Venture Capital

NACO Names Claudio Rojas as Chief Executive Officer

 

NACO Names Claudio Rojas as Chief Executive Officer

TORONTO, ON April 26, 2019 – The National Angel Capital Organization (“NACO”) today announces the appointment of Claudio Rojas as its new Chief Executive Officer. As Canada’s entrepreneurial ecosystem evolves from start-up to scale-up, Claudio is stepping into the leadership ranks of Canada’s only national industry association focused on improving access to critical early-stage capital and mentorship for Canadian entrepreneurs. 

Claudio Rojas, Chief Executive Officer at NACO Canada

Claudio Rojas, Chief Executive Officer at NACO Canada

Building upon NACO’s exceptional achievements under the leadership of Yuri Navarro, there is an opportunity to increase our level of collaboration with other organizations impacting Canadian entrepreneurial activity. It is vital to continue to bridge and grow Canada’s innovation ecosystem by increasing diversity, inclusion and representation at all levels. 

“NACO is uniquely positioned to unlock the early-stage capital and mentorship that our founders need to grow and scale more rapidly”

Industry leaders across Canada are coming together to build a business community that better reflects our population, including supporting women in STEM. NACO’s mandate is to accelerate the pace of change to usher in a more diverse and inclusive economy. 

“As a national organization with a long history of helping to professionalize angel capital investing into Canadian companies, NACO is uniquely positioned to unlock the early-stage capital and mentorship that our founders need to grow and scale more rapidly,” says Rojas. “I’m excited to have an amazing operational team and the guidance of our highly accomplished board to bring transformative and positive change in a wide range of areas that will impact our ability to create, grow and scale innovative companies in Canada.”

“… we are lucky to have someone that is both well-known in the NACO community, yet brings a new vision” Sandi Gilbert, Chair at NACO

Rojas has held the roles of founder, managing director, board member, steering committee member and advisor to several prominent organizations helping to advance Canada’s vibrant innovation ecosystem. He brings over 14 years of experience in finance, law and business, along with a long-term entrepreneurial mindset and thought leadership on founder-run companies. 

“The NACO Board of Directors is thrilled to have Claudio join the NACO team,” says Sandi Gilbert, Chair of NACO’s Board of Directors. “Claudio brings a broad set of skills to our organization and we are lucky to have someone that is both well-known in the NACO community, yet brings a new vision of how we can increase collaboration and partnerships with governments at all levels and other stakeholders to benefit our membership of angels, incubators and accelerators.” 

“I’m passionate about helping Canadian founders scale their companies into global champions” Claudio Rojas, CEO at NACO

Rojas holds an MBA from the Ivey Business School, Juris Doctor from the Faculty of Law at Western University, has achieved all three levels of the CFA examinations, is a practitioner member of the European Corporate Governance Institute, and is a lawyer member of the Bar of Ontario, Canada.

“I’m passionate about helping Canadian founders scale their companies into global champions,” said Rojas. “We have extraordinary entrepreneurs across the country working tirelessly to build companies that will create the next wave of good paying jobs for Canadians. Beyond capital, angel investors bring critical resources that our founders need to scale, particularly mentorship, experience and connections to industry. NACO is Canada’s leading organization helping to unlock the early-stage resources that Canadian companies need to grow and scale globally.” 

For more information about NACO, please visit www.nacocanada.com.

About NACO

The National Angel Capital Organization (NACO) is committed to advancing a thriving, early-stage entrepreneurial ecosystem in Canada. NACO provides intelligence, best practices, tools and resources to its members to unlock the angel capital funding and mentorship that is critical to helping Canadian founders to grow and scale their companies globally.

In Canada, if you work hard anything is possible: Minister Ng


The Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion helps entrepreneurs create prosperity through trade and innovation, particularly through the promotion of export opportunities for Canadian small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

The Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion helps entrepreneurs create prosperity through trade and innovation, particularly through the promotion of export opportunities for Canadian small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

1.     When you reflect upon your career path, is there a defining moment that influenced where you are today? 

 …in Canada, if you work hard anything is possible. 

Like so many Canadians, I am an immigrant. My parents were entrepreneurs who believed that, in Canada, if you work hard anything is possible. 

