The 50 Most Influential Torontonians of 2021

The Influentials 2021

Our annual ranking of the Torontonians whose bravery, smarts and clout are changing the world as we know it

By Toronto Life| Photographs by Daniel Ehrenworth
| November 18, 2021

Government does some stuff well. What it does not do well is quick, tech-based problem-solving. So when the feds secured hundreds of thousands of doses of vaccines destined for Canadian deltoids, it was all too predictable that the final hurdle—the online booking of vaccination appointments—would be a catastrophe. The provincial website was labyrinthine, the language dense. Slots that were clearly available were—click!—in fact occupied.

And then, salvation. A few tech-literate souls with warm hearts and big brains offered to help us all navigate the system, doling out tips and tricks about where to go, when to show up and what to bring. The drive-in initiative at Downsview. The under-attended clinic in North York. The pharmacy in Cedarvale with a fresh supply of Moderna. Soon, that little group of very good Samaritans became an official network, called Vaccine Hunters, and they were our everything.

Of course, many others played big roles in shaping this calendar year. Doug Ford, for all his missteps (and sweet Mary there were a lot), steered the province through the storm of the century. Anita Anand was the one on the horn cajoling, begging and badgering vaccine makers to make good on their contract. Chrystia Freeland did a little bit of everything. The indefatigable John Tory passed a slew of smart programs that made our restricted lives a little more livable. Smart, brave leaders helped the country make progress on reconciliation. Star athletes gave young people something to aspire to. Tech geniuses, especially in the field of AI, proved themselves the new rock stars. And Drake and the Weeknd continued their friendly slugfest over which Toronto artist was more globally dominant. The verdict on that, and much more from an especially eventful year, below.

1

The Vax Hunters

Sabrina Craig, Andrew Young and hundreds of other volunteers like them helped more than a million Canadians get the shot

Daniel Ehrenworth

The Vaccine Hunters were scattered across the country. They were as young as 19 and as old as 90. They came from every imaginable background, with skill sets of comparable diversity: teachers, students, coders, financial people, former models, translators, doctors. Nobody received a salary or any kind of payment at all, but they spent countless hours navigating hospital websites, printing out flyers, knocking on doors, doing whatever it took to find elusive doses and book appointments. In addition to its Twitter and Discord accounts, Vaccine Hunters was also on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok. At its peak, the organization had about 427,000 followers across its platforms. Volunteers answered questions about eligibility and safety, but most importantly, they chased down, in real time, the elusive whereabouts of vaccine doses. In an era of misinformation, disinformation and outright lack of information, the organization was a badly needed beacon of clarity. The founders estimate they helped some 1.2 million Canadians find vaccine doses—and brought us closer to herd immunity than the government ever could. Click here for our full feature story on the Vaccine Hunters
2

Chrystia Freeland

Minister of finance and deputy prime minister
For her grace under pressure—and ability to master just about any portfolio

Getty Images

Freeland faced what was surely one of the biggest challenges of her career as Covid plunged Canada’s economy into its biggest recession since the Great Depression. The unflappable finance minister responded in her first budget in April with a proposed investment of up to $100 billion over three years. It might look like a lot of zeroes, but the nation’s first female finance minister made the case that the money will build up the country’s social and physical infrastructure, and is thus an investment in the future of Canada. Some of it will go toward supporting those hardest hit by the pandemic—women, young people, low-wage workers and small and medium-sized businesses. Freeland also committed to invest up to $30 billion over five years in early learning and child care, which the pandemic exposed as a gaping deficit in the country’s social infrastructure (and one that women were largely left to fill). In five years, as a means of bringing more women back into the workforce, parents across Canada could have access to child care for $10 a day. That’s an urgent concern, given that women’s participation in the labour force reached its lowest levels in 30 years in July 2020. Up next: With experience in foreign relations, finance, international trade and journalism, she’s perfectly positioned to fill Trudeau’s Oxfords when he decides to hang them up.
3

Doug Ford

Premier
Because he finally listened to the scientists

CP Images

The plain-talking businessman from Etobicoke was elected to rein in the deficit and get tough with the unions—not to guide the province through (surprise!) the worst health care crisis of our time. The road has been rather bumpy. A good leader knows when he’s out of his depth. After a mind-boggling stretch in which he ignored the Science Advisory Table’s recommendations (paid sick leave! Getting vaccines to actual hotspots!) and instead closed playgrounds and pledged to step up random police checks, he finally let the scientists take the lead. They advised that outdoor transmission rates are lower than indoor; that postal codes with more essential workers require more targeted resources; and that, come on, playgrounds are not the enemy. Today, just over 85 per cent of eligible Ontarians have been fully vaccinated, inching toward the province’s goal of 90 per cent. Ford has rolled out vaccine passports and mandated vaccines for LTC staff. There are no winners in a pandemic, but his overall leadership has been solid. Up next: Vying for another term. He’ll need to tone down the distasteful hyper-partisan schtick of the stump and stay focused on the pandemic.
4

Anita Anand

Minister of national defence
Because she secured the vaccines

Daniel Neuhaus

There was a moment, back in the spring, when it didn’t seem like anything was going Anand. Vaccines were slow to come, hogged by bigger, louder countries. There was barely enough supply to control the waves of infection among at-risk seniors. So the then-minister of public services and procurement, a career lawyer with a specialty in business ethics, picked up the phone, firmly reminded pharma companies about the terms of the multi-billion-dollar contracts they’d signed and demanded what Canada was owed. By June, supply ballooned and doses became available just about everywhere. By midsummer, we’d zipped past every other country, vaccinating more than 70 per cent of the eligible population. Grandparents can hug their grandchildren again. And we have Anand to thank for that. Up next: Tackling her new portfolio, national defence, a prestigious post overseeing the Canadian Armed Forces.
5

John Tory

Mayor
Because he made life a little more livable for stressed out Torontonians

Getty Images

Pre-pandemic Tory, a true Bay Streeter, was a risk-averse pragmatist. But seeing his city in lockdown, Tory let his hair down (literally—he let it grow for nearly a full year), embracing untested, potentially risky programs that could very well create a better Toronto in the process. He fast-tracked 40 kilometres of new bike lanes, in part to accommodate the influx of pandemic-era cyclists. He authorized the conversion of sidewalks and street lanes into patios for restaurants and bars, which had the added benefit of making many downtown streets more vibrant. He put money into support programs for the Indigenous, Black and disabled communities most affected by the pandemic, then hammered the feds and Queen’s Park to cover Toronto’s billion-dollar-plus budget shortfall. He said they had to pay up because he refused to cut city services, arguing that they’re needed now more than ever. Up next: He is an advisory committee member of the family trust at Rogers, which is in the throes of a nasty family battle. A natural mediator, Tory will no doubt be called upon.
6

