Entrepreneurship and Impact Series

abstract background image with pink, purple, and bluish tones with pictures of a female speaker, a crowd, and people shaking hands. Titled: Entrepreneurship Speaker Series

The Math Innovation Office is proud to host the Entrepreneurship and Impact Series bringing experienced, successful entrepreneurs to UWaterloo to share their stories and inspire students. This series will feature an impressive lineup of speakers who have used their backgrounds in mathematics and computer science to create startups, build innovative products, and forge their own paths to success. 

Beginning in January 2023, a monthly speaker will be featured and invited to share their advice and experiences on how to apply mathematical skills to create real-world solutions. After the talk, there will be a networking session featuring snacks and refreshments and allow the opportunity to meet fellow students/faculty with similar interests and entrepreneurial experiences or aspirations. 

* Please note that there will be flash photography during the event*

Upcoming Speakers

Upcoming speakers for the Entrepreneurship and Impact Series feature Faculty of Math Alumni and successful entrepreneurs.

Past Speakers

January 2023: Ian MacKinnon

Ian MacKinnon is the founder and CTO of Later.com. Founded in 2014 at a hackathon, Later has grown to become the leading social media and visual marketing platform with over five million of the world's top brands and agencies as users. In April 2022, Later was acquired by Mavrck to create the ultimate creator marketing platform.

At Later/Mavrck, Ian continues his responsibilities as CTO, overseeing the engineering team in its software development efforts as well as spearheading its machine learning and data science initiatives. Ian has a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Waterloo and has previously worked at SAP and Google before joining the Vancouver Startup scene. 

February 2023: Robert Madej

Robert Madej is the Founder and CEO of PureFacts Financial Solutions, a leading provider of end-to-end revenue management software for the wealth and asset management industry. A graduate from the University of Waterloo, Robert has his BMATH, Pure Mathematics (1992) and his MMATH, Pure Mathematics (1994) and is an advocate for encouraging more pure mathematicians to innovate in the entrepreneurial space.

Robert founded PureFacts in 1997 with a vision for worldwide wealth. More than two decades later, he continues to be humbled by PureFacts’ journey. With offices in Canada, the USA, and Europe, the company’s mission is to create meaningful solutions for wealth and asset managers so they can help their investors live their best lives and grow their firms. Today, PureFacts supports the revenue growth of over 100 clients with its fee calculation platform, revenue management tools, and insightful, AI-powered, reporting. For its solution and service delivery, PureFacts has been recognized as a top FinTech solution, receiving the WealthTech100, AIFinTech100, and ESGFinTech100 awards.  

March 2023: Natalie Gordon

Natalie graduated from the Faculty of Mathematics with a major in Computer Science in 2004. She worked as a software engineer for a number of years before starting her first company. Natalie is the founder and CEO of Babylist, the leading vertical marketplace and commerce destination for babies. The idea for Babylist sparked in 2011 while Natalie was pregnant with her first child and realized the registries on the market lacked guidance and gifting options. Since its launch, Natalie has scaled Babylist as a profitable and sustainable business that’s now the trusted go-to solution for growing families and the gift-givers that love and support them. With multiple revenue streams across commerce and advertising, Babylist drives hundreds of millions of dollars into the $67 billion baby products economy each year. 

April 2023: Steven Woods

Steven has worked in software development, research and technical leadership for more than 30 years. As co-founder of three software and services companies based in the USA (Quack.com, Kinitos, NeoEdge Networks), he built strong, high-performing teams of product and technical experts based in both Silicon Valley and the Waterloo-Toronto tech corridor.  One of these companies - Quack.com - pioneered the world's first interactive voice assistant and was acquired by Netscape/America Online in 2000.

Steven holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Saskatchewan and a Masters and PhD in Computer Science (Mathematics) from the University of Waterloo. Among numerous awards, Steven received the prestigious JW Graham Medal in Computing and Innovation from the University of Waterloo in 2010 and was recognized with a Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Saskatchewan in 2021.

June 2023: Ray Reddy

Ray Reddy is currently the co-founder & CEO of Ritual - the order ahead app that taps networks of co-workers and colleagues for fast and easy pick up and pay at a wide variety of local restaurants and coffee shops.