 

They ran a small business – a Chinese food restaurant  – where my siblings and I would often help out after school.

 

One day, when I was 14 years old, I was at the restaurant watching the small black and white TV that was always playing in the background. 

 

I remember seeing that now iconic scene of Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau and Queen Elizabeth signing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

 Canada is considered one of the most entrepreneurial countries in the world. 

Even as a teenager, I knew this was an important moment for our country and that the Charter meant that I was equal. That even though I was a woman and an immigrant, that I had the same rights as anyone else.

 

My parents’ story and the signing of the Charter  were defining moments for me. I knew then, that I wanted to give back to the country that had given so much to me and my family. 

 

And 25 years later, I am honoured to be the Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion for a government that still knows that diversity is our strength. 

 

… government has helped fuel our talented innovative companies to grow and succeed both in Canada and around the world.


2.     Canada’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is vibrant and rapidly expanding. Looking back, which factors in your view have driven this expansion? What do you think can be done to accelerate this further? 

 

Canada is considered one of the most entrepreneurial countries in the world. Make no mistake, this is due to the talent of our people and pioneering spirit of our innovative companies. 

 

In recent years we have seen the convergence of growing support for entrepreneurship across grassroots, educational, and financial institutions. We have also seen incredible growth and development of our venture capital industry, angel networks, and business incubators and accelerators across the country. These developments, combined with unprecedented investments from government has helped fuel our talented innovative companies to grow and succeed both in Canada and around the world.

 

For its part, our government has played a supportive role, helping our entrepreneurs start up, scale up and access new markets. We have done this with our Innovation and Skills Plan, a plan to keep Canada competitive. 

 

We are decreasing red tape, building ecosystems of industrial strength, investing in venture capital and making historic investments in science. 

 

Much has been accomplished but better is always possible. Particularly, Canada’s intellectual property (IP) assets can be enhanced and we should be exporting much more than we are and to diverse markets. 

 

If we enhance our IP and get more small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) exporting, more Canadian companies will scale to new heights. 

Our global brand is strong again and the world wants more Canada.  

 

3.     Canadian Dream Summit aspires to a Canada where everyone is able to pursue and achieve their greatest ambitions. Three principles guide us: #VisionToReality, #CollaborateLocal, #DreamGlobal. Which one of these resonates the most with your work? 

 

As Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion, #DreamGlobal really speaks to me. We have 1.1 million SMBs that are innovating and breaking new ground every day. 

 

Our global brand is strong again and the world wants more Canada.  We now have access to 1.5 billion customers in 51 countries with our 14 trade deals. Despite this, only 12% of Canadian SMBs are exporting. Our government wants to change that. In fact, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has committed to increasing our overseas exports by 50% by 2025.  

 

My job is to help Canadian companies become export ready and we are investing $1.1 billion to achieve just that.  

The three most recent trade agreements, new NAFTA, CETA with Europe, and CPTPP with Asia Pacific nations all give considerations to SMBs, IP and digital commerce.  


4.     If you had three wishes for Canada’s entrepreneurial ecosystem in 2019, what would they be and who would they impact? 


My wish is that every entrepreneur and every SMB visits innovation.canada.ca. This website is a one-stop-shop where you enter a few details about your company and then get a tailored list of government programs and investments you could be eligible for. I would like to see more Canadian entrepreneurs take advantage of this 

 

I would also tell all Canadians and the world, that Canada is a great place to invest. With a thriving venture capital industry and professional angel networks across the country, I would love to see more Canadian and international investment in Canada’s most promising high-growth companies in areas such as ICT, cleantech, and health sciences, and in more regions and more women-owned companies across Canada. 

 

Most of all, I’d wish that more SMBs took advantage of our trade agreements and looked into exporting to diverse markets. The three most recent trade agreements, new NAFTA, CETA with Europe, and CPTPP with Asia Pacific nations all give considerations to SMBs, IP and digital commerce. 


 I would like to see continued improvements in the number of women-owned SME’s, women in STEM, and women in venture capital in Canada.

 

5.     What do you see as a significant area of untapped opportunity for Canadian entrepreneurs? 

Export and IP were previously mentioned as untapped areas of opportunity for Canadian entrepreneurs but I would also like to see more Canadian entrepreneurs, from all regions and backgrounds, tap into our world class incubators and accelerators and our ever-growing risk capital industry. 

