Entrepreneur of the Year 2015: Technology finalists

Shafin Diamond Tejani (WINNER)
Founder and CEO, Victory Square Labs

As Shafin Diamond Tejani explains it, Victory Square Labs is a company whose mission is to build other companies. With a core team of five people, Diamond Tejani approaches entrepreneurs with offbeat ideas (many of them young game designers at the Vancouver Film School), gives them access to Victory Square’s space, resources and network, and helps turn their idea into a business (while taking a stake in that business). The enterprises Victory Square has invested in are an eclectic bunch. Among them: Market One Media Group, an ad agency that specializes in content marketing; Sky Turtle Technologies, a startup that holds and licenses patents for waterslide parts; Tantalus Labs, which makes greenhouse technologies for marijuana growers; and Boximals, an animation studio for children’s TV shows. 

Diamond Tejani’s interest in promoting unconventional business ideas traces back to a dorm room at Western University and early designs on a rudimentary dating app. While that website, named iFlirt, found initial success with high school seniors—and advertisers expressed interest in the data it generated—Diamond Tejani was forced to wind it down in the early 2000s in the wake of the dot-com bust. The move forced him to pivot into other sectors and ultimately provided the motivation to start Victory Square Labs in 2007. Victory Square has since spun out 41 companies in 21 different countries, and now Diamond Tejani hopes to scale those companies up with the help of a $30- million venture capital fund he launched in June with friend and real estate investor Navid Meghji. 

Morgan Carey (FINALIST)

CEO, Real Estate Webmasters

Morgan Carey knows the value of exposure. Last year, his company, Real Estate Webmasters—which builds ready-to-use websites for real estate agents—scored $2 million on an episode of Dragons’ Den from dragons Michael Werkele and Jim Treliving, who each took a five per cent stake in the company. There’s a reason the dragons wanted a stake: between 2008 and 2013, Real Estate Webmasters saw its revenue grow by 198 per cent—and Carey expects revenue to clock in at about $20 million this year, double the $10 million he raked in in 2014. His confidence comes in part from a business and marketing partnership he struck last winter with another high- profile TV star: Shark Tank’s resident real estate maven, Barbara Corcoran.

Grep Malpass (FINALIST)
Founder and CEO, Traction on Demand

Traction on Demand is a very specific answer to a very specific problem. “We’re basically a sales software consulting company,” says Greg Malpass, the company’s upbeat 39-year-old founder. He points to one of his bigger clients, Telus. The telco had door-to-door salespeople, hundreds of them at any given time, walking around Vancouver with clipboards trying to talk residents into buying Internet, TV and cellphone packages. But in the time it took to turn paper commitments from customers into actual contracts, many of them backed out. So Malpass’s team built Telus an iPad app using Salesforce–a database program for managing contacts and leads that has become a ubiquitous sales tool in almost every industry.

The process of getting customer commitments that once took Telus weeks now takes seconds, he says. Overall, the privately held Traction had around $10 million in revenue last year and now counts 130 employees.