Eileen de Villa & Matthew Pegg

Toronto’s medical officer of health and fire chief
Two steadying presences in an uneasy time

Katherine Holland and courtesy of Toronto Fire Services

Toronto’s beloved scarf queen and her bespectacled sidekick have been a steadying civic presence for nearly two years now. They spent the early part of 2021getting vaccines into arms in a high-speed race against fast-spreading variants of concern. (True, we would have preferred a seamless, centralized rollout to the chaotic frenzy we got.) The power duo then implemented targeted, science-backed measures to supplement (and, at times, lead) those implemented by the province. Case in point: when Ford prematurely loosened restrictions last March, in the face of a cresting third wave, de Villa boldly issued an order to close in-person classrooms. Side gigs: De Villa is a member of the McGill Women, Leadership and Philanthropy Initiative, which works to increase the representation of women in positions of leadership. Pegg has been working to shift the culture around mental illness in the fire service by speaking out about his own mental health struggles.
7

Drake

Musician
Because there is nothing he can’t do

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If you’ve managed to avoid hearing his thump-thumping “Way 2 Sexy” playing every hour on every Top 40 station, or didn’t understand his cryptic billboards all over the city, or didn’t buy any of his Nike line of hats, hoodies and shirts, then where have you been? Certified Lover Boy is his first new album since 2018, and it is certified HUGE. So huge, it walloped the new Kanye album, which was supposed to be huge. So huge, it has cover art by Damien Hirst of a dozen pregnant, emoji-style women—and that cover has become a huge story on its own, inspiring countless memes. So huge, the university formerly known as Ryerson offered a course this year to study his lyrics, plus the lyrics of fellow Toronto musician the Weeknd—who you may have heard is also huge (Super Bowl halftime show huge!). Up next: With concert-promoting juggernaut Live Nation, he’s converting a former off-track betting site in the Beaches into History Toronto, a 2,500-person capacity music venue.
8

Kieran Moore

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health
A capable and charismatic new leader

courtesy of KFL&A Public Health

Since succeeding David Williams in June, Moore has taken swift action to help Ontario reach its goal of getting 90 per cent of its eligible population fully vaxxed. Ontario’s proof of vaccination policy resulted in a quick uptick in vaccinations—in some regions a boost of 20 per cent. Moore had been quietly working behind the scenes since January, when he joined Ontario’s Covid-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force to develop a distribution strategy based on priority needs. As chief medical officer, Moore has stickhandled the question of what to do about schools. To nip school-based transmission in the bud and keep kids in class, Moore recommended rolling out rapid testing at schools deemed “high-risk” (though it will be up to local public health units to ask for said tests). But rapid testing is no replacement for immunization. It takes a community to keep schools safe, he has said, placing the onus on parents, teachers and other community members to get jabbed so our schools can safely stay open. Side gigs: In 2004, he launched a pilot project called Acute Care Enhanced Surveillance that tracks hospital patients’ reasons for admission. The information is entered into a provincial surveillance system that works as an early-warning system for disease outbreaks.
9

Tiff Macklem

Governor, Bank of Canada
The man at the helm of the economy

CP Images

If sparing Canada from a full-on pandemic-triggered recession was his mission in 2020, this year the Bank of Canada’s weather maker has been focused on charting a slow and steady path to recovery. That has meant maintaining record low interest rates, continuing to pump cash ($2 billion a week) into the economy and refusing to blink (or give into peer pressure) in the face of soaring inflation rates. The risky strategy has paid off in the form of a faster-than-anticipated return to a healthy labour market, an overall robust economic forecast and a fire under the Canadian dollar following a late October economic outlook announcement. Up next: An interest rate hike could hit as early as spring 2022 if Canada’s economy moves into what Macklem calls the “reinvestment phase.”
10

Stephen Lecce

Education minister
Because his decisions affect every school-age kid in the province

CP Images

Is Lecce the most loathed politician in Ontario? It’s certainly close. But likability and power aren’t the same thing, and he’s the decision maker for some two million students and their parents across the province. Anti-vax protesters don’t like that he requires kids to wear masks in schools (some even stalked him at his home). At the other end of the vax spectrum, many parents were annoyed with how, in the first year of the pandemic, he seemed proudly oblivious to medical expertise, sending kids back to school prematurely, only to have to pull them out again. When he sent them back this fall, parents and teachers complained that safe physical distancing was impossible with 30-plus kids crammed into every class. But there were notable improvements: over the summer, schools upgraded ventilation systems; more cleaning staff meant more frequent sanitization of high-touch surfaces; and clear procedures were developed for schools to work with the city health unit to identify and control outbreaks, including at-home rapid tests. At press time, his measures had worked, with only a few thousand confirmed cases among those two million kids. Friends in high places: At age 25, he served as former prime minister Stephen Harper’s deputy director of communications.
11

Simu Liu

Actor
Because he’s changing the face of Hollywood

Getty Images

In the lead-up to the Labour Day weekend opening of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Simu Liu tweeted at his fans to help him make history. And it worked. The release—the first ever Marvel movie starring an Asian superhero—broke U.S. Labor Day opening weekend box office records, and has since surpassed Black Widow as the highest-grossing film of 2021 in the States. Not bad for a guy who got the gig by tweeting at Marvel. Rarely shy about sharing his politics on social media, Liu has used his ever-growing platform to talk about toxic masculinity, anti-Asian racism and the controversial cancellation of his CBC show Kim’s Convenience. He’s unafraid of throwing down against the big guns, as he did when Disney CEO Bob Chapek (his boss) flippantly referred to Shang-Chi as “an interesting experiment.” Charity circuit: He put his best pecs forward in May, going topless in a video to support the California Milk Processor Board (creators of the iconic “got milk?” ads) and Share Our Strength’s new No Kid Hungry campaign, raising funds to feed kids in California.
12

Michael Katchen

CEO, Wealthsimple
Because he’s brought DIY investing to the masses

Getty Images

It was a weird, wonderful year for the leader of the city’s most blinged-out fintech biz. There was the big March retreat, when he spun off their U.S. business to another online financial services company so he could focus on the Canadian market. In May, he announced they’d raised a mind-boggling $750 million in another round of funding. That infusion valued Wealthsimple at an astronomical $5 billion. Total clients (excluding tax filers) now stand at 1.5 million, and since 2020, they’ve doubled their team, and now have more than 800 employees. The company sees the pandemic shift away from brick-and-mortar as its moment to shine. Katchen has said this is the time for Wealthsimple to not only eclipse the brokerage services offered by the old-timey banks, but to dominate peer-to-peer cash exchanges and personal stock trading, and become the all-purpose financial assistant to anyone too young to remember a world before the loonie. Friends in high places: Drake, Ryan Reynolds and Michael J. Fox all contributed to Wealthsimple’s $750-million pot.
13

