9 Canadians to watch in digital technology in 2014

As we rapidly near the end of 2013, people’s thoughts naturally tend to look back at the year that was, or the upcoming 12 months. While 2013 has been anything but boring (think of the rise and fall – again – of BlackBerry and the continued strength of HootSuite, to name just two ongoing stories), 2014 looks to be the year that a number of Canadians in the technology field make headlines.

Here are my 9 Canadians to watch in digital technology in 2014.

Thalmic Labs Co-Founder and CEO Stephen Lake

2014 is going to be an interesting year for the team at Thalmic Labs. Led by CEO and co-founder, Stephen Lake, the company that has brought us the Myo Armband seems to be following a trajectory reserved once for early dot coms and social startups. They have already raised over $15 million in funding from such notable investors as Intel Capital, Dan Debow, Mark Benioff, and Reza Satchu.

As wearable computing continues to gain traction and popularity among consumers, watch for this Waterloo-based company to continue to grow.

Canadian astronaut-turned-professor Chris Hadfield

In 2013, Chris Hadfield became the first Canadian astronaut to command the International Space Station. While doing so he made being a space-geek the coolest thing in the world by singing with the Barenaked Ladies, doing his own rendition of David Bowie’s Space Oddity and sharing breathtaking photos of the earth from his Twitter account.

In 2014, Hadfield will be spending his time as a professor of aviation at the University of Waterloo. However, I don’t expect Hadfield to become your average high-profile celebrity cashing in his newfound fame for easy money.

My bet is that Hadfield will get the itch to do some more ground-breaking work in the field of research and innovation. 2014 should  end with Hadfield working with one or more high-tech Waterloo-based startups.

BroadbandTV CEO Shahrzad Rafati

2013 wrapped up with  Broadband TV’s founder and CEO, Shahrzad Rafati, being named Executive of the Year at the prestigious nextMEDIA Digi Awards. Rafati was also recognized as one of The Women’s Executive Network’s 100 most Powerful Women.

If you don’t already know, Vancouver-based BroadbandTV is one of the world’s largest online broadcasters with partners such as YouTube, Sony and the National Basketball Association.

As video marketing and consumption continues to grow, watch for Rafati and her company to continue growing and winning awards.

Wattpad co-founder Allen Lau

Started in 2006, Wattpad is now the world’s largest story-sharing community. Led by Allen Lau, Toronto-based Wattpad has raised over $20 million from Khosla Ventures, Union Square Ventures, OMERS Ventures, W Media Ventures and Golden Venture Partners.

To date, Wattpad enjoys numbers only a few Internet sites can: 20 million unique monthly visitors and over 5 billion minutes of time spent on site. Earlier this year, Wattpad and publishing powerhouse Random House partnered to launch a novel series. Watch for more partnerships and continued growth in 2014 for Wattpad.

Twitter Canada’s Kirstine Stewart

Earlier this spring, Twitter Canada opened its offices and named Kirstine Stewart as head of Canadian operations. Formerly the head of English Services at CBC, Stewart’s responsibilities will be to make more people and businesses aware of the marketing possibilities of the networking platform.

2014 will also see Stewart taking time to write a new book, On Turn. To be published by Random House, On Turn will cover, among other topics, how new media technologies encourage flexibility and creativity in business, and the opportunities that are opening up for women as a result.

HootSuite founder Ryan Holmes

Earlier this year, Ryan Holmes-led software technology startup, HootSuite closed a round of financing worth $165 million. According to some, this valued the Vancouver-based company at over $1 billion.

While Holmes has declined speculating on the value of HootSuite, we have seen the CEO start becoming more active with his new-found fame. Earlier in December, Holmes joined the board of advisors of LX Ventures. The Vancouver-based publicly traded incubator focuses on launching, integrating, and acquiring early stage high growth technology companies.

Holmes also launched the foundation, The Next Big Thing. According to a HootSuite blog post, The Next Big Thing will be a program aimed at accelerating young entrepreneurs complete with funding, mentorship, and experiential learning.

BlackBerry’s John Chen

Prior to the holiday season, BlackBerry’s newest CEO John Chen issued a strong “state of the nation” address while announcing more disappointing sales news. As BlackBerry announced more than $4 billion in loses, Chen reiterated the plans for the one-time mobile innovator: enterprise and government customers.

It seems BlackBerry’s preoccupation with competing with Android and Apple’s consumer domination has finally ended. Although Rome was not built in a day (or a year for that matter) I believe that 2014 will finally be the year that we see the dawn of a new era – or the beginning of the end for Canada’s tech giant.

Big Viking Games co-founder Albert Lai

Big Viking Games CEO Albert Lai is no stranger to big wins. As the co-founder of mobile games start-up, Big Viking Games, Lai is also the co-founder of social web analytics platform Kontagent and was a very early partner with MyDesktop prior to the first Internet bubble.

Since 1999, Lai has been on a winning streak. Most recently, Big Viking Games was recognized (after less than 2 years in business) as one of the top employers in the country. And their games are already played by millions of fans. Expect 2014 to be another banner year for Lai.

Kik Interactive CEO Ted Livingston

Kik Interactive CEO Ted Livingston is one Waterloo tech CEO who may be a little bittersweet that 2013 is quickly coming to an end. In 2010, his mobile messaging startup was being sued by BlackBerry. In 2013 that case was finally closed as both companies came to terms.

2013 also saw Kik close almost $20 million in additional funding from RRE Ventures, Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures, and Foundation Capital. Finally, Kik announced in early December that the service reached over 100 million monthly users.

As mobile messaging continues to grow, watch Kik (and other mobile messaging services) grow in popularity with both consumers and advertisers.

Karim Kanji
Karim Kanji
Karim Kanji is the Canadian Director of Social Media Strategy at iNvolved Media. iNvolved Media was purchased by Active International in 2015. Clients include popular food brands, technology brands and other CPG companies. Prior to joining iNvolved Media, Karim led the paid social media strategy for some of Canada's most popular CPG and confectionery brands for Catalyst/GroupM. Karim started in the social media space when he co-founded and was the President of THIRDOCEAN where he led the creation of digital content for companies including Scotiabank, Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, Microsoft, Wild Water Kingdom, Palomino Systems Inc. and Techvibes. Karim has also been recognized as a pioneer in podcasting having interviewed people such as such as federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, former MLSE boss Richard Peddie, TVO's Steve Paikin, Canadian serial angel investor Dr. Boris Wertz, HootSuite founder Ryan Holmes, Mathew Ingram, Mitch Joel from Mirium and many, many others. As a demonstration of thought leadership, Karim led the development and execution of reports discussing how technology and digital media have impacted industries such as retail, education, health, gaming, sports and banking.

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