These Canadian Entrepreneurs could be inspirational for many young students. The most interesting entrepreneurs all have one thing in common: vision. The founders, CEOs, scientists and senior leaders who made this year’s list represent some of the country’s most brilliant minds.
And they are creating innovative products and services that are changing the way we live, learn, move, save and even sleep — for the better. From maglevs flying across the Toronto Zoo to mapping the entire African continent, these entrepreneurs will put Canada’s tech scene on the world stage in the coming year.
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Jon Lipinski maps every corner of the world
How: It’s hard to deliver vaccines, rebuild after a hurricane or teach a self-driving car where to go, if you don’t have a map. This is where Jon’s startup Ecopia comes in. The quickly-growing company uses AI to produce commercial-grade high-definition maps — millions of kilometres worth every month — to help governments, NGOs, as well as telecommunication and insurance companies make better data-driven decisions. Ecopia has already mapped each of the 169 million buildings across the United States, and is working with AVIN at MaRS to create the first high-definition map of the Kitchener-Waterloo region for self-driving cars.
What’s next: Along with co-founders Yuanming Shu and Shuo Tan, Jon is embarking on a bold initiative to create the first digital map of all buildings, roads and forests across Africa. This map could be transformative. It can be used to optimize the distribution of vaccines (in places they are still relying on hand-drawn maps), plan and deploy renewable energy infrastructure as well as monitor and police deforestation.
Xue Wu leads the fight against cancer
How: Since 2008, Geneseeq has been a pioneer in the field of precision medicine. Using Next Generation Sequencing technologies, Xue and her team can check if particular cancer treatments will work given a patient’s individual genetic makeup.
What’s next: Xue’s team is building a new R&D centre in Nanjing, China and are close to finalizing some key deals.
Hamid Arabzadeh delivers the data — faster, leaner and greener
How: It’s important to remember that the miracle of high-speed data transfer comes with a massive cost to the environment via GHG emissions. Through his company Ranovus, Hamid has developed a patented laser technology with 40 times the capacity of regular fibre optic cables and a fraction of the carbon footprint.
What’s next: This year, Hamid has every intention to dominate the data transfer market, buoyed by major public and private partners, as well as a shiny new R&D facility.
Jodie Morgan transforms our trash
How: Canada has a plastic problem. A recent report found that only nine percent of plastics are actually recycled in this country, the rest sent to landfill, incinerated, dumped in our waterways or thrown away as litter. Since 2010, Jodie has been on a mission to fix that. Through her work as CEO at GreenMantra, which transforms plastics into synthetic waxes, polymer additives and other chemicals, Morgan has become a trailblazer in creating a market for recyclable plastic — an important step in building a more circular economy.
What’s next: Finding ways to upcycle base materials rather than create more single-use plastics is becoming more and more pressing (the plastic patch in the Pacific Ocean is estimated to be double the size of Texas). As one small part of the solution, GreenMantra is opening a new production line in 2020 to convert discarded polystyrene into chemical monomer, a molecule that can be used to create new polymers.
Rob Douglas unlocks the secret to physical security
How: Imagine a future where you could safely access your car, apartment, workplace — you name it — all with a retinal scan on your phone. But, of course, you’re already living in it thanks to Rob. He’s the founder and CEO of BioConnect, a world-leading startup providing physical security to clients like Microsoft, Nike and the Philadelphia Flyers.
What’s next: BioConnect has big plans for 2020, having just launched BioConnect Labs, an innovation hub bringing together partners, scientists and government officials to advance biometric security.
Mallorie Brodie makes building a cinch
How: Along with her co-founder Lauren Lake, Mallorie has found a way to streamline the cumbersome construction process. Bridgit Solutions’ real-time app allows contractors to log and track tasks, post photos and share important details with others involved in the project. Last March, the Kitchener-Waterloo-based company raised $7.75 million in a Series A funding round and is poised for another big year.
What’s next: In 2020, Bridgit Solutions is opening an office in Toronto. (A smart move, given the city’s never-ending condo explosion.)
Alexandra Philp Reeves and Anna Melnyk tackle mental health stigma
How: In a 2016 study, researchers found that more than one in three students in Canada feel psychologically distressed. And 20 percent of teens said they didn’t know where to turn to help. The truth is, despite all the public service campaigns, there’s still a stigma about talking openly about mental health concerns. EmojiHealth, led by Alexandra and Anna, is trying to start that conversation. Through AI-enabled chatbots using emojis and casual conversation, the app nudges users to engage in subjects they might not be comfortable discussing with others.
What’s next: Alexandra and Anna were just 17 year old — still in high school — when they started EmojiHealth. Given their track record at such an impressive age, it’ll be exciting to see what they do next.
Anna Chif sends employees a healthy dose of benefits
How: When Anna founded her startup, Dialogue, her mission was twofold — provide affordable virtual healthcare benefits for employees and, in the process, help employers by making them a coveted, competitive draw for top talent. And she did just that.
What’s next: Dialogue recently announced it would be partnering with Doctor On Demand to offer virtual healthcare to Canadian employees visiting the U.S., representing a userbase of more than 300,000.