Vitalik Buterin

Co-founder, Ethereum
Canada’s cryptocurrency kingpin

Cryptocurrency giant Ethereum may not have caught up with rival Bitcoin just yet, but a market cap of $628 billion is one hell of a consolation prize. In May, the industry’s second-best made the 27-year-old Buterin the world’s youngest crypto billionaire less than a decade after he dropped out of the University of Waterloo to launch his big idea. A blockchain-based platform with an associated cryptocurrency, its popularity has skyrocketed—and so has its environmental footprint. It’s an issue Buterin is looking to address with Eth2 (Ethereum 2.0), an upgrade set to be completed by early 2022. The move is expected to slash the platform’s power consumption by 99 per cent, positioning it as the green choice. Charity circuit: The same month he became a billionaire, Buterin donated $1.5 billion to a Covid-relief fund in India—in the form of the meme cryptocurrency Shiba Inu coin.
14

Raquel Urtasun

Founder and CEO, Waabi
The new name in self-driving cars

Miguel Arenilas

In 2021, the Spanish-born AI wunderkind moved on from her role as chief scientist and launched her own company, Waabi, with the goal of speeding up the deployment of autonomous vehicles. Waabi, which means “she has vision” in Ojibwe, launched with over $100 million in capital—among the most ever raised by a Canadian tech start-up—including from bigwig investors like Silicon Valley’s Khosla Ventures and Uber. Urtasun’s decision to build Waabi’s headquarters in Toronto was based in part on the country’s high concentration of AI talent. “My goal is to put Canada at the forefront of self-driving,” she said this summer. While the competition has frequently hit roadblocks around issues of scaling and IRL testing, Urtasun’s team is developing a system that will teach itself to drive within a simulated environment, making it faster, cheaper and a whole lot less likely to result in human carnage. Side gigs: She’s in investor in the Toronto-based AI start-up Cohere, which developed software to improve natural language processing programs.
15

Tobias Lütke & Satish Kanwar

Shopify executives
The power duo who revolutionized online commerce

CP Images

In 2020, Shopify blew past RBC as Canada’s most valuable company. This year, it can add one of the most profitable to a growing list of superlatives, with quarterly revenues soaring into the billions. As lockdowns loomed for months longer than expected, the platform helped small businesses get online and stay afloat, and while in-store shopping has resumed, e-commerce is arguably the new normal. The year in partnerships includes tech giants from Google to TikTok, plus key customer acquisitions like Dockers, Spanx and Jennifer Aniston (who chose Shopify as the online merchant for her LolaVie beauty brand). Another clear sign of imminent global domination: a recent change in the company’s news release placeline, wherein “Ottawa, Canada” has been replaced by “Internet, Everywhere.” Up next: Tapcart—or Shopify for your smartphone—scored $50 million (U.S.) in Series B funding. Shopify was an investor.
16

Penny Oleksiak

Olympic swimmer
Because seven Olympics medals is a lot of hardware

At a mere 21 years of age, the Queen of the Pool capped off her summer with a new title: Most Decorated Canadian Olympian Ever. While winning a silver and two bronzes in Tokyo to add to her collection, the Beaches-raised swimmer also made moves on dry land, releasing a swimwear collection through the eponymous brand of her good pal Michael Phelps; turning a hometown autograph-signing into a fundraiser for the Daily Bread Food Bank; and trading shyness for swagger on social media with cheerful zingers (case in point: after missing the podium in the 100-metre freestyle, she tweeted, “Honestly, this is gonna make the comeback more fun hehehehe.” Her star wattage and massive brand appeal has drawn partnerships with RBC, Tetley, Cheerios, Vichy and Egg Farmers of Canada. Up next: She’s already gearing up for gold in Paris in 2024.
17

The Weeknd

Singer
Because he became so much more than an R&B star

Getty Images

Who even remembers who won the 2021 Super Bowl? But the halftime show—the Covid-safe, sequin-bombed, robot-choir-backed psychedelia that Rolling Stone called “dizzying”—won’t be forgotten any time soon. (Especially after a behind-the-scenes documentary about the performance came out in September). The aptly nicknamed Starboy broke the record for longest-running hit in Billboard Hot 100 history with “Blinding Lights,” maybe (probably) dated Angelina Jolie, and received the Quincy Jones Humanitarian Award at the Black Music Action Coalition’s inaugural Music in Action Awards honouring his work for Black Lives Matter and food aid in Ethiopia. Here in Toronto, his success will be the subject of a new class at the university formerly known as Ryerson: Deconstructing Drake and the Weeknd. And OverActive Media, of which he’s a co-owner, recently scored a development deal for a $500-million, 7,000-seat venue at Exhibition Place. Up next: A starring role in the new HBO series The Idol, about an L.A. club owner who is also a cult leader.
18

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Athlete
For giving Jays fans hope

Getty Images

His performance was the most spectacular of any hitter in baseball this year, but super slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s signature move is decidedly muted. After cranking a homer, he raises an index finger to his lips as he rounds third base, a gesture that’s meant to say, “Let my work do the talking.” It’s a low-key way of clapping back at his critics, the ones who took shots at his physique and questioned his slow start when he joined the Jays in 2019. This year, Guerrero’s 48 homers, 111 RBIs and 123 runs make him not only his team’s best player but among the best in all of baseball. With the Raps in quasi-rebuild mode and the wayward Leafs still sorting through the wreckage of last postseason, the Jays have once again captured the city’s sporting heart, and Guerrero, at only 22 years old, is the team’s young leader. The transcendence from sport star to household name has begun, and the sponsorship world is salivating. In July, he signed a sponsorship deal with Nike’s Jordan brand. Friends in high places: Latino pop superstar Marc Anthony owns the agency that reps him.
19

Erin O’Toole

Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada
Because he won the popular vote and is holding Trudeau to account

CP Images

Could leader of the Conservative Party of Canada be the country’s most impossible job? With vote-rich Toronto firmly in the Liberals’ grasp, the Tories have to appeal to basically everyone else, and that means voting blocs as diverse as anti-vax Albertan cowboys and pro-vax Maritimers. Good luck with that. Still, O’Toole mounted a strong challenge to Trudeau’s leadership. “We’re not your dad’s Conservative party any more,” he proclaimed. He shifted the party’s ideology closer to the centre, promising to fight climate change with a carbon tax and embracing pro-choice and LGBTQ+ allyship. The Conservatives won the popular vote, but his stance against vaccine mandates prevented an electoral victory—and Jason Kenney’s utter implosion didn’t help. Up next: O’Toole faces the existential threat of a potential leadership review, and will be busy jockeying for caucus support to keep his job until the next election.
20

