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Meet Our 2023 Speakers

FEATURED INDUSTRY EXPERTS

Meet Our 2023 Speakers

FEATURED INDUSTRY EXPERTS

Jan De Silva

President & CEO,

Toronto Region Board of Trade

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Jan De Silva is President and CEO of the Toronto Region Board of Trade, one of the largest and most influential business organizations in North America. She is spearheading efforts to make Toronto one of the most competitive and sought-after business regions in the world.  

 

Jan brings to the role more than 14 years of international CEO experience building ambitious, high-growth organizations. Anchored in her leadership is her belief in the power of economic development to lift communities. 

 

Prior to joining the Board, she served as CEO of Sun Life Financial’s Hong Kong and Mainland China businesses and co-founded and later sold Retail China Limited. Jan also served as Dean of Ivey Asia for Ivey Business School of Western University.

 

Highly respected for her business advocacy and government engagement, Jan has been Chair of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, Chair of the Canada China Business Council in Beijing and served on the Board of the Asian Corporate Governance Association. In 2019, she was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to represent Canada on the APEC Business Advisory Council. Jan also sits on the board of Intact Financial Corporation, listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Jan

Jon Worren

VP, WTC Strategy & Enablement,

Toronto Region Board of Trade

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With 3 startups and 1 IPO under his belt, Jon qualifies as an unreformed entrepreneur. He continues to be excited about opportunities to build and grow new businesses and is passionate about helping leaders navigate the process of growing their companies. At Toronto Board of Trade, Jon leads the World Trade Centre team in building and delivering award winning trade and business growth programs. 

 

Prior to joining the WTC-T, Jon spent 12 years in a variety of leading roles at MaRS, most recently as Lead Executive, Venture & Corporate Programs where he oversaw the development and delivery of programs to both startups and corporate partners, working directly with over 5,000 entrepreneurs and business leaders. Under Jon's tenure, MaRS Venture & Corporate Programs became one of the World's largest entrepreneurship programs, servicing over 10,000 entrepreneurs annually through a suite of in-person and online programs, including the MaRS Startup Toolkit. 

 

While at MaRS, Jon also oversaw the implementation and delivery of the $32.4M Ontario ScaleUp Voucher Program in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Jobs and Trade - one of very few programs to fund essential support for strategic expansion projects for the most promising scaleups in the province. Prior to MaRS, Jon spent 6 years carrying a bag with advisory firm Gartner Inc where he was launching and growing new service offerings in Europe, US and Canada – as part of a world class sales organization. 

 

Hailing from Norway, Jon was a co-founder of Morell Software in Oslo that after a merger had its IPO on Oslo Stock Exchange in 2000. At Morell, Jon was responsible for leading all revenue generating activities. Jon has an MSc in Media & Communication from London School of Economics as well as an MSc in Business and Economics from Norwegian School of Management. He has extensive training and practice in Value Selling and Strategic sales (Miller Heiman). 

JON
ZOHRA

Zohra Jaffer

Senior Manager,

Canadian Immigration Law, KPMG

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Zohra is a highly accomplished Senior Manager within the Canadian immigration practice of KPMG Law LLP, boasting an impressive career spanning nearly a decade in the field of corporate immigration law. With her extensive expertise and profound knowledge, Zohra specializes in handling a wide range of immigration matters, including both temporary and permanent residence cases. Her comprehensive understanding of the intricacies of immigration law enables her to provide invaluable, practical, and business-focused advice to multinational corporations, as well as start-up and scaling companies.

Throughout her career, Zohra has successfully represented numerous clients across various industries, demonstrating her versatility and adaptability in addressing the unique immigration needs of different sectors. She has collaborated closely with organizations in the information technology, financial services, aerospace, oil and gas, and real estate industries, offering tailored solutions that align with their specific requirements.

Zohra's dedication to staying at the forefront of her field is evident through her consistent contribution to the academic and professional community. She is a prolific writer, regularly publishing insightful articles in esteemed journals and magazines related to immigration law. Additionally, Zohra is an esteemed contributor to KPMG's esteemed GMS Flash Alerts publication, sharing her expertise on critical developments and changes in immigration regulations, ensuring that organizations stay well-informed and prepared.

