Entrepreneur of the Year 2015: Innovative Technology and Financial Services finalists

Lisa Shields (WINNER)
Founder, Hyperwallet Systems Inc.

Lisa Shields has slept on airport benches, flown to fruitless meetings with investors and struggled to pay the staff of her bootstrapped business. But those hardscrabble days are over for Hyperwallet Systems Inc., the 15-year-old financial technology company she founded and built from scratch. Having survived the tech meltdown of 1999-2001 and an ill-fated foray into the consumer market, Hyperwallet has gained traction in the under-served business-to-consumer services arena. In the past three years alone, the 250-employee company has seen average annual growth of 90 per cent.

Hyperwallet specializes in technology that allows organizations to cheaply and efficiently send payments to people across borders and in different currencies. If you’re an American university trying to pay staff at a satellite campus in Qatar or a British miner looking to pay temporary contractors in Brazil, Hyperwallet’s technology lets you use a single platform to deposit money internationally into recipients’ bank accounts, send money online or load a real or virtual prepaid card.

The company’s first key innovation was creating a system that bypassed traditional international clearing networks that can cost $15 to $30 per transaction. “If you’re an employee, your payment is done by direct deposit on a Canadian network,” Shields explains. “And the cost for your payroll provider is maybe 10 cents.” There are similar local networks that conduct similarly cheap transfers in countries throughout the world; Hyperwallet’s technology connects these local networks. It costs the company about $1 to make an international payment, so it can offer this service to its customers for about $3 per payment instead of $30. Today, Hyperwallet’s hundreds of customers collectively pay millions of users through a network that spans more than 170 countries. Its rapid growth has drawn the attention of private equity investor Primus Capital, which last year bought a stake in the company.

Shields still holds a seven per cent stake but stepped down as CEO in March 2015 to become a director. She’s proud of what her hard work built but happy to hand the reins to new CEO Brent Warrington. “Looking back on it, those were the best years of my life. But I wouldn’t want to do it again.”

Michel Giasson (FINALIST)

CEO, Nudata Security

Most young companies would proudly boast about their big new clients, but NuData Security co-founder and CEO Michel Giasson knows that approach invites trouble when you work in Internet security. Not wanting to invite a target on his back, he’ll only concede that his customers include three of the top five e-commerce sites in the world.

Using behavioural analytics to stop fraud and other malicious online activity, NuData analyzes how people browse websites and steers suspiciously behaving users toward more restrictive roadblocks. The company is six years old and only introduced its keystone technology platform in 2013—yet despite that youth, influential cybersecurity research firm Cybersecurity Ventures ranked NuData 14th on its 2015 list of the 500 hottest companies in the industry.

Hamed Shahbazi (FINALIST)
Chair and CEO, Tio Networks Corp.

Hamed Shahbazi was following in his father’s footsteps when he realized that his love for his dad, a civil engineer, did not extend to his father’s profession. Shahbazi was, at his core, an entrepreneur—so days after graduating from UBC in 1997 with a degree in civil engineering, he decided to change tack and pursue a fascination instead with the emerging Internet.

Shahbazi’s early idea was to create self-service kiosks so people could access Internet-based applications in public locations like bookstores and banks. But as Internet access became more widespread around 2002, he decided his company needed to focus on a better use for its technology. One thought was to make Internet-connected machines that people could use to pay their bills from gas stations, drugstores and other public locations. “That was one of the applications that we were told surely wouldn’t work,” Shahbazi recalls.

Today, the company that would become known as TIO Networks Corp. has 70,000 kiosks in retail locations for giants such as the Walgreen Company, BP plc and Exxon Mobil Corp. Those kiosks are part of a bill-payment system that serves some of the largest telecom and utility bill issuers in North America including AT&T Inc. and the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and also includes other platforms such as web and mobile apps. With its recently completed acquisition of Globex Financial Services, TIO processes $9 billion in payments annually and has revenues exceeding $100 million.