Skip navigation

Category Archives: Executives

Often, negative experiences can bear positive results when the right people make the right decisions in the right direction. Such is the experience of Sara Horowitz, founder and executive director of the Freelancers Union as well as a recognized innovator of the modern-day workforce.

Horowitz certainly put her educational and professional accomplishments in the service of self-employed independent workers including freelancers. She has a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, a master’s degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a law degree from the SUNY Buffalo Law School, all of which are impressive in themselves. She has also worked as a private practice labor attorney and union organizer with various organizations, such as National Health and Human Service Employees Union.

But Horowitz’s defining moment toward becoming a champion of independent workers’ welfare was not in these achievements. She was unable to acquire health insurance because of a mistake made in classifying her as a freelancer instead of a full-time employee.

After graduating from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, she established the Freelancers Union, thus, laying the foundation for her advocacy. Freelancers Union is unique in the insurance market because it provides self-employed independent workers including freelancers the opportunity to purchase reasonably-priced health insurance policies. Today, it has over 165,000 members with headquarters in New York City.

Indeed, her efforts in building and strengthening a viable support system for independent workers continue to bring in awards and recognitions. She has been cited as one of the 2011 Forbes’ Top 30 Social Entrepreneurs, one of the 2011 Businessweek Top 25 Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs, and one of the 2002 100 Global Leaders for Tomorrow at the World Economic Forum.

Horowitz’s grandfather and father, both movers and shakers in the world of unions, have reasons to be proud of the accomplished woman she has become.

Thanks to Murad Al-Katib, Canada is well on its way to becoming the largest exporter and producer of pulse crops like beans, chickpeas, and lentils in the world. He and his company, Alliance Grain Traders, Inc. are at the forefront, dominating lentil exports with a 40% cut of the market. Sales shot up from $35 million in 2004 to a whopping $760 million in 2011.

But Al-Katib doesn’t ship raw products. Instead, he has a network of 12 factories that add value to the products he exports through extensive processing, like separating lentils according to colour to suit preferences unique to certain regions. Thankfully, technology is on Al-Katib’s side, simplifying the work to optimize output.

With and estimated worth C$1,093,400 in 2013, Al-Katib is definitely doing well in business. A year earlier, he was given the BASF Pulse Pioneer Award in 2012 for his extraordinary contribution to the growth of the pulse industry in Canada.

Mihal “Mike” Lazaridis is a businessman and investor, best known for founding Research in Motion or BlackBerry as it is known today. Passionate about the capabilities of basic science to transform the world, he also co-started Quantum Valley Investments with his childhood friend Douglas Fregin. Fregin also had a role in founding BlackBerry. Aside from BlackBerry and Quantum Valley Investments, Lazaridis also founded the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, in which he serves as the Chairman of the Board. With a net worth of $800 million, Lazaridis was ranked as the 17th richest Canadian by Forbes in 2011.

Lazaridis has a colorful heritage, born in Istanbul to Greek parents and growing up in Canada. At a young age, he showed keen interest in science, winning a prize for reading every science book in the Windsor Public Library when he was 12 years old. He went to the University of Waterloo to study electrical engineering in 1979. In 1984, Lazaridis responded to a General Motors request for a network computer control display system to be developed. He was awarded the contract, prompting him to drop out of school in the same year even though he was set to graduate in two months. It was thanks, in part, to this contract though that Lazaridis was able to launch Research in Motion.

Over the course of his career, Lazaridis was given several distinctions, including an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree given by the University of Waterloo, a spot on the Maclean’s Honour Roll, membership in the Order of Ontario, and officership in the Order of Canada. He also adds an Emmy and an Academy Award for technical achievements to his list of successes. For his work with BlackBerry, many recognize Lazaridis as the father of the smartphone, a visionary and an innovator.

Kunal Gupta is the CEO and co-founder of Polar Mobile, a platform-provider for digital media distribution. Started when he was 22 years old, the company today boasts of a customer base in 12 countries handled by a staff of 50.

Every year, Polar Mobile grows, and Gupta is glad of all the help he’s received to be successful in business, like the $6 million funding the company received which helped it release a new product line called MediaEverywhere. According to Gupta, MediaEverywhere, a software platform developed to distribute various types of media content across connected screens, is the big goal. Powering and monetizing content is what drives the young entrepreneur to persevere in the industry.

Before Polar Mobile, Gupta established the Impact Entrepreneurship Group, a non-profit organizaton ran entirely by students to support aspiring young entrepreneurs. Gupta saw the kind of impact receiving help at the early stages could give a budding businessman and so the organization was born.

Robert Deluce is the founder, President, and CEO of Porter Airlines, a short-haul airline based in Toronto, Canada which started operating in 2006. He was an executive for other airlines before and he brings his experiences with these companies to Porter Airlines, which include owning, financing, operating, restructuring, and managing in the aviation industry. Some of the airlines Deluce has worked with in the past include Austin Airways, White River Air Services, and Canada 3000 Airlines. Aside from Porter Airlines, he is also the President of Deluce Capital Corp and President and CEO of Porter Aviation Holdings Inc. In total, Deluce has more than 50 years of experience in the airline business to fall back on, thanks to his family.

Porter Airlines is cruising the skies of Canada now but it wasn’t smooth-sailing for Deluce at the start. Like anyone who’s ever ventured into a business, he was faced with a lot of challenges just to get his company off the ground. There was the problem with the bridge that would connect the Island Airport in Toronto to the mainland, the lawsuit form Jazz, the previous airline using the building that Deluce bought in the Island Airport, and the people and the politicians. But not like the others, Deluce persevered, bringing out every ounce of determination he has to take Porter Airlines where it is now.