Lawrence Loh

Peel Region’s medical officer of health
For making the smart, tough decisions, even when they’re unpopular

Getty Images

For a gregarious extrovert known to arrange karaoke nights for his colleagues, Loh had a lonely spring. When the province was caught flat-footed by Covid’s third wave, Peel’s medical officer of health stepped out alone to impose stricter measures. In March, he shut down an Amazon warehouse after an outbreak and sent its workers home to isolate. In April, Loh closed Peel’s schools, despite a provincial order to reopen. And then, after a tepid stay-at-home order from Doug Ford, Loh shuttered all businesses with five or more cases. Up next: Improving vaccination uptake in Mississauga, where rates in several postal codes sit below 70 per cent.
21

Mohamed Lachemi

President, Ryerson University
For confronting history and embracing change

May Truong

When Lachemi was promoted from VP to president five years ago, he had no idea he’d be steering the ship through its choppiest waters ever. Even last fall, when he appointed a task force to examine the school’s colonial ties (in general) and the legacy of its namesake (in particular), he could not have anticipated the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of Indigenous children that brought Canada’s original sin into sharp, shameful focus. University campuses have always been hotbeds during times of social upheaval. It’s safe to say the times they are a-changin’ at Ryerson—known as X University by many faculty and students—as part of the move to cut ties with one of the architects of Canada’s residential school system. Calling the controversial decision an “important step” in moving toward a “better, more inclusive future,” Lachemi has emerged as a capable dismantler of systemic barriers. See also: the newly launched Lincoln Alexander School of Law, which brings equitable access to legal training. Up next: Making the case for Ryerson’s proposed School of Medicine in Brampton, which would prioritize a culturally respectful approach to health care.
22

Ron Deibert

Founder and director, the Citizen Lab
A hacker’s worst nightmare

Paul Eekhoff

No one has done more than Ron Deibert and his lab to expose the enemies of the internet. And that’s not just our opinion. It’s the verbatim book blurb from Edward Snowden for Deibert’s Reset: Reclaiming the Internet for Civil Society. Deibert is the lead and founder of the Citizen Lab, a University of Toronto–based research centre and watchdog group that specializes in online security threats—which is to say the most significant threats of the modern era. In 2021 alone, the Citizen Lab flagged a vulnerability in older Apple operating systems; busted up a spyware operation used by Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai to spy on his estranged wife; produced a policy-influencing report on Canada’s data collection and privacy during Covid; and identified a few of the most nefarious (and previously anonymous) actors in the Capitol insurrection, including the infamous “zip tie guy.” Friends in high places: Celebrity muckraker Ronan Farrow partnered with the Citizen Lab to identify the January 6 stormers.
23

Andre De Grasse

Olympic sprinter
For finally nabbing gold—and assuming Bolt’s mantle

CP Images

Rare is the Canadian Olympian who transcends the interesting-once-every-four-years label. This summer, De Grasse entered that elite territory when he nabbed gold in the men’s 200 metres, a glittering bauble to add to his war chest of one Olympic silver, four bronzes and two Pan Am golds). Brands have been wise to De Grasse’s potential for a while now. He’s landed sponsorship deals with Puma, Oakley, Visa, Peloton, RW&CO, Gatorade, GoDaddy, Sobeys and Headversity. All told, those bring in roughly $3 million a year. He’s given a lot back, too: in 2021, through his Andre De Grasse Family Foundation, he donated money to food banks, mattresses to tired doctors and nurses in the GTA, and new tailored suits to young Black professionals. Side gigs: De Grasse wrote a children’s book, Race With Me!, which is now in its second printing. It was named to Indigo’s Best Kids’ Books of 2021 list and is a nominee for a young readers’ award from the Ontario Library Association.
24

John Graham

President and CEO, CPP Investments
A quiet leader with a massive portfolio

Rick Chard

He wasn’t the first choice to head up the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board—that was Mark Machin, who resigned amid revelations that he jumped the queue and got vaxxed in the United Arab Emirates—but Graham is shaping up to be the better choice. A long-time employee of the country’s largest pension fund, which manages a whopping $519 billion in assets, he’s been coming up through the organization since 2008, gaining experience in various departments. He was a chemist in Xerox’s labs before making the switch to finance, and his approach is grounded in science: methodical, measured and ready for anything. Up next: Tracking the progress of the fund’s recently created Sustainable Energies Group, which focuses on renewables, new technology and conventional energy—and has $20 billion in assets under management to make its mark.
25

Cameron Bailey

Artistic director and head, TIFF
For keeping Toronto’s famous fest alive and well

Luis Mora

With back-to-back pandemic festivals under his belt, it would have been hard to fault Bailey for taking a break. But as soon as the credits rolled on 2021, he was already at work planning for next year. It’s no surprise—the programmer turned top dog just celebrated his silver anniversary at the fest, and there’s no name more closely linked to the city’s film industry than his. Locally, the festival generates an annual economic impact of $200 million. He’s a global power player, too: he was just named to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the people who choose the Oscar winners). When Bailey’s not busy keeping TIFF humming—including the long-awaited reopening of the TIFF Bell Lightbox in October—he’s figuring out new ways to make the GTA better for all of us as a member of the board of CivicAction. Up next: Following the departure of his co-head Joana Vicente for Sundance, Bailey is running the festival solo.
26

Daniel Habashi

General manager, TikTok Canada, Middle East, Africa and South Asia
Because he’s heading up a social media powerhouse

Norman Wong

Shortly before the pandemic hit, Habashi was working as the chief marketing officer at the private members’ club Soho House. At TikTok Canada, he established the content and operations side of the business and began to hire his core leadership team, from music to content to partnerships. Even if you only sort of understand what all that means, you’ve surely heard about the social media app that allows users to create and post video content. If Instagram is about sharing a highly curated version of your life, TikTok—populated with lip syncs, dance crazes and comedy—is for selling your star power, which made it perfect for the Covid era (when liking your friends’ baked bread selfies got old pretty quickly). TikTok will soon be opening an office in Liberty Village that will double as a community hub and filming space. Habashi has handpicked a leadership team of the city’s best, brightest and coolest (ex–Elle Canada editor-in-chief Vanessa Craft, for example), though in some ways his “team” are TikTok’s one billion users a month, any one of whom could be the next Bomanizer, the Ryerson student whose pandemic parodies have landed him a contract with CAA. Up next: A generation-fusing partnership with MLSE will see the TikTok logo on Leafs helmet this season.
27