Prior to Ritual, Ray co-founded mobile commerce company PushLife that was acquired by Google in 2011. At Google, Ray led mobile product management for shopping and commerce. It was while at Google that Ray saw the potential to better leverage a social application to unlock mobile commerce and thus, Ritual was born.

Ray has a Bachelor of Math in Computer Science (2004) and a Masters of Business, Entrepreneurship & Technology (MBET) (2005) from the University of Waterloo.

June 2023: Maya Ackerman

Maya Ackerman is a renowned researcher in generative AI and CEO & Co-founder of musical AI startup, WaveAI. A pioneer in the space, Ackerman has been researching generative AI models for text, music and art since 2014. She was an early advocate for human-centered generative AI, bringing awareness to the power of AI to profoundly elevate human creativity. As CEO of WaveAI, Maya has led the company to serve millions of musicians and creators across the globe through the generative AI music tools LyricStudio and MelodyStudio, democratizing music creation and resulting in top-charting hits. Named “Woman of Influence” by the Silicon Valley Business Journal, interviews with Dr. Ackerman appear on NBC News, Forbes, New Scientist, NPR, SiriusXM and international television stations across the globe. A sought-after speaker, she appeared on many top stages, including the United Nations, IBM Research, Microsoft and Stanford University. Dr. Ackerman is the recipient of awards from the Association of Computational Creativity, Office of Naval Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and more.

Maya got all three of her degrees at the University of Waterloo, starting with an undergraduate double major in Computer Science and Combinators & Optimization. Next, she completed her Masters of Mathematics in Computer Science, followed by a PhD with a thesis titled "Towards Theoretical Foundations of Cluster Analysis." During her studies, she had also learned how to sing opera, becoming a semi-professional musician, which ended up playing a pivotal role in her entrepreneurial journey.  Following her education, Ackerman held postdoctoral fellowships at Caltech and UC San Diego. In addition to her role as CEO & Co-founder of WaveAI, Ackerman is also a tenured Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Department at Santa Clara University.

September 2023: Gabriel Chan

Gabriel Chan of the Hong Kong Blockchain Society (HKBCS) gave a talk titled:

“Evolution, not Revolution: AI, Blockchain, and all the Buzzwords in Building the Regulated Web3 World”

This talk explores the potential of emerging technologies in building a regulated Web3 world. The speaker argues that while buzzwords such as AI and blockchain have gained significant attention in recent years, they are not the only technologies that will shape the future of the Web. Rather, the speaker posits that a combination of ongoing technological evolution and a shift towards regulation are key to building a sustainable and trustworthy Web3 ecosystem. The talk examines the challenges and opportunities involved in building a regulated Web3 world, including the need for interoperability and standards, the role of decentralized governance, and the importance of balancing innovation with regulatory compliance. The speaker draws on real-world examples and case studies to illustrate the potential of emerging technologies in building a Web3 world that is both innovative and accountable. Overall, the talk provides an insightful and thought-provoking perspective on the future of the Web and the role of emerging technologies in shaping it.

September 2023: Abid Dobani

Abid Dobani is a Senior Executive in the finance industry with twenty years of global capital markets experience spanning roles across investment banking, equity research and derivative trading and sales. Currently he is the Managing Director and Head of Portfolio Management, Execution and Strategy for the Royal Bank of Canada’s Corporate Treasury. In this capacity, Abid heads a team that manages a team of data scientists and traders who hedge the bank's interest rate, foreign exchange, employee pension and equity-related risks embedded in the balance sheet.

Abid is a graduate of the University of Waterloo’s Mathematics program and has a Masters in Administration from MIT. 

He and his wife Farah (a developmental clinical psychologist) are passionate advocates for accessible children’s mental health services.

Abid resides in Toronto and spends his free time enjoying sports with his three children.

October 2023: Student Takeover

Jason Amri

Jason is the co-founder of 3cycle, a UW-based social venture working to close the loop on 3D-printed waste. He is a 4th Computer Science and Business Student with over a decade of experience with 3D printing. Jason has past experiences in Tech Strategy and Management Consulting across startups and large enterprises. He's passionate about finding innovative solutions to address the big problems facing our world.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah is a 2nd-year Computer Science student and VP of Technology of 3cycle. She's a 2022 Schulich Leader and recent Hack the North Finalist. Sarah is passionate about student advocacy, sustainability, and building innovative technology to solve social issues around the world, finding herself at various hackathons and social events advocating for underrepresented minorities in tech.

