Weekend Warrior: NephroCan CEO Delaram Hajipour acts the part

The president of Instant Theatre's board keeps on improvising through a delicate work-life balance

Delaram Hajipour’s day job is no laughing matter.

As the CEO of Vancouver-based NephroCan, she works to help patients and practitioners access kidney dialysis treatment. But when the sun sets and the curtain closes on that, she steps on stage to deliver punchlines.

Performing improv, she says, provides a sense of “pure joy and excitement.” It all goes back to the first time she saw a show in high school. “I absolutely fell in love,” she says. “I had a bit of a High School Musical moment: I was on the basketball team and I was also on the improv team, and I had to make some decisions.”

Hajipour joined the junior (and then senior) improv team, took courses at local improv companies like Instant Theatre to learn and grow as a performer, and from there went on to play with UBC’s improv team for five years while studying business at Sauder.

Originally from Tehran, Hajipour moved to North Vancouver when she was eight. Her parents are both doctors, so she thought she wanted to be a doctor, too. But the entrepreneurial bug bit her early: by the time she founded NephroCan in 2016, she had already sold intellectual property to an international company, worked on a few startups and served as assistant director of a local medical distribution firm.

For the last seven years, she has developed NephroCan into a one-stop-shop for hemodialysis treatment. “A lot of health-care providers were trying to meet this niche,” says Hajipour, “but they had to source from here and there. We decided that we wanted to provide a full solution to help ease that pain.” To that end, the company provides products and services to treat end-stage renal disease patients, including devices, equipment, in-house design solutions and more.

And then, a plot twist. Around 2020, the Instant Theatre that Hajipour used to frequent as a young adult shut down after issues with the company’s management came to light. It was devastating for the city’s improv community because Instant—which produced shows and offered educational programs—had stood as a pillar of the Vancouver improv scene since 1994.

Together with Jullian Kolstee (who also has close ties to the company), Hajipour decided to pick the program up where it was left off. “Thirty years of history, of hardship, of artistic values… it just didn’t feel right to let it die,” she says. “It was time to take it over, revitalize it and serve the new generation of improvisers.”

The new Instant is putting DEI at centre stage: among the seven shows it hosted between March and August, two were sold-out performances by a female-led Iranian-Canadian group called Bekhand. Hajipour joined Bekhand on stage for those shows; the name, she says, means “laugh” in Farsi.

“I’ve never been part of a group that looks like me, that gets my jokes, and I get theirs in a very intricate, cultural way. It was fun to be part of that, to poke fun at the culture, to highlight the best things. And the community response has been overwhelmingly positive.”

The theatre is also working toward becoming a B Corp-certified community contribution company. With plans of adding five more people to its board, Instant is partnering with local filmmakers, artists and venues like the Conscious Lab to put on shows.

One of Hajipour’s most recent performances was at the China Cloud Studio in Vancouver. “The whole venue,” she remembers, “was completely packed. One of our fellow improvisers, she made a very strong character choice to be a YouTube ASMR podcaster. And in a room that’s quiet but completely packed, you have her sitting on the mic and everyone’s like, What is she going to do? And she just [whispers], Hi. The whole crowd went wild. I’m getting goosebumps just talking about it now.”

Laughter is medicine for Hajipour, who says improv has always helped her think fast and keep calm in the worst of situations. “It’s not a money-making machine at all,” she admits. “It is absolutely for the heart and soul… The more community support we have, the more people come out to these shows, the more these artists are supported. But it’s for the soul, really.”

Warrior Spotlight

NephroCan specializes in hemodialysis, a blood filtration treatment that becomes necessary when someone’s kidneys stop functioning properly. The company provides technologies and services for in-house design, manufacturing, post-sales support and more. “I was with the company when it was taking its first baby steps,” says CEO Delaram Hajipour, who joined in 2016. She grew NephroCan to 400 employees and helped establish locations in Germany, Turkey and Italy. “I’ve seen this little baby grow up and it’s been a fun journey.”