Jesse Wente

Writer, broadcaster
For standing up and speaking out

Luis Mora

Wente, a member of the Serpent River First Nation, has been first a lot. As a film and pop culture critic, he was the CBC’s first nationally syndicated Indigenous columnist. In 2018, he became the first executive director of the newly created Indigenous Screen Office. And this past September, after 25 years spent highlighting Indigenous creators, he released his first book, a memoir. In Unreconciled, Wente examines the impact of residential schools and racial profiling, puts a stake through the stories Canada has told itself in order to sleep at night, and makes an unambiguous case against reconciliation. He’d rather push for narrative sovereignty in Indigenous arts—by which he means Indigenous people telling their own stories—to help the First Nations, Métis and Inuit address inequities, first in culture and then in other spheres. Side gig: Wente is a third of the way through his five-year term as chair of the Canada Council for the Arts—and yes, he’s the first Indigenous person to hold the job.
28

Marianne McKenna

Architect, partner at KPMB
The visionary behind the new Massey Hall

Guntar Kravis courtesy of KPMB Architects

McKenna cemented her star status in Canadian architecture with her decade-spanning work for the Royal Conservatory, where she turned Koerner Hall into a cathedral of advanced acoustics, wood-ribboned ceiling and imposing glass lobbies. More recently, KPMB Architects (of which McKenna is a founding partner) turned its attention to the city’s oldest musical theatre venue, Massey Hall. McKenna headed up the team that revitalized the neoclassical theatre by restoring heritage details, updating the performance-related parts of the hall and creating new spaces for performers and audiences. Friends in High Places: Meryl Streep is an old friend from McKenna’s time at Yale, when she was a graduate architecture student and Streep was an aspiring actress.
29

Hank Idsinga

Head of homicide, Toronto police
The de facto face of the Toronto Police in a time of change

CP Images

We know Idsinga as the gentle giant who solved the Bruce McArthur case. Last fall, his team utilized forensic genealogy to crack one of Ontario’s coldest cases, the 1984 murder of Christine Jessop). And now they’re closer than ever to solving the nearly 40-year-old linked murders of Erin Gilmour and Susan Tice—the suspect list is down to a single family tree. Under Idsinga’s leadership, the homicide team is expected to end the year with a murder investigation clearance rate of over 74 per cent—among the best for metropolitan areas in North America. He’s been a strong and steadying force in the year since Mark Saunders stepped down as chief of police. Charity circuit: Idsinga, who clocked in over 10,000 kilometres on his road bike this year, participated in the Cycle 4 St. Joe’s event, which raised $413,000 for St. Joseph’s Health Centre.
30

Brendan Healy

Artistic Director, Canadian Stage
For bringing theatre—and joy—to the masses when we needed it most

Alejandro Santiago

When he assumed the role heading up the country’s biggest not-for-profit theatre company in 2018, Healy, a champion of theatrical diversity, was intent on extending the reach of CanStage to support the city’s larger artistic ecosystem. That mission became all the more urgent as the pandemic ravaged arts organizations across the country. When the province finally greenlit a return to outdoor performance over the summer, CanStage was well positioned to lead the reopening of the High Park Amphitheatre, a 1,000-seat outdoor theatre venue. Rather than return to the old way of doing things—a full season of Shakespeare—Healy opted to break with the Bard and partner with 19 other companies, giving them a place to perform, and giving live performance back to starving culture vultures. Just as impressive, he finished a momentously challenging year in the black, building institutional stability at the previously deficit-plagued organization. Up next: A return to indoor performance will kick off in January with the North American premiere of Solaris, a space saga based on the 1961 novel by Polish author Stanislaw Lem (and adapted into a George Clooney movie in 2002).
31

Brian Greenspan

Lawyer
Because there’s no one tougher in the world of law

CP Images

Over the summer, Toronto’s pre-eminent litigator added another win to his long resumé with the acquittal of Linda O’Leary (a.k.a. Mrs. Wonderful, the wife of Shark/Dragon Kevin O’Leary), who was charged in relation to a fatal boating accident in Muskoka. The case caused a media sensation, but for Greenspan, it was just another day in court. The younger brother of the late, legendary legal showman Eddie, Brian is a more academic, cerebral sort. His reputation is the reason a group including ex-justice minister Allan Rock and ex-Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour called on Greenspan to write a legal opinion about why the Canadian government could intervene in the Meng Wanzhou extradition. (A year later, the Canadian courts dropped the extradition request.) Up next: A decision on whether Greenspan’s client Peter Nygård will go to trial in Toronto before the U.S.
32

Aurora James

Designer and activist
For setting the fashion world abuzz

Getty Images

The Met Gala 2021 was the biggest red carpet since the dawn of Covid-19, and when it was rolled up, nobody could stop talking about the dress worn by congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a white, off-the-shoulder show-stopper and literal head-turner with “Tax the Rich” emblazoned in red. It was the kind of big controversy-courting swing that has become second nature to the fashion-world firebrand who created it. The Guelph-born founder of the celeb-favoured label Brother Vellies is behind the 15 Percent Pledge, an initiative calling on retailers to devote 15 per cent (based roughly on the percentage of Black Americans) of shelf space to BIPOC brands and creators. Macy’s, Sephora and Indigo are among the 25 major brands that have signed on. Friends in high places: James’s boyfriend is demi-Canadian semi-royalty Benjamin Bronfman, a musician and entrepreneur.
33

Charles Khabouth

Restaurateur
The Nostradamus of the restaurant industry

Elaine Fancy

When the pandemic threatened to bring Khabouth’s sprawling entertainment empire down, he pivoted like an NBA power forward and managed to keep all but one of his restaurants, bars and clubs afloat (RIP Cube). This year, despite staffing and supply chain issues, he unveiled two more: Pink Sky, a swanky yet unstuffy seafood spot, and Clio, a King West private members’ club complete with a restaurant, art gallery and cinema. Never content to rest on his considerable laurels—he oversees 20 properties in Toronto, one in Niagara Falls and two in Miami, with a third Miami venue opening soon—Khabouth stays way ahead of the curve. He gives Torontonians the restaurants and clubs we want before we even know we want them. Up next: His latest opening is Bar Patria, a Spanish tapas bar in the Portland Street space formerly inhabited by Bar Buca.
34