Beyond her professional achievements, Zohra actively participates in community initiatives and plays a vital role in shaping public discourse on immigration matters. She shares her knowledge and insights as a frequent public speaker at industry events, contributing to the ongoing dialogue surrounding immigration policies and their impact on businesses and individuals. Zohra's passion for community engagement reflects her commitment to fostering understanding, inclusivity, and collaboration within a diverse society.

Michael J. Dearden

Co-founder & Partner,

Roseview Global Incubator 

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Mike is a co-founder and partner in Roseview Global Incubator (RGI). He leads the business development and due diligence teams at RGI. As a business mentor, he introduces RGI clients to business planning and a broader understanding of how their business fits in the Canadian economy.

Mike has spent 30 years working in and around the government as a public policy expert. Following senior positions in the Canadian and Ontario governments as an advisor to cabinet ministers and public agency presidents Mike founded his own consulting company specializing in helping businesses understand and work with the public sector.

Working out of the Waterloo Region Mike has helped both established firms and technology start-ups secure funding and program support from the Canadian government to grow their businesses. With a strong appreciation of the resources available to help start-ups go global from inception, Mike has brought practical experience and advice to clients.

Advising the government on the development of specialized funding and support programs for private sector firms that have a high potential for job creation and domestic economic growth both domestically and internationally has been a trademark of Mike’s career. He was instrumental in the creation of a federal funding program designed to match angel investment in early start-ups. His work on behalf of Ontario angel organizations has resulted in the funding of over 30 early-stage companies with a total investment in excess of $40m.

A graduate of the University of Western Ontario in economic and political science Mike has spent his career bringing business and government together for the benefit of both.

MICHAEL

Marc Pepin

Trade Commissioner,

Global Affairs Canada

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With nearly two decades of experience working at Global Affairs Canada, Marc has provided strategic counsel to elected officials and senior deputy heads in policy, issues management and Senior Departmental Advisor roles.

 

In business, Marc has counseled senior leadership teams on key files that advance their organisations government relations and trade policy objectives. Together, this combined experience in government and business allows Marc to advise Foreign Direct Investors in the Financial Service Sector as well as the Artificial Intelligence space. Fluent in English and French, Marc has extensive experience in managing key and sensitive emerging issues while consistently applying political acuity and diplomatic skills.

Marc

Graeme Black

Partner,

KPMG Canada

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Graeme Black is the National Service Line Leader and Canadian Immigration Partner for

KPMG Law’s North American immigration practice.

Graeme is often published in nationally and internationally recognized publications due to his extensive experience with both complex and high-volume in-bound Canadian business immigration matters.

Graeme has over a decade of experience with high volume processing, executive and strategic hires, and immigration advisory strategies and a leader within the start-up visa program. Graeme is a creative problem solver with a strong focus on compliance and forward-thinking strategies.

He also plays a key role in working closely with new or existing businesses on their set up in Canada and with other KPMG professionals to provide a tailored service offering that captures all of the requirements of a new business through a single point of contact.

GRAEME
JOHN

John Rikhtegar

VP Growth Capital,

RBCx

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John works at RBCx; a specialized team within RBC responsible for empowering the Canadian innovation ecosystem. Specifically, John leads RBCx’s direct and venture capital fund investment strategy. In his role, John is responsible for leading deal sourcing, due diligence, and acting as the partner for RBCx-led investments, post-investment.

 

Prior to joining RBC, John was Chief of Staff at a growth stage technology company, where he was responsible for corporate development and revenue operations. Prior to that role, John worked in commercial sales and strategy at Canada’s most successful technology company, after which he moved out to the United Kingdom to launch the European growth arm of a US-based media agency.

 

John is a proud Ottawa-native, HBA graduate from the Ivey Business School, and avid long-distance runner.

KEVIN

Kevin Sterling

President - Toronto Chapter,

Keiretsu Forum Canada

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Kevin is currently President of the Toronto chapter of Keiretsu Forum which is the largest global angel investor group with 60+ chapters in 26 countries and 3,500+ members.

