Ajay Agrawal is the Peter Munk Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, co-founder of The Next 36 and founder of the Creative Destruction Lab. He teaches courses on business strategy, innovation and entrepreneurship. He was recognized as Professor of the Year by the Rotman School’s graduating MBA class seven times. Professor Agrawal conducts research on the economics of innovation and creativity.
Barry Gekiere has over 25 years of experience in senior management positions in venture capital, private equity and operating companies. Prior to joining MaRS Discovery District, he was a partner at Ventures West Capital Ltd., one of Canada’s largest and longest-standing venture capital firms. During his 13 years at Ventures West, Mr. Gekiere worked closely with entrepreneurs while making early-stage technology investments in IT, communications, cleantech and medical device companies. Prior to Ventures West, he had experience as a partner in two private equity firms specializing in expansion-stage financing and leveraged buyouts.
Grant J. Kook, C.Dir., S.O.M., is the founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Westcap Mgt. Ltd., Saskatchewan’s largest private venture capital fund manager, with over $540 million under management. He has been an advocate for designing, developing, capitalizing and managing a specialized family of funds that fill capital gaps in the western Canadian economy. The funds under management are individually focused on early-stage innovation, venture capital or growth, management buyouts, infrastructure, and First Nations sectors of the economy. Mr. Kook is also the founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cheung On Investments Group Ltd., an international investor syndicate fund that was founded in 1989 and rated as one of the top 100 companies in Saskatchewan.
Senia Rapisarda is an experienced institutional investor who is presently consulting for HarbourVest in order to establish and lead its Canadian efforts. She was Vice-President, Strategic Initiatives and Investments at the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) from 2010 to 2013. In this role, Ms. Rapisarda led BDC’s efforts to develop a healthy venture capital ecosystem in Canada through several key strategic initiatives and investments, investing over $40 million in first-time funds and start-ups. Ms. Rapisarda has over 20 years of experience in the telecommunications and technology sectors, including as senior advisor at NUR Energie, a London-based investment fund specialized in renewable energy, and as Managing Director of the Technology Private Equity Team at Nomura International, managing over US$300 million of investments in 42 companies across Europe, Israel and the United States.
John Stokes is a founding partner at Real Ventures, Canada’s largest and most active seed venture fund, and is also the co-founder of FounderFuel, one of the country’s top tech accelerators. He co-founded or established regional operations for a number of software, Internet and media companies in New Zealand (Bulletin.net), South Africa (Brightpoint SA / MTN PAYG), Malaysia (Aethos Asia Pacific) and Japan (Livedoor and Vogue Planet). Mr. Stokes also founded Piermont Ventures Ltd., a Hong Kong–based boutique investment and advisory business that advised entrepreneurs and invested in their start-ups.