Samantha Yammine

TikTok star
The Covid queen of TikTok

Al Quintero Photography

When a young girl DM’d Samantha Yammine on Instagram to say that she watched her “needle anxiety” video right before she got the Covid jab, the message stuck. Yammine—a.k.a. Science Sam—a 31-year-old University of Toronto grad with a PhD from the department of molecular genetics, started creating quick-fire videos on Covid science in January 2020, and she hasn’t stopped. The videos break down what she calls “big-picture concepts,” like why you should still get vaccinated even if you’ve had Covid or why Ontario is now mandating vaccines. In other words, where public health has failed to reach the 16- to 24-year-old demographic with their coronavirus messaging, Science Sam bridges the gap. Her content is viewed more than five million times a month, making her the go-to Covid news source for the TikTok gen. What followers don’t see are conversations she’s having with people via DM—anti-vaxxers who curse at her, vaccine-hesitant pregnant women, and those who beg her to debunk Covid propaganda. The majority though, she says, are just people who need someone to explain the science without being condescending. Friends in high places: Her fiancé, Rishi Nayyar, is the CEO of PocketHealth, a med-tech company that allows patients and health care providers to share medical imaging records.
35

Jordan Bitove & Paul Rivett

Co-owners, Torstar
The financial whizzes atop Canada’s largest daily

Fans of the country’s largest daily newspaper were cautiously pessimistic when the right-leaning Bitove and Rivett bought left-leaning Torstar. (Bitove’s family is old-school Canadian establishment; Rivett donated to Maxime Bernier’s leadership campaign in 2017). But in the weeks and months after the acquisition, it became clear the purchase wasn’t about politics or ideology. The pair held a public offering of a lesser-known Torstar publishing division called VerticalScope Holdings, which led to a tripling of the original investment. They’ve continued to invest in the investigative department and launched Together, a new weekend section with a good-vibes-only mandate and a focus on BIPOC and LGBTQ communities. Up next: An online casino brand, the profits of which will be used to fund the Star as well as smaller regional publications.
36

Stephen Diamond

Chair, Waterfront Toronto
The man with the plan

Erin Leydon

Google’s parent company Alphabet may have been the one to pull the plug on the Sidewalk experiment. But it was Waterfront Toronto’s unflappable leader who pushed back against the tech giant (which may or may not have had plans to turn Toronto into a surveillance state). Diamond, who signed on as chair after the Sidewalk deal had been signed, now has a chance to reset the course for the 12-acre parcel—one that will focus less on sexy (but scary!) smart tech and more on social responsibility. Meanwhile, Waterfront’s largest project—the flood-proofing of the Port Lands, which will transform the prime but previously undevelopable real estate into a new neighbourhood—is moving along on time and on budget ($1.25 billion). Up next: Plans for amenities at the recently purchased Parliament Slip include swimming pools, an amphitheatre and a floating restaurant.
37

Jordan Jacobs & Tomi Poutanen

Radical Ventures
The bold venture capitalists behind groundbreaking new start-ups

Jeff Beardall and CP Images

If Toronto’s network of AI research institutions, laboratories, venture capital funds and start-ups is a wheel, Jacobs and Poutanen are the hub. The duo launched Radical Ventures, a VC firm that invests in AI start-ups that are shaping the future. Three of Radical’s portfolio companies alone raised a total of approximately $350 million in 2021. Berkeley-based Covariant powers industrial robots for commercial use in industries like manufacturing and e-commerce—these aren’t your garden-variety household AI products like Alexa or Siri; they’re “brainlike” systems capable of seeing and responding to the world around them. Friends in high places: Former TD Bank CEO Ed Clark, who chairs the board at the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, is a partner at Radical Ventures.
38

Prabmeet Sarkaria

Ontario MPP and Treasury Board president
The new face of the Ontario PC party

Since the spring cabinet shakeup, every cheque written by the provincial government now bears Prabmeet Sarkaria’s signature. Both the youngest (he’s 33) and the first turban-wearing Sikh to serve as Ontario’s Treasury Board president—a.k.a. the keeper of the province’s $168-billion purse—it’s no wonder he’s being touted as the fresh new face of the Ontario PCs. Key spends so far include a $19-billion pandemic response package, funding everything from safe school reopening ($1.6 billion) to more than 3,100 new hospital beds ($703 million). Up next: He will play a critical role in his boss’s take-back-the-burbs re-election strategy, running in the vote-rich and highly competitive Brampton South riding, and campaigning all over the 905.
39

Phil Verster

CEO of Metrolinx
Because he controls the future of transit

Getty Images

Talk about a thankless job. As president and CEO of Metrolinx, Verster oversees an integrated transportation system in the GTHA, which means he’s the guy to blame when things go wrong. But he’s also the guy to thank when things go right, and they’re headed in that direction. The civic holy grail—an integrated, efficient, effective transportation network—has held Toronto back for decades, and Verster has the power to make every commuter’s dreams come true. The Crosstown LRT is due to open in 2022, and the $11-billion Ontario Line has moved into its next phase. Expansion plans and expropriation are causing kerfuffles in Thorncliffe Park and Riverdale, but despite the chaos, Verster’s longer-term vision for a “network effect”—more frequent service, flexibility and connections across communities—is a worthy aspiration for transit-underserved Toronto. Up next: Responding to changing commuter habits once (and if) workers return to offices is an immediate concern.
40

Mustafa

Artist and activist
A passionate voice speaking important truths

Dexter Navy

With the release of his debut album, When Smoke Rises, this past May, Mustafa became a Next Big Thing. Over the past seven months, he’s appeared on Jimmy Fallon, been profiled in the New York Times and scored a photo op with Angelina Jolie and her daughters. Thing is, his rise only seems meteoric: it has deep roots in “A Single Rose,” a poem about poverty he wrote in 2009 as a 12-year-old kid from Regent Park. He’s since fought to address inequality by sitting on Justin Trudeau’s youth council, advocating for peace as poet laureate at the Pan Am Games and bringing rappers from rival communities together for a documentary on gun violence. Throughout it all, he laid the groundwork for his self-described “inner-city folk music,” writing songs for the Weeknd and collaborating with Drake until he was ready for his own spotlight. Side gig: He wrote poems for the fashion house Maison Valentino that were embroidered on 25 pieces in a recent collection.
41

Anton Rabie, Ronnen Harary & Ben Varadi

Spin Master Toys executives
The kings of kids’ stuff

If you are a child, have a child, or have had cause to purchase gifts for a child, then you’re intimately familiar with Paw Patrol, the animated TV series about big-eyed, bigger-hearted rescue pups that’s captivated the pre-school set—and served as the occasional babysitter—in 160 countries around the world. The brainchild of Toronto-based toy behemoth Spin Master, Paw Patrol leapt to the big screen this summer alongside more than 30 tie-in toys. Meanwhile, locked-down kids playing Toca Life World sent the company’s digital games revenue soaring 400 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020. But Spin Master also has a soft spot for more traditional diversions, so this year they purchased Rubik’s Cube for $50 million (U.S.)—pocket change when your 2020 revenue clocked in at $1.57 billion (U.S.). Up next: The ninth season of Paw Patrol, and an almost-certain feature-length sequel. Plus, the company is launching a $100-million (U.S.) fund to invest in entertainment and toy companies.
42