 

Since 2013 Kevin reviews 300+ opportunities per year as an active member of the Keiretsu Academy, Deal Screening Committee, and Due Diligence teams for North American investment opportunities. He is also part of the Senior Advisor Network for Keiretsu Capital and supports international entrepreneurs coming to Canada via the Startup Visa immigration program.

 

Although Kevin graduated with a degree in genetics from Western University, he is a serial entrepreneur that successfully founded and exited multiple companies in a variety of industries (telecom, internet, energy, consumer licensed products) via both IPO and strategic acquisitions.

Kevin is a seasoned marketing executive with experience ranging from start-ups to large corporations who is currently investing and assisting high growth companies with international distribution.

 

Kevin is an active angel investor with 30+ direct investments and 300+ VC fund driven investments into early stage companies across North America.

OZAN

Ozan Isinak

President,

Keiretsu Forum Canada

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Ozan is an active investors and serial entrepreneur with over 25 years of international experience within the angel investment, venture capital and private equity sectors. Based out of Silicon Valley during the first dotcom boom in the 1990’s, Ozan worked closely with Fortune 1000 companies in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Toronto, Hamburg, Stockholm, London and Istanbul. Ozan later acted as General Partner in various angel investment and private equity practices.

Through his career, Ozan has helped over 3,000+ early-stage companies from across the world develop financing structures and expansion strategies. Moreover, he has engaged with incubators and accelerators across the MENA, EU, Asia regions develop their own business models in how to engage with their local early-stage eco-systems.

He is currently the President of Keiretsu Forum Canada, the world’s largest angel investment network operating on four continents. The global network specializes in syndication of deals and invests over $110 million into 300 early-stage companies each year.

Ozan also holds a Partner position in Trendwell Ventures Inc., a Toronto based boutique M&A advisory practice. He actively participates in portfolio investment decisions, venture capital GP duties and helps technology enabled companies scale through hands-on management toward exit transactions.

Ozan received his MBA in Finance from the University of San Francisco – McLaren School of Business in 1998 and holds a double major in Economics & Political Science from the University of Western Ontario (1994). He speaks English, Turkish and French.

Claudio Rojas

CEO,

National Angel Capital Organization

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Claudio Rojas is a seasoned business leader with 16 years of professional experience. As CEO of the National Angel Capital Organization, he leads 4,200 angel investors that have invested $1.54 billion into more than 2,000 entrepreneurial companies.

 

Claudio is a CFA Charterholder with an MBA from the Ivey Business School, JD from Western University and has completed the ICD-Rotman Directors Education Program at the University of Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Ontario, European Corporate Governance Institute and the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD.D). 

CLAUDIO

Amanda Filipe

Director,

National Angel Capital Organization

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Amanda Filipe is a Director at the National Angel Capital Organization where she leads the development of new national initiatives and partnerships designed to bring equity to Canada’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

 

Amanda has held roles in various entrepreneur support organizations including OneEleven and Futurpreneur Canada. She was the Canadian lead for the Global Entrepreneurship Network from 2012 to 2017 and has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours), from the University of Toronto.

Amanda
NEIL

Neil Weitzman

Founder & CEO,

PORCH

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Neil Weitzman is the Founder/CEO of PORCH, an exclusive community for immigrant entrepreneurs, and the Founder of revenue•x, a revenue advisory providing fractional CRO services.

 

Neil shares his time between two passions. The first is his time as a Fractional CRO helping early-stage ​and medium-sized businesses build repeatable and predictable revenue. The other is his deep belief in the power of community, which led him to build PORCH, a community with a mission to help 1,000,000 immigrant entrepreneurs succeed in Canada. 

 

Neil brings 25+ years of learning within B2B SaaS, technology, consulting and data businesses. Before revenue•x and PORCH, Neil was the CRO of RIWI, where he led global sales, marketing, and customer success. Neil’s past roles include SVP of Marketing and Partnerships at Environics Analytics, VP at Deloitte, VP of the Consumer and Analytics Practices at Nielsen, SVP and Managing Partner at Dentsu, and Head of Insights at Rogers.