I would also like to see more Canadian businesses scale in some of Canada’s key areas of economic strength such as advanced manufacturing, agri-food, clean technology, digital industries, health/bio-sciences and resources of the future. Our government created six Economic Strategy tables to support innovation in these areas.

Lastly, our government continues to be a champion of promoting more diversity across Canada’s entrepreneurial ecosystem through our Women Entrepreneurship Strategy. Reports have suggested that a lack of participation of women in the economy could be costing upwards of $150 billion dollars. Additionally, we have seen that gender-balanced and diverse companies regularly outperform their counterparts. Canada’s industry organizations have made great strides in recognizing the importance of gender balance and diversity in a successful ecosystem and I would like to see continued improvements in the number of women-owned SME’s, women in STEM, and women in venture capital in Canada.

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Minister Ng will be speaking at Canadian Dream Summit on February 19th in Toronto. To reserve a ticket, click here.

#DreamGlobal #BuildtoGreatness: Abdullah Snobar, The DMZ

ABDULLAH SNOBAR, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE DMZ     Responsible for the strategic direction and continued growth of the DMZ, he leads in helping Canada's most promising startups scale their companies and create innovative technology that changes lives. DMZ is a world leading tech accelerator.

ABDULLAH SNOBAR, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE DMZ

Responsible for the strategic direction and continued growth of the DMZ, he leads in helping Canada's most promising startups scale their companies and create innovative technology that changes lives. DMZ is a world leading tech accelerator.


1. When you reflect upon your career path, is there a defining moment that influenced where you are today?


A defining moment for me was moving from London to Toronto in 2005.


2. Canada’s tech ecosystem is vibrant and rapidly expanding. Looking back, which factors in your view have driven this expansion?


From the DMZ’s perspective, I would say our organization’s values: founders first, equity over everything and be great,  are contributing factors to the expansion.

What do you think can be done to accelerate this further?

A stronger global perspective

A stronger focus on putting founders first

Increased stakeholder support from corporates and all levels of government


3. Canadian Dream Summit aspires to a Canada where everyone is able to pursue and achieve their greatest ambitions. Three principles guide us: #VisionToReality, #CollaborateLocal, #DreamGlobal. Which one of these resonates the most with your work?


#DreamGlobal #BuildtoGreatness

4. If you had three wishes for Canada’s tech ecosystem in 2019, what would they be and who would they impact?

My three wishes for Canada’s tech ecosystem in 2019 would be:

  1. Create more Canada’s unicorn startups.

  2. Double down on talent.

  3. Become a less risk-averse innovation economy.


5. What do you see as a significant area of untapped opportunity for Canadian tech?

We have all the ingredients to be the best in the world. It’s time to take risks, believe in ourselves and sell the Canadian story to the globally.

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Abdullah Snobar, Executive Director at The DMZ, will be speaking at Canadian Dream Summit on February 19th in Toronto. To reserve a ticket, click here.

Yung Wu, MaRS CEO: Inertia Kills – Speed wins

MaRS Yung Wu - Twitter 1024 x 512 - Canadian Dream Summit 0.jpg

Yung Wu is CEO at MaRS Discovery District. Under his leadership, the companies MaRS supports are advancing prosperity through entrepreneurial achievement. Located in Toronto, Canada, MaRS is the world’s largest urban innovation hub.

1.     When you reflect upon your career path, is there a defining moment that influenced where you are today? 

I have been fortunate to have had more than my fair share of wins along the way over a multi-decade career as a serial entrepreneur. But without exception, my most transformative, defining moments always occurred when being tested in major challenges without a safety line. Whether it was surviving the Tech bust, or the crash of the financial services sector after 9/11, or the Great Recession in 2007 … these perfect storms were the catalyst for huge personal and corporate transformations – they were change or die moments, and without exception, the driving factors were externalities that were outside the scope of anyone’s control. Each time, we came out better, faster, smarter and tougher.  And the lessons that came from each of those experiences form the core of my worldview – even today.  

Cycles are an inevitable force of nature, and when you’ve been in business long enough, you’re going to encounter them – many of them.  