Shiran Isaacksz & Phillip Anthony

Mobile vaccination leaders
For bringing vaccines to the people

As co-leads of the Toronto Mobile Vaccine Strategy Table, Isaacksz and Anthony helped spearhead 500,000 vaccinations. That included nearly 27,000 people (the mayor among them) at Scotiabank Arena, which set a record for most vaccinations in a day. The pair put equal emphasis on the low-volume clinics needed to catch vaccine stragglers, bringing pop-ups to apartment lobbies, basketball courts, churches, shopping malls and TTC stations by persuading the city to work closely with communities and flood hotspots with vaccines. Up next: Getting Toronto to its 90 per cent vaccination target. It’s a tall order, but they’re determined to try.
43

Denise Andrea Campbell

Executive director, social development, City of Toronto
Because she’s making police interactions with the mentally ill more humane—and less deadly

In the wake of the BLM protests, council adopted 36 recommendations to improve policing. Number one was the creation of non-police response teams to manage mental health crises. Campbell is the person in charge of turning that call into action. For the last year, she’s been developing an $11-million pilot project that will deploy teams of harm-reduction workers, de-escalation strategists, nurses, Indigenous elders and peers rather than defaulting to the police. The goal is to build trust in communities underserved by traditional policing and ultimately to reduce the 30,689 mental health distress calls that Toronto Police received in 2019 by implementing long-term recovery strategies. Up next: In 2022, Campbell will spearhead the development of the city’s multi-sector gun violence reduction plan.
44

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan

Actor
For making the leap from the burbs to stardom—and winning hearts along the way

Getty Images

In July, the week after season two of her show Never Have I Ever premiered (and then broke Netflix’s top 10 in 70 different countries), the 19-year-old no-longer-an-ingenue posted a voice memo on Twitter, schooling fans—and anyone else who cared to listen—on the correct pronunciation of her name. It’s MY-tray-yi, by the way, and if you didn’t know that, you haven’t been paying attention. Since beating out 15,000 wannabes for the lead in Mindy Kaling’s semi-autobiographical series, then turning that series into a hit with her endearing, seemingly effortless (but actually expert) performance, Ramakrishnan has become exactly the kind of icon a young Mindy Kaling dreamed of while bingeing on John Hughes movies (the ones where the only Asian characters had names like Long Duk Dong). Far from perpetuating outdated stereotypes, Ramakrishnan is upending them. See: her recent casting as Lizzie Bennet in Netflix’s forthcoming Pride and Prejudice reboot. Up next: Season three. Greenlighting the next chapter for Devi and the gang was a Netflix no-brainer.
45

Mark Shapiro & Ross Atkins

Toronto Blue Jays executives
For building a World Series contender, and ignoring the haters along the way

Getty Images

It takes courage to be bad. But these days, losing (and the high draft picks it brings) is the best way to build a long-term winner. The two-headed leadership team of Shapiro (president, CEO) and Atkins (EVP, GM) took over after the heady days of Bautista-Encarnación-Donaldson and boldly razed the team. With each passing flop-sweat season, the critics piled on and the fans grew ornery, but the duo preached patience and stuck to the plan. Then, sometime around May of 2021, the long-promised future was suddenly... here, led by superstar Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The team is stacked, the farm system is good and the contracts are manageable. What does all that mean for the casual, tune-in-when-they’re-good fan? The Blue Jays are back. Up next: Shopping trip! Shapiro and Atkins can spend with abandon on free agents this offseason.
46

Michael Serbinis

CEO, League
A start-up godfather with a stuffed Rolodex

Three years ago, the Weston family co-led a $62-million financing round in Serbinis’s app, League, a platform that he originally conceived as an Uber for health care services—and that was before Covid turned digital health care into the biggest thing in tech. Now League is powering Loblaw’s PC Health app, a venture that arrived just in time to do what not long ago felt near impossible: help Canadians book vaccine appointments. For Loblaw (who bought Shoppers in 2014), it’s part of a larger play to dominate the digital health care field. For serial start-upper Serbinis, the partnership means funding for his next venture: a similar digital health platform with the U.S. insurance company Humana. Friends in high places: He’s now chair of the Perimeter Institute, a sort of Freemasons for the theoretical physics set, founded by his buddy Mike Lazaridis.
47

George Soleas

President and CEO, LCBO
For representing Ontario interests in a boom time for booze

James Tse

For better or for worse, booze has been the tonic of the pandemic, and Soleas is the person making sure our glasses are full. Record revenue in the first year of the pandemic, and $2.4 billion in government-returned dividends, has flowed from his ability to navigate supply chain issues—by anticipating shortages, planning for substitutions and predicting pandemic-era buying patterns like coolers, hard seltzers and bag-in-box vino. He increased purchasing of Ontario products by more than $90 million, and the “Buy Ontario” marketing campaigns contributed to double-digit growth. Charity circuit: In March 2021, Soleas launched the LCBO’s first equity campaign in partnership with Women’s College Hospital. More than $4 million was raised for the Women’s College Hospital Foundation, which will help close health gaps for clinical treatment for women.
48

Brendan Frey

Founder and CEO, Deep Genomics
Because his research could revolutionize medicine

Parkinson’s, dementia and pediatric epilepsy are just some of the hundreds of diseases that could be eradicated by using AI to predict the effects of genetic mutations (and which medicines are best for treating them), much like the way your cellphone predicts text. The idea, which has the potential to save scientists years of dead-end research, came to Frey in 2002 after genetic complications during his wife’s pregnancy. Almost 20 years later, Deep Genomics, which employs some 90 experts in machine learning, software engineering and RNA biology, is on its way to becoming a world leader in genetic medicine. That goal got a lot closer this summer with a $180-million (U.S.) fundraising round that will soon push four potential therapies into clinical trial. Friends in high places: At U of T, Frey studied under AI godfather Geoffrey Hinton and with Yann LeCun, now Facebook’s chief AI scientist.
49

Iole Lucchese

Chair, Scholastic
She now presides over the Harry Potter empire, and much more

When Scholastic CEO Richard Robinson died this summer, insiders expected he would leave his $1.5-billion book publishing company to his sons, as his father had to him. Instead, he bequeathed his controlling shares—53.8 per cent, to be exact—to Lucchese, the chief strategy officer and president of Scholastic Entertainment. Wagging tongues have exhausted themselves searching for a motive for the surprise move, but one thing isn’t up for debate: Lucchese’s extensive knowledge of the company, where she’s worked for 30 years. And with her new role as chair of the board—the first woman and the first non-family-member in decades—she has vaulted from being one of Scholastic’s top executives to being one of book publishing’s top players. Up next: As president of Scholastic Entertainment, Lucchese takes a hands-on approach, producing film and television adaptations including Clifford the Big Red Dog, out this month.
50

