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New era of tech leadership begins in Waterloo

Three Waterloo institutions – Communitech, the Accelerator Centre and the University of Waterloo – have welcomed new leaders.

Change is in the air.

For 17 years, Communitech – Canada’s leading innovation hub – had Iain Klugman at the helm. For more than a decade, the president of the University of Waterloo – one of the world’s top technology schools – was Feridun Hamdullahpur. For seven years, Paul Salvini has served as the chief executive officer of Canada’s #1 private business accelerator – the Accelerator Centre.

Over the last few months, each of their storied tenures as chief executives of community-defining organizations in the Waterloo tech ecosystem have come to an end. A new era has begun with three new leaders.

Here’s who they are:

Chris Albinson

Chris Albinson is the new Chief Executive Officer of Communitech.

He brings 30 years of experience working in tech, with a particular focus on strategy and venture investment, including a stint as the co-head of venture capital investments at J.P. Morgan. He has also founded three investment firms/funds and C100 – the non-profit member-driven organization that supports Canadian technology entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley. Albinson has been an early investor in companies that have created $45 billion in value, including Pinterest, DocuSign and more.

Since arriving in Waterloo, Albinson has been very active in sharing his goal of helping Canada “own the podium” in tech and celebrating the incredible achievements of Waterloo’s companies over the last month or so, including significant new funding rounds for Faire, ApplyBoard and Arctic Wolf.

“I really, really believe that Canada and Waterloo Region have the opportunity to be the most interesting place on the planet to go and do tech investing,” says Albinson in a Communitech Q&A. “In part it’s because of the raw horsepower and the talent of the place, the access to global markets, global capital, all of that stuff. But also the ethos of the place. We say Tech for Good and we don’t necessarily think about it sometimes, but the way companies are built and the cultures of places matter.”

Jay Krishnan

Jay Krishnan is the new Chief Executive Officer of the Accelerator Centre.

He brings wide experience in startups, multinational businesses, accelerators and venture capital. He has founded three companies, worked in product management/engineering roles at Cisco, Juniper and Cantata-Dialogic and served as the CEO of T-Hub – India’s top accelerator – for three years. Most recently, Krishnan was a General Partner at Mantra Capital, an early-stage US-domiciled VC firm.

The appointment of Krishnan reflects the accelerator’s plans to operate with a more global mindset. When interviewed by BetaKit, he noted that the organization’s primary goal will still be supporting Canadian startups, but will include programming to help increase their global reach and build stronger ties to the international startup community.

“The Waterloo innovation ecosystem is known globally for excellence,” says Krishnan. “We are witnessing a unique time in history where technology and startups are reshaping our future. I’ve seen first-hand the global impact this community has made, and I am excited to be part of the next story that gets written out of Waterloo Region.”

Vivek Goel

Vivek Goel is the new President of the University of Waterloo.

Dr. Goel is a distinguished scholar with extensive achievements in research, teaching and leadership in the public and private sectors. In addition to being a globally-renowned public health researcher, he was the first President and CEO of Public Health Ontario and the Chief Academic Strategist with Coursera, a global platform that connects universities and learners with online courses. His most recent role was as Vice-President and Provost of the University of Toronto.

A leader in health and medicine, he joins the university just as the Waterloo tech ecosystem makes new investments into health innovation and medical technology and he brings a genuine interest in solving some of the world’s greatest problems.

“A research-intensive institution like Waterloo is ideally poised to create the biggest change and best solutions for our future, whether it is tackling public-health challenges, addressing systemic racism, the growing climate crisis, or spurring economic recovery and growth,” says Dr. Goel. “I am extraordinarily proud and humbled to join an institution of higher-education that is so well respected in Canada and around the world.”

These three leaders join a tech ecosystem that is firing on all cylinders. In the last 45 days, Waterloo-based tech companies have raised more than $1 billion in new investment, including massive new funding rounds for Faire, ApplyBoard and Arctic Wolf. The University of Waterloo was also ranked top-40 globally for engineering and technology and top-25 for computer science. Just last week, CBRE ranked Waterloo as the top small tech talent market in North America, beating Pittsburgh, Columbus and more. This comes on the heels of previous rankings listing Waterloo as the #1 tech talent market in Canada for tech talent quality and news that 22% of the 50 fastest-growing tech companies in Canada are located here.

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