November 2023: StarterHacks

Marium Kirmani

A graduate of Health Studies, Marium is co-founder of StarterHacks, a non-profit with a mission to make the tech industry more inclusive. She is dedicated to fostering creativity, collaboration, and entrepreneurship among youth, and outside of StarterHacks, Marium expands this passion to the larger tech and innovation community as Program Manager at Elevate Festival and CIX. 

William Nippard

Will is a Math graduate, having studied Computer Science at the University of Waterloo. He currently works 9-5 at Manulife as a Senior Engineering Manager and spends his free time working on StarterHacks, running education events to introduce beginners to technology.

January 2024: Fahim Ahmed

Fahim Ahmed is an early miner of Ethereum and created Waterloo Blockchain, a non-profit that’s focused on education and onboarding users into blockchain, hosting over 50+ events including a hackathon of 205 students and 38 project submissions. Fahim has worked as a SWE at Axelar, building a smart contract bridge to connect blockchains together and spearheaded a dashboard analyzing users in Axelar's network of over 5k+ lines of SQL that hit the front page of Dune.

Fahim is currently a third year Computer Science student at the University of Waterloo and is researching ZK proofs in Machine Learning under professor Sergey Gorbunov.

February 2024: Bonnie Foley-Wong

Bonnie Foley-Wong helps leaders strategically plan for the future and make informed and empathetic decisions. She currently leads Sustainable Investment in Canada at Mercer, one of the world’s largest investment consulting and asset management firms. 

Bonnie is a member of the Direct Investment Committee of The Atmospheric Fund, an organization which invests in urban solutions to reduce greenhouse gases. Bonnie founded Pique Ventures and is a founding investor in Pique Fund, which invested in eight women-led technology ventures and realized two exits to date. She received a University of Waterloo Faculty of Mathematics Alumni Achievement Award, a Startup Canada Entrepreneur Promotion Award, and a YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in recognition of Pique Ventures’ impact. 

Bonnie led investment strategy for a not-for-profit’s $300M investment program, financed over $1 billion dollars in private capital in Europe and North America, and advised business leaders as a corporate finance advisor and auditor. She is the author of Integrated Investing: Impact Investing with Head, Heart, Body, and Soul and has been published in Business Insider, Inc., Forbes, and Huffington Post.

March 2024: Jeff Shiner

Jeff Shiner is the CEO of 1Password, a leader in human-centric security. Since joining 1Password in 2012, Jeff has grown the company from 20 people to a 1,000+-person global organization with a $9 billion valuation. Today, 1Password enables over 100,000 businesses and millions of individuals to navigate the online world without fear or friction. The company has been recognized on the Forbes Cloud 100 list and Quartz’s Best Companies for Remote Workers. Prior to joining 1Password, Jeff held leadership roles at IBM Canada and Rosetta. Jeff serves on the Board of Directors of GenomOncology, a company that provides the healthcare community with data-driven insights to improve cancer care.

Jeff is a noted speaker at events like Web Summit, Collision, and the C100. He also provides regular commentary to top-tier publications like Fast Company, Forbes, ZDNet, and VentureBeat, among others. When he’s not busy being a CEO, Jeff enjoys watching the 49ers and spending time on his tractor.

Topics - High profile business news, business product launches, thought leadership, futurist perspectives, comment on industry and market news

April 2024: Mark Malchiondo

Mark Malchiondo is a founder and VP Engineering at ecobee. Founded in 2007 with the launch of the worlds first Wi-Fi enabled thermostat in 2009.  ecobee has grown to over 600 employees and is a leading manufacturer of smart thermostat and smart security products.  ecobee has received many industry awards in innovation and green tech. In 2021 ecobee was acquired by Generac Holdings Inc, a world leader in backup power systems. Prior to ecobee Mark was a founder in 2 other tech startups.

Mark has a Bachelor of Math in Computer Science from University of Waterloo.