2024

The Power List: Tech

These brainiacs are trailblazing tech in Canada, the world and even on the moon
Photo illustrations by Anna Minzhulina
TECH_collage

April 1, 2024

1. Sainsbury

1. Anna Sainsbury | CEO and co-founder, Geocomply

She’s shoring up a multi-billion-dollar online betting industry, and enhancing cybersecurity while she’s at it
This year’s Super Bowl was the most-watched television event since the moon landing, thanks in large part to an American pop star named Taylor Swift. It was also the most bet-on Super Bowl in history, thanks in large part to a Canadian tech entrepreneur named Anna Sainsbury. Online sports gambling may be the only thing that has blown up bigger than Swiftmania in recent years—up from US$47 million in 2018 to US$7.26 billion in 2023 in the U.S. alone, and predicted to nearly double that over the next four years. And Sainsbury’s GeoComply, a geolocation program that enables gambling platforms to enforce out-of-state betting laws, is the technology underpinning the whole process. Her company achieved a billion-dollar valuation in 2021. Now she’s setting her sights on an even bigger mission: to eradicate cyberfraud from every corner of the internet.

2. Lutke

2. Tobias Lütke | CEO and co-founder, Shopify

He’s breaking records at Canada’s largest tech company
The Canadian tech giant quashed any talk of a post-pandemic slump with a record-setting Black Friday and 26 per cent growth in 2023. This was a victory for Tobi Lütke, who recently led a culture-shifting, common-sense revolution that included a 20 per cent staffing cut, plus bans on meetings with more than two employees and on “pineapple on pizza debates” (shorthand for hours wasted on Slack chats). Shares instantly shot up by 10 per cent after Shopify integrated with Amazon Prime and offloaded its money pit of logistics and warehouse holdings—a move that increased revenue by 25 per cent in Q3. Next up: the “dawn of the AI era,” which Lütke announced in an internal memo. The newly launched Shopify Magic will provide the company’s two million merchants with a suite of AI tools to manage administrative tasks, customer enquiries and marketing.

8. Lee

3. Danies Lee | CEO, Nextstar Energy

His $5-billion plant will jumpstart Canada’s EV capacity
The first large-scale electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant in Canada will also be one of the largest of its kind in North America: a $5-billion joint investment between multinational automaker Stellantis and South Korean battery giant LG Energy Solution that will secure Ontario’s place as an EV hub of the future and re-establish Windsor as an automotive powerhouse. Since assuming the CEO role at NextStar, Lee has spent his time managing political combustion—specifically, a construction-halting tiff with the feds over funding and backlash over a plan to bring temporary workers from South Korea. With those roadblocks cleared, the new facility is on track to produce two million batteries annually—a significant contribution to Stellantis’s pledge that 50 per cent of its sales in North America will be EVs by 2030.

4. Shiner

4. Jeff Shiner | CEO, 1Password

He’s making internet passwords obsolete
When Jeff Shiner took the reins at 1Password, the company was focused on solving one of the most annoying problems of the modern era: forgetting your password. Twelve years later, with a $9-billion valuation, a slew of celebrity investors (Ryan Reynolds, Robert Downey Jr., Ashton Kutcher) and a $744-million round of Series C funding, he’s looking to make that original mission redundant. Following the acquisition of Texas-based online security startup Passage, Shiner’s company is moving toward passkey technology—a virtually hacker-proof, password-free sign-in standard powered by bio-indicators like fingerprints and faces. Many tech giants such as Apple also plan to kill the password, but Shiner insists his software gives him an edge, and recent wins—including a recent 50 per cent growth in B2B sales—suggest that his clients agree.

5. Leonard

5. Mark Leonard | President and founder, Constellation Software

For quietly amassing one of the world’s top tech portfolios
His more-is-more capital allocation strategy has earned him the nickname “Canada’s Warren Buffett” and earned his shareholders a gobsmacking 23,000 per cent return. Since 2005, Constellation Software has spent $8.7 billion acquiring more than 1,000 companies—mostly small software firms running monopolies in niche markets too small for competition—and servicing unsexy industries like cable broadcasting and mortgages (2023 acquisitions include WideOrbit and Optimal Blue). Rather than merge his companies or sell them for parts, Leonard lets them operate independently, using the steady cash return to fund new acquisitions. The famously reclusive Leonard is allergic to flashy headlines, but nothing says sex appeal like a five-digit ROI.

