. - CP
For marrying social impact and transparency with our love of the outdoors
MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) curates and sells the best of equipment and clothing for the outdoors. Founded on a retail membership model in 1971, the company has grown to over five million members since. But what’s most impressive is their foundation built on ideals of sustainability and corporate social responsibility: while reporting $455 million in sales and more than 13 million products sold in 2017-18, they also achieved 1.8 million pounds in diverted waste and $4.65 million in community investments. As the conversation around environmental waste rises to a fever pitch, consumers continue to demand radical transparency from the companies that they invest their dollars in. MEC takes accountability to their environmental and ethical goals seriously, reporting on their website what their goals are and how they measure, from how safe their factories are to the sustainability of their products. (They don’t shy away from reporting when those goals haven’t been met, either.) - CP
For helping businesses swipe right on each other
Consider Hubba a social media platform, of sorts, which connects brands and retailers together. The problem Hubba’s founder, Ben Zifkin, set out to solve when the platform was founded in 2011 was making sure that product information was consistent and accurate. At the time, there was no one doing this, leading to puzzling levels of inconsistency about products online. Modeled after LinkedIn, they are now creating connections between more than 50,000 brands and retailers. While there is a “freemium” version, charges for advanced features have Hubba projecting $100 million in profit by 2020. - CP
A Better World
Camaraderie has always been a value associated with Canada. But how do we define it for ourselves today? Is it by social impact? Or perhaps how we build and nurture our communities? Maybe it’s a little bit of both.
Bruce Poon Tip (Founder, G Adventures)
For inspiring responsible travel
Inspired by his personal travels, Bruce Poon Tip founded Toronto-based G Adventures in 1990, a small-group adventure travel company and social enterprise. From its humble roots, it has grown to offer some 200,000 adventure-seeking travellers epic experiences through over 700 different tours in more than 100 countries each year. Known as much for its socially responsible approach to travel as it is for its memory-ingraining experiences, a focus on sustainable travel was a core company value from the start for Poon Tip. Together with his non-profit, Planterra, G Adventures continues to build important social enterprise projects in marginalized communities, supporting the local people and economies of places on their curated travel itineraries. - EN
For cleaning up everyone’s mess
On a per capita basis, Canada produces more trash than the US, and even with our renewed collective eco-consciousness, more than 95 percent of that ends up in landfills or worse. But according to Hassan Murad and Vivek Vyas, 80 percent of it doesn’t have to. One massive step towards solving this problem would be proper sorting at the point of disposal, which is why the co-founders of Intuitive.ai developed OSCAR. Named after Sesame Street’s famous garbage-dweller, the AI-enabled camera (which has seen interest from over 60 businesses, some of them Fortune 500 companies) identifies the trash as people are about to dispose of it and offers on-screen prompts about where to put it. It’s a green solution to an everyday problem that can also have a big financial impact. Companies can save up to $10,000 in the waste auditing process, and brands can leverage the OSCAR logo identification data to offer incentives for recycling. - TB
For charging the fight against global warming
CarbonCure is a true gamechanger. Since 2007, the Canadian startup has reduced the carbon footprint of the construction industry by positioning itself at the forefront of a movement that turns waste carbon dioxide into concrete. Contributing to a more sustainable planet and responding to a demand from producers for green building products, CarbonCure converts CO2 into a mineral and captures it permanently to reinforce cement (while using less resources). A counter on the company’s website reveals its remarkable impact; as of this publishing, it had saved 69.2 million pounds of CO2. And the world is noticing. In late 2018, the company won funding from Breakthrough Energy Ventures (a $1-billion fund led by Bill Gates to invest in world-changing technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions), which is also backed by other business titans, including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Alibaba Group’s Jack Ma. - EN
For tackling Canada’s food waste crisis
As Canada’s largest food rescue charity, Second Harvest has a dual mission of environmental protection and hunger relief. The company recovers perfectly good unsold food that may otherwise see the fate of a landfill and distributes it to social service organizations in Ontario, like seniors’ centres, shelters, and food banks. With the help of 742 donors, enough food for 34,000 meals a day is generated. When greenhouse gas emissions and domestic hunger remain pressing issues, Second Harvest has become a trailblazer and a household name. - EN
What happens when you bring people together? When you foster an ecosystem that cultivates talent and innovation that dares to challenge the status quo? From urban landscapes to the world's next great tech hub, these community builders are masters in the art of collaboration.
