Builders and VisionariesTop 20 Channel ExecutivesJohn Kelly

After more than three decades in the IT industry, John Kelly may know and understand failure.

A Canadian Information Productivity Awards (CIPA) hall of famer, Kelly has built several well-known Canadian IT companies, including SHL Systemhouse, which he founded in 1974. Kelly also built JetForm in 1995 along with Why Interactive, one of the first interactive multimedia companies in Canada.

But the deal he struck along with his brother Hubert to buy back the reseller portion of EDS Innovations and turn around a struggling computer business lost in a large integration house is what cemented his place as one of the most significant leaders in the channel. Kelly still remains chairman of NexInnovations.

Kelly admits starting new ventures comes with its share of risks.

“The reality of failure is always going to be there,” he said in a previous interview. “Failure may be necessary in the development of full capability . . . what we try to encourage as an industry, relative to innovation, is stretching.”

His first startup in high tech was in 1969, with a company called Alphatxt. Kelly offered word processing services from a service bureau environment over telephone lines to dumb terminals. “I remember trying to explain to people what our startup was doing. That would take literally hours because most people didn’t know what a computer was,” he said.

Besides being chairman of NexInnovations, Kelly is also a principal at Reid Eddison Inc., a technology mentoring company, He is also on the board of the CATA Alliance.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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