6. Basiri

6. Martin Basiri | CEO and founder, Passage

His app attracts top students from across the world
In 2015 Martin Basiri launched ApplyBoard, an AI-enabled recruitment tool that helps foreign students apply to Western universities. That company earned a US$3.2-billion valuation and became one of the buzziest Canadian startups since BlackBerry. His new venture, Passage, is opening up the same scholastic opportunities to talent from the developing world: it removes financial barriers for students in high-demand fields like STEM and health care via an app that connects applicants with funding and grant opportunities. It’s a win-win model that will help Canada address national labour shortages and immigration targets, and it has already attracted $40 million in seed funding from ApplyBoard investor Drive Capital. A pilot project launching in 2024 will bring 100 women from Afghanistan to pursue STEM studies in Canada.

7. St.-Onge

7. Pascale St-Onge | Minister of Canadian Heritage

For getting Google to pay up
Last year, the Online News Act came into effect, requiring tech companies to compensate Canadian media outlets for the content shared on their platforms. Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has refused to pay, instead blocking Canadian news from its sites, and Google said it would also block Canadian news on its search engine for users in Canada. But, after months of haggling with the world’s tech giants, the country’s newly minted heritage minister landed a crucial win in November, negotiating a $100-million agreement with Google. It’s much less than what the government originally wanted, but the victory is a step in the right direction—and a gleam of hope that other companies, like Meta, might one day return to the bargaining table.

3. Hansen

8. Jeremy Hansen | Astronaut

He’s putting Canada on the moon map
When Artemis II blasts off in September of 2025, it will be NASA’s first crewed moon flight in 50 years and the first time a Canadian has been along for the ride—ever. With Hansen, Canada has finally earned a seat at the space-travel table. Born in London, Ontario, the former fighter pilot graduated from the Royal Military College’s space science program. In 2009 he scored one of two spots in Canada’s space program from an applicant pool of 5,350. In 2017 he became the first Canadian to lead NASA’s astronaut training program. And now he’s set to embark on a mission that will mark a “giant leap” in the journey to space colonization: confirming the Orion spacecraft’s capabilities in the lunar south pole, a location farther away than anywhere man has ever travelled—but potentially hospitable to human life.

9. Hudon

9. Isabelle Hudon | President and CEO, Business Development Bank of Canada

For shelling out cash to Canada’s top startups
After Isabelle Hudon assumed the top role at the BDC in 2021, the bank began to focus funding on startups with social impact. And, unlike many leaders who promised to “build back better,” she has actually made good. The BDC’s $400-million Climate Tech Fund recently led a $2-million funding round for the Montreal startup Green Graphite Technologies, which uses eco-friendly graphite to power EVs. Its $150-million Sustainability Venture Fund invested $3.5 million in Arolytics, a Calgary-based company that makes software for the oil and gas sector. Last fall, Hudon launched the Thrive Lab for Women, set to deploy $100 million in capital to women-led businesses in partnership with 25 of the country’s most prominent investors.

10. Simmons

10. Stephanie Simmons | Chief quantum officer and co-founder, Photonic

For racing to build the world’s first usable quantum computer
Vancouver-based startup Photonic is not the first Canadian contender in the race to build the world’s first usable quantum computer, but it looks like the horse worth betting on. Using the principles of subatomic physics, quantum computing can solve highly complex problems at a speed that makes current laptops look like cave drawings. In 2022, Simmons and her team revealed their game-changing innovation: a silicon chip that holds up to 150,000 quantum bits. You don’t have to know what that means, but Microsoft does. The software giant backed a US$100-million funding round aimed at a commercial product within the next five years. Before then, expect “quantum-ready” to take over as the new unavoidable tech-world jargon.


Cover_0524_FINAL

This story appears in the May issue of Maclean’s. You can buy the issue here or subscribe to the magazine here.