Bjarke Ingels (Principal, BIG)
For envisioning a better urban landscape
Bjarke Ingels is not just an architect building another condo. With King Toronto, the principal of Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) is transforming Toronto’s skyline with his convention-defying design. The Danish “starchitect” is known for innovative urban design that incorporates nature to buildings and he's bringing that to Toronto's concrete and glass landscape, showing that the city is attracting major international talent. The stepped cube-shaped building will be a 16-storey, 514 suite development with 50,000 sq. ft. of ground-floor retail space. It’s expected to be completed in 2023 and, according to Ingels, is a “man-made mountain of houses with gardens” that will add a much-needed injection of greenery to downtown Toronto. Notable Ingels projects include Google’s Mountain View campus, designing the new 2 World Trade Center building, and CopenHill, an urban mountain waste-to-energy power plant with a ski hill on top. - DG
Paddy Cosgrave (Founder, Collision and Web Summit)
For harnessing the world’s global tech talent
Paddy Cosgrave took notice of Hogtown’s unparalleled successes in entrepreneurship and tech, and decided to move Collision, the top-tier innovation conference, to Toronto after a residency in New Orleans. While highlighting Canada's tech ecosystem as world-class, the Irish entrepreneur’s conference will inject approximately $147 million to Toronto’s economy over three years. This year (its sixth) saw a noticeably larger production seven times bigger than previous years, and attracted 25,000 attendees. Its 700 speakers included tech giants and global industry leaders as Airbnb, Microsoft, Slack, and Cisco, as well as Prime Minister Trudeau and actor Seth Rogen. - DG
Razor Suleman (CEO and Co-founder, Elevate)
For bolstering Canada’s brightest innovators
When global startups, investors, and household name corporate-types convene at Elevate, you can thank Razor Suleman. He’s the Toronto businessman who co-founded the festival, attracting 10,000 attendees. Elevate has nurtured the city’s homegrown tech community and economy, while promoting Toronto as a prime destination for innovation and creators. Consider it a festival for innovators, by innovators on a mission to create a better future. This year, its third, will feature keynote Commander Chris Hadfield. Past years’ speakers included Al Gore, Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd, and Wyclef Jean. - DG
For cultivating Toronto’s vibrant creative ecosystem
Toronto has long been an incubator of creative talent, having helped launch the careers of many household names you see today. What if it could further support artists with the resources and network needed to unearth talent and foster global reach? Enter HXOUSE. In collaboration with Artscape Daniels Launchpad, the groundbreaking art and design incubator is designed to tap potential, and promote industry innovation, by providing a slew of resources: networks, tools, materials, programming, mentorship, funds. What makes them an expert in cultivating such talent, you ask? The co-founders are La Mar Taylor (the creative director behind The Weeknd/XO brand) and Ahmed Ismail (a sports and entertainment marketer), who together boast an impressive pedigree of experience in the industry. HXOUSE will also be collaborating with OCAD University, and George Brown, to produce an industry-first accredited curriculum. - DG
Walk through the halls of history’s cinematic greats and you’ll find Canada has made valuable contributions, and continues to do so to this day. Today’s crop of thespians and media personalities not only deliver excellence through our screens, but force us to think about the world around us.