Deluce is one of nine children born to Stanley Matthew and Barbara Deluce in Ontario, Canada. Aviation has always been in the family, what with his father a part of the Royal Canadian Air Force who opened a small flying service after the war to cater to tourists going to Lake Superior. Deluce became a pilot when he was a teenager and returned to work for the family after finishing his schooling. Since then, the man has been around airplanes and there’s no stopping him just yet.

Tej Kohli is an international philanthropist and businessman boasting of a diverse portfolio of charitable and commercial operations in India, the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas. His interests in business range from technology and e-commerce to real estate in emerging markets and online shopping. In an effort to support budding industries, Kohli continues to invest in various startups with the help of the venture capital division of his company.

Kohli is guided by three principles on business: business success is derived from constant engagement that utilizes the latest developments; finding and developing the right individuals is essential for growing a successful company; and harnessing the ideas of the younger generation is the key to figuring out the solution to hurdles to economic success that all countries face. These three principles have guided Tej Kohli and his group of companies through the years and will continue to do so, aiding the man in succeeding in whatever he ventures into.

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, better known simply as Beyoncé, is famous as a singer and actress, one of the most recognized figures in the entertainment industry. What many don’t realize though is that the self-proclaimed feminist also has an entrepreneurial streak, introducing a fashion line for women called House of Deréon in 2005 named after her grandmother, Agnez Deréon. She also established Beyond Productions with her mother to handle brand management and licensing for House of Deréon and the junior collection Deréon.

Beyoncé has also since then launched another label for junior apparel, Sasha Fierce for Deréon, which is available in specialty shops, like Against All Odds and Jimmy Jazz, and department stores, like Dillard’s and Macy’s. In 2010, she teamed up with C&A, a clothing store, to bring Deréon by Beyoncé to their branches in Brazil. Aside from clothing, Beyoncé has also ventured into launching her own fragrance line called Heat, which went on to become one of the world’s best-selling fragrance lines from celebrities with sales of more than $400 million.

Ajay Bam has 12 years of experience as a serial entrepreneur so he is more than qualified to join the faculty the University of California—Berkeley as professor to the undergraduate course Introduction to Entrepreneurship. Bam also brings more to the table because of his previous work in the corporate world, serving stints at Lehman Brothers and Nokia.

Aside from co-founding Modiv Media which offers mobile commerce and retail solutions for supermarkets, Bam is also on the advisory board of two funded startups, Padlocs Inc. and eCurv. Modiv Media is actually another company called Vayusa, Inc, also a mobile commerce service provider, merged with Cuesol in 2007. Conceived through a project for the Entrepreneurship Intensive Track program of Babson College, Vayusa is an in-store mobile payment system. Through the help of a Babson professor, Vayusa was able to raise $2.2 million worth of funding from venture capitalists to properly launch in 2003.

Peter Andreas Thiel is an American entrepreneur, hedge fund manager, and venture capitalist. He is best known for co-founding PayPal with Max Levchin, as well as serving the company as CEO. He also co-founded and chaired Palantir and went on to become president to global macro hedge fund company Clarium Capital which boasts of $700 million assets under management. Adding to his list of accomplishments is Founders Fund, a venture capital fund managing $2 billion in assets in which Thiel is a managing partner, and Mithril Capital Management which he also co-founded. He is also Facebook’s first outside investor with a 10.2% stake in the company and sits as a member of its Board of Directors. As of May 2014, Thiel is estimated to have a net worth of $2.2 billion.

Thiel has proven to be successful in his many pursuits and he endeavors the same for many through the aid of Founders Fund or his personal support. Some of the companies that Thiel has invested in include: LinkedIn, Booktrack, Slide, Rapleaf, Yammer, Geni.com, Yelp, Inc., Practice Fusion, Powerset, Vator, MetaMed, IronPort, Asana, Votizen, Big Think, Quora, Caplinked, TransferWise, Rypple, Stripe, and Legendary Entertainment. According to Fortune Magazine, it is estimated that Thiel’s investments in startups and his own ventures have a collective value of about $30 billion. Because of this, Thiel is known in Silicon Valley circles as the “Don of the PayPal Mafia.”

Thiel also set up a non-profit organization known as the Thiel Foundation through which his philanthropic activities are carried out. Staying true to his roots and interests, Thiel focuses where potential breakthroughs in technologies are found, organizing a conference in 2010 to showcase eight non-profits that he believed were on the right path to radical innovations in technology, human, and government affairs. He also supports the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Methuselah Foundation, and the Human Rights Foundation.

Bre Pettis is an American entrepreneur, multi-artist, and video blogger, best known for his MAKE DIY video podcasts and the History Hacker pilot shown on the History Channel. He’s also the founder of I Make Things and NYCResistor and co-founder to Makerbot and Thingiverse.com. Aside from producing video podcasts and being a TV host, Pettis has also made new media for Etsy and has been a puppeteer, artist, and school teacher.

Pettis grew up in Ithaca, New York before moving to Seattle at 13 years old. He graduated from the Bellevue High School and later on attended The Evergreen State College where he graduated in 1995. In college, Pettis studied performing arts, mythology, and psychology. He also went to the Pacific Oaks College for his teaching certificate. He got his start in production by working as a camera assistant and floor runner in Prague for feature films, as well as a being an assistant for the London wing of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.