 

Neil has helped lead companies through different growth stages, including $0-$3M, $3-$6M, $20-$50M, and $100M-$200M. He is a Pavilion Ambassador and the Chair of the Consultant/Advisor group, a Featured Thought Leader with Sales Assembly, a Sales Community Advisor with Gartner, a Scalewise Scale Coach, and a Chartered Marketer through the Canadian Marketing Association. 

 

Neil lives by the POP principles (Passionate, Optimistic, Perseverance) and prides himself on having a perfect say/do ratio.

Hon. Sean Fraser

Minister of Immigration

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The Honourable Sean Fraser was first elected as the Member of Parliament for Central Nova in 2015.

Minister Fraser previously served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance and to the Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance from 2019 to 2021, and as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change from 2018 to 2019. In 2021, he also served concurrently as Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister. Before entering politics, Minister Fraser had a successful legal career with one of Canada’s top-ranked law firms, where he practised commercial litigation and international dispute resolution.

He is a long-time volunteer, having served as the Vice-President of a local branch of the United Nations Association in Canada, acted as a Research Fellow with the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law, and provided pro bono legal services to the local BGC Club and vulnerable community members.

Minister Fraser holds a law degree from Dalhousie University, a Master’s degree in Public International Law from Leiden University in the Netherlands, and a Bachelor of Science from St. Francis Xavier University.

 

Minister Fraser grew up in Pictou County, and has family throughout the Town and County of Antigonish. He enjoys spending time in Central Nova with his wife, Sarah, and their children, Molly and Jack.

SEAN

Ben Hum

President - York Chapter,

Keiretsu Forum Canada

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An award winning serial entrepreneur, Ben is no stranger to the startup world having been involved with a number of early stage companies and organizations.  As an IT professional, Ben was among the Internet pioneers in the mid-90s with launching and exiting his Internet service provider company in Toronto. 

 

With the last 25 years being involved in the technology space, his current roles include Cofounder of ReactForge Inc., Board Member at AR Medical Technologies and Director at Project XIX Creative Hub & Cultural Space.  

 

Fostering a new generation of entrepreneurial and community leaders, Ben serves as York Region Chapter President at Keiretsu Forum Canada; Toronto Chapter President at the North American Association of Asian Professionals and Chair of the Young Entrepreneur Group at the Association of Chinese Canadian Entrepreneur.

 

An invaluable advisor by some and a leadership chiropractor to others, no matter how Ben is described, clients and partners regularly welcome the impact and benefits that result from their work together.

BEN

Jennifer Renda

Partner,

Kanata Ventures

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Jennifer is a serial entrepreneur with extensive knowledge of the Technology and Consumer Electronics industries, where she has more than 15 years of experience.  Following a successful exit, she founded her most recent company, which collaborates with OEMs to execute market emergence, growth and support functions within North America.

Jennifer has grown her investment portfolio to include primarily MedTech, HealthTech and early-stage Life Sciences opportunities, where she aims to maintain an active investor role.   She is a member of the York Angel Investors network which provides a supportive linkage between investors and entrepreneurs seeking early- and mid-stage capital and was recognized as York Angel Investors Angel of the Year in 2019.  Her membership extends to Halo Health, who’s mission is to connect Health Tech founders and Physicians for early-stage health tech ventures.   She is also a partner at Kanata Ventures, investing in high-growth enterprise tech companies globally and connecting them to corporate partners in North America.  Jennifer currently sits on the Board of Directors at both York Angel Investors and Kanata Ventures.

Collaborating within the global startup and scaleup communities is a genuine passion for Jennifer and she actively supports these ecosystems.  She continues to promote and support the accessibility of outstanding opportunities to scale globally as she believes brilliance knows no boundaries.    

 

Jennifer is a graduate of the University of Toronto and holds an MBA from the Schulich School of Business with a focus on Entrepreneurial Studies, Finance and Strategy.

Jen
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