Dan Levy (Actor/Writer/Producer, Schitt’s Creek)
For reminding us of Canada’s cinematic excellence
Dan Levy and his famous father Eugene increased Canada's comedy footprint with their hugely successful sitcom Schitt’s Creek. The show caught on immediately, quickly making its way to Netflix and to American cable TV. While it will end after the sixth season, Schitt’s Creek will leave a lasting legacy in terms of expanding the reach of Canadian comedy to American and international audiences and for championing LGBTQ+ storylines and characters, especially with queer relationships through Levy’s character, David Rose. - ED
Simu Liu (Actor, Kim’s Convenience)
For redefining our standards of masculinity
Not only does Simu Liu star on Kim’s Convenience, one of the most groundbreaking shows in Canadian television, he’s also starting powerful conversations about standards of masculinity – especially towards the Asian community. As minority representation in the North American entertainment industry has historically been minimal, Kim’s Convenience features an all-Asian cast and is accumulating a slew of awards. Taking advantage of this platform, Liu smashes stereotypes surrounding his community – including outdated views of Asian men and masculinity, which he dispels one shirtless Instagram photo at a time. His efforts certainly haven’t gone unnoticed. Liu is also the latest face of the iconic Old Spice campaigns. - ED
Sandra Oh (Actor, Killing Eve)
For blazing a trail for women of colour in film
Sandra Oh made it in Hollywood at a time when Asian representation in the entertainment industry was even more glaringly lacking than it is today.) The Canadian actress is now one of the most recognizable faces in television and film. A trailblazer for women of colour in the industry, her star continues to shine bright after her decade-long run on the ever-popular Grey’s Anatomy. All eyes are on Oh in the wake of her recent Golden Globe and Screen Actor’s Guild wins and a groundbreaking Emmy nomination for Killing Eve — a first for an Asian woman. - ED
Ellen Page (Actor, Umbrella Academy)
For being the LGBTQ+ community’s sword and shield
Since her breakthrough role in 2007’s Juno and her accompanying Best Actress Academy Award nomination, Ellen Page has made Canadians proud with her list of TV and film credits – including the current Netflix shows Umbrella Academy and Tales of the City – but also for raising awareness for LGBTQ+ issues. The actress is a passionate advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and creating more space for queer people in TV and film. She shares powerful messages through countless public appearances, and co-hosts the documentary series Gaycation, in which she visits marginalized LGBTQ+ communities globally to shed light on their struggles and fight for equality. - ED
Lilly Singh (YouTube personality; host, A Little Late with Lilly Singh)
For disrupting late night television’s straight, white boy’s club
Lilly Singh catapulted to fame one YouTube subscriber at a time. The Canadian comedian and vlogger created an empire thanks to the social media generation. Taking it a step further, she recently became one of the few women in late-night television – and the only woman of colour who is also queer – with the announcement that she will take over NBC’s late-night slot formerly occupied by Last Call with Carson Daily. In addition to disrupting the boys’ club, she’ll undoubtedly use the platform to continue to address important issues – from abortion rights to female empowerment. - ED
NEW MEDIA MOGULS
Volatile and dynamic, the media landscape has always been about change. As new technologies and platforms arise, these leaders have set forth to challenge how we create, consume, and engage with media (and each other).
Shahrzad Rafati (Founder, BroadbandTV Corp)
For fostering collaboration in the digital media landscape
Observing the dawn of YouTube got Shahrzad Rafati thinking about how to ride the digital wave. Brought up in wartime Iran, Rafati wanted more than a country that shunned women could provide. Landing in Vancouver, she tackled the English language and a comp-sci degree with gusto. BroadbandTV (BBTV) came about as a way to avoid conflict in the digital space; peacemaker software connected potential copyright violators with the video rights holders while securing advertising for both. Since its debut, BBTV has captured over 34 billion monthly views, making it the globe’s third largest video property after, oh, Google and Facebook. Recently Rafati, handpicked by Prime Minister Trudeau, represented Canada on the G20 Business Women Leaders task force, which looks to empower women economically. - KE
Allen Lau (CEO and Co-Founder, Wattpad)
For democratizing the art of great storytelling
A serial entrepreneur and champion of the Canadian startup ecosystem, Allen Lau loves great stories, gadgets, and innovative technology. His platform, Wattpad, partners with the entertainment and publishing industries to turn the best stories with built-in, global audiences into movies, television shows, books and new forms of digital media. Today, what started as a simple reading and story-sharing app has transformed itself into a company changing how entertainment is made. It reportedly raised USD $51 million last year, putting its valuation at USD $400 million, all while connecting a community of more than 70 million readers and writers through the power of story. - CM
Chris Overholt (CEO and President, OverActive Media)
For powering up Canada’s e-sports takeover
A leading voice in the sporting world, Chris Overholt boasts nearly two decades of experience in the elite echelons of the sports industry. Most recently, he served as the Canadian Olympic Committee’s CEO, tasked with oversight and accountability for the Olympic movement in Canada, all COC National Sport Development programs, its Olympic Games preparation and event operations. He now heads OverActive Media, the world’s only e-sports organization to own teams in the three biggest franchised leagues. With pro sports leagues increasingly looking at e-sports as a leader and innovator, Overholt wants to help Toronto make its mark, and he’s combining team ownership with audience engagement to better connect with fans, franchise partners, and corporate sponsors around the world to do it. - CM