Math alum and start-up founder Ian MacKinnon will visit campus for an “Ask Me Anything” session next Monday, kicking off the first in a new Entrepreneurship and Impact Series from the Math Innovation Office.
Each month, the series will feature a speaker who has used their background in math or computer science to build an exciting career. While the different guests’ trajectories may vary – some have founded start-ups, others have invented market-changing products, and others have revolutionized existing companies from the inside – they are united both by their innovation and their close ties to the University of Waterloo.
MacKinnon, next week’s speaker, earned both his BMath and MMath in Computer Science from the University of Waterloo. He is most well-known, however, as the founder and CTO of Later.com, a social media and visual marketing platform with over five million of the world’s top brands and agencies as users. MacKinnon has seen Later.com grow from an idea at a hackathon in 2014 to its 2022 purchase by Mavrck. Today, he continues to work as CTO, overseeing the engineering team in its software development efforts as well as spearheading its machine learning and data science initiatives.
MacKinnon is the natural choice for the inaugural speaker of the Entrepreneurship and Impact Series because he made it possible: last fall, his generous gift to the Math Innovation Office helped establish the Math Entrepreneurship Fund, which will support student ventures and creativity. The speaker series is one such result of this fund.
The goal of the series, explains Lauren Hartman, Senior Development Officer, is to get students excited about their own career possibilities by empowering them to build connections not only with community innovators but also with their fellow students. With that in mind, each event will feature an opportunity for students to ask the invited speaker questions, followed by a networking reception. While future speakers have not yet been announced, Hartman notes, the Math Innovation Office has made a core commitment to “providing examples of diverse entrepreneurs so that our diverse student population could see themselves in them.”
The Math Innovation Office hopes that the Entrepreneurship and Impact series will become a regular occurrence throughout the year, creating regular opportunities for relationship-building between students and alumni.
“We have lots of alumni who have been successful entrepreneurs, and we want to connect them with current students who might want to follow the same path,” says Charles Clarke, Associate Dean for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “But beyond that, the series title includes “impact” because we want to help students discover that there are a lot of ways to make an impact on the world besides just making money.”