It’s not about IP, or product-market fit or smart strategy – those are table stakes just to be in the game. Certainly not about “fail fast”.  It’s about how you learn, adapt and pivot fast. And that “NFQ” factor - being willing to put everything on the line, just to outlast the inevitable cycles.  Navigating that razor’s edge is the difference maker between massive failure or stellar long term success, both of which are simply two different points on the same continuum.  What it taught me was the power of always having choices when times are tough, and creating those choices by assembling dry powder and building relationships, making more deposits than withdrawals when times are good.  It also taught me that inertia kills and speed wins.

2.    Canada’s tech ecosystem is vibrant and rapidly expanding. Looking back, which factors in your view have driven this expansion?


Factors are: (i) Brain Gain with Transformational Talent; (ii) Rise of AI; (iii) First generation serial entrepreneurs returning to reinvest into the community; (iv) Lengthy 10 year favourable economic cycle (v) Power of an Ecosystem working at scale. The density of ecosystems like MaRS (now the largest urban innovation hub in North America) is creating a virtuous circle, attracting a connected value chain for all of the ingredients that fuel entrepreneurial success. Crucially, this takes out transaction costs and drives down decision inertia for entrepreneurs. 
Inertia Kills – Speed wins.  

 We have an opportunity to build global powerhouse companies that can win on a world stage – Yung Wu, CEO at MaRS

3.     Canadian Dream Summit aspires to a Canada where everyone is able to pursue and achieve their greatest ambitions. Three principles guide us: #VisionToReality, #CollaborateLocal, #DreamGlobal. Which one of these resonates the most with your work? 


#DreamGlobal–Canada is home to great innovators, but let’s be clear.  We are a small market. We must pursue global markets (outside of North America) if we are to create sustainable economic advantage for Canada going forward. Geo-economic boundaries are being reconfigured around disruptive innovation and the centres of power are changing, from powerful countries to powerful cities of innovation.  Like Toronto. We have an opportunity to build global powerhouse companies that can win on a world stage, based on the density of the innovation community and the value chain that fuels entrepreneurs that has assembled here.  Doing so over the next 3-5 years, will ensure prosperity for Canada over the next 30-50 years.

4.     If you had three wishes for Canada’s tech ecosystem in 2019, what would they be and who would they impact?


1) Reframe silo’d regional thinking into collaborative initiatives that can create pathways to high growth global markets. 


2) Focus on innovation adoption, and connect “innovation alley” with “main street”. By this I mean faster strategic adoption by large scale corporates of key technology solutions that help corporates to future-proof their businesses, while at the same time providing our entrepreneurs with the strategic backing and validation that they need to build global scale in their start-ups.


3) Harness “entrepreneur nation” to deliver the impact from inclusive innovation and create the shared prosperity that our citizens need.

The companies we support are building truly worthwhile innovations… solving real issues for real people and real businesses.

5.     What do you see as a significant area of untapped opportunity for Canadian tech?

Canadians are wired differently. We’re looking outwards, as others look inwards. We see diversity and collaboration as sources of strength, not signs of weakness.  As a result, we have created a value system which leverages our differences and gives us our edge.

This is the opportunity for us to reframe that old anachronism, which creates a false choice between creating economic value vs. driving impact.  The companies we support are building truly worthwhile innovations like finding ways to trap carbon emissions in concrete, creating eyewear that help the blind to see or using AI to discover digital markers for early onset dementia. It’s here where innovation alley connects with main street, solving real issues for real people and real businesses.

Yung Wu will be speaking at Canadian Dream Summit on February 19th in Toronto. To request an invitation, click here.

About Canadian Dream Summit 

Canadian Dream Summit is the world’s only tech conference focused on energizing Canada’s innovation economy by connecting scale-ups to corporates and capital. This event is organized by Canadian Dream Initiative, a not-for-profit with the mission of transforming Canada into the world’s leading innovation economy. Dream Summit attracts 400 business executives and leading voices in technology, business transformation, digital disruption, and innovation, for a full day conference on February 19th, 2019 in Toronto.

The event welcomes global perspectives on issues of national significance in the economy and beyond. With a curated audience and interactive learning opportunities, the conference provides an intimate environment for meaningful discussion. For more information on Dream Summit’s programming, speakers, and sponsorship opportunities please visit https://www.dreamsummit.org