Nita Prose

Chair, Author
For delighting readers and, soon, moviegoers

Dahlia Katz

She was Simon and Schuster Canada’s VP and editorial director—her authors include pop poet Rupi Kaur and Jesse Thistle, author of 2020’s bestseller From the Ashes—when a chance encounter with a hotel cleaner inspired her next project. Prose wrote the prologue to her forthcoming mystery The Maid on a cocktail napkin on the flight home from a business trip to London in 2019. The story of a quirky maid (named Molly) who becomes the primary suspect in the murder of a wealthy businessman is the kind of page-turner that #bookstagram can’t get enough of. Hence the early buzz, the bidding war (one of the most heated and lucrative auctions for a Canadian debut ever), its publication in 30 countries and a movie deal with Universal (Little Women’s Florence Pugh will star). All of this before the title even hits shelves in January. Friends in high places: Prose edited the 2019 memoir of NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

 


THIS YEAR’S HONOURABLE MENTIONS


 

Tough Medicine

Seven politically engaged doctors

Isaac Bogoch

Infectious diseases at TGH; member of Ontario’s Covid-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force

Thrust into the spotlight during the pandemic, the leading epidemiologist has become a go-to pundit, advocating for rapid testing in schools and a data-based approach to reopening.

Michael Warner

Medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital

A fearless and brutally honest physician, he implored the GTA’s mayors to increase Covid-19 restrictions during the third wave and was an unyielding advocate for paid sick leave.

Martin Betts

Scarborough Health Network’s head of critical care

Ebti Nabag

Since his hospitals began taking Covid-19 patients in March of 2020, Betts has overseen one of Canada’s largest—and busiest—intensive care units. He has been a pragmatic voice of reason, even in the face of public pushback.

Peter Jüni

Director of the Applied Health Research Centre at St. Michael’s Hospital

An advocate for paid sick leave for front-line workers, Jüni nearly resigned from the Covid-19 Science Advisory Table over Ford’s proposal to increase police powers.

Roberta Timothy

Principal investigator with Black Health Matters Covid-19 and a professor at the University of Toronto

Gregory Timothy

Timothy helped organize the first national forum on Covid-19’s impact on Canada’s African/Black communities, and is developing a master of public health program in Black health.

Irfan DhalLa

Co-chair of the federal Covid-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel

Dhalla has called for widespread, long-term vaccination plans, and was highly critical of the government’s announcement that vaccination requirements might end in three months.

Andrew Baback Boozary

Executive director of population health and social medicine at UHN

He played a major role in the UHN’s proposal to lease $25 million worth of land for below market rate to create affordable housing, and he loudly opposed expanded police powers this past April.

 

The New Unicorns

Seven growth-obsessed brainiacs whose companies are worth more than $1 billion

Andrew D’Souza & Michele Romanow

CEO & president of Clearco (formerly Clearbanc)

Janick Laurent

In a nutshell: A capital lending firm for e-commerce start-ups. Breakthrough moment in 2021: In April, Clearco raised $350 million (U.S.) en route to becoming Canada’s newest unicorn, with a valuation of $2 billion (U.S.). Three months later, the Toronto-based company secured another $215 million in funding, led by the world’s largest tech investor, SoftBank.

Mike Murchison

Co-founder and CEO of Ada

Erin Leydon

In a nutshell: An AI-powered platform that offers chatbot customer service solutions for clients like Telus, Shopify and Zoom. Breakthrough moment in 2021: Shortly after launching their new platform, Ada Engage, a $130-million (U.S.) round of funding in May led to a $1.2-billion valuation for Ada as the company sets its sights on global expansion.

Dan Zitting

Managing director and CEO of Galvanize

In a nutshell: Zitting’s company specializes in governance, risk and compliance software. It has more than 6,000 customers—including more than half of the S&P 500 and Fortune 1000 and offers the world’s only integrated cloud GRC platform powered by robotic data automation. Breakthrough moment in 2021: Galvanize was acquired by Diligent in February for a reported $1 billion (U.S.).

Tony Pialis

Co-founder, president and CEO of Alphawave IP Group

In a nutshell: The Toronto-based company manufactures semiconductor IP with a focus on high-speed and high-volume data processing—including chips used in 5G network infrastructure. Breakthrough moment in 2021: Alphawave made headlines in May when it listed its IPO overseas in London instead of on the Nasdaq, with a $4.3-billion (U.S.) valuation.

Dave Wessinger

Co-founder and CEO of PointClickCare Corp.

In a nutshell: A firm that provides cloud-based health care management systems for long-term and post-acute care facilities. Breakthrough moment in 2021: After a minority investment raised the Mississauga-based company’s valuation to $4 billion (U.S.) earlier this year, PointClickCare’s technologies were used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in October in an effort to gain data related to the impact of Covid-19 on seniors.

Martin Basiri

Co-founder and CEO of ApplyBoard

In a nutshell: A platform that connects international students with recruiters and educational opportunities around the globe for those wishing to study abroad. Breakthrough moment in 2021: When the pandemic halted in-person meetings between recruiters and prospective students, ApplyBoard saw a 300 per cent increase in sign-ups. A Series D round of investment led by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board for $375 million in June tripled the company’s valuation to $4 billion.

 

Crypto Royalty

Six faces from the blockchain revolution

Blair Wiley

Chief legal officer at Wealthsimple

Wiley played a central role in the launch of the company’s crypto platform, offering up 27 blockchain coins and tokens including Dogecoin, Balancer and Curve to Wealthsimple’s 1.5 million users.

Som Seif

CEO of Purpose Investments

Andrew Rowat

Earlier this year, Som Seif launched the world’s first ever Bitcoin and Ether ETFs on the Toronto Stock Exchange. One month after launch, the Bitcoin fund hit $1 billion in assets under management.

Usman Sheikh

Partner at Gowling WLG

A former OSC prosecutor, Sheikh has become the legal expert for the crypto industry’s who’s who. His clients include the co-founders of Ethereum, some of the top cryptocurrencies in the world, and at least half of Canada’s blockchain companies.

Emma Todd

CEO of MMH Blockchain Group

Dominique Baker

MMH Blockchain is a communications and events consultancy for crypto companies. Its CEO was recently appointed to the board at Toronto-based Tokens.com, a publicly traded company that helps investors earn yield in the crypto industry, and has been a powerful proponent for regulation of the industry.

Adam Reeds & Mauricio Di Bartolomeo

Co-founders of Toronto-based Ledn

Tiffany Sin

After securing $36 million in Series A funding, Reeds and Di Bartolomeo have been hailed the Canadian kings of “DeFi—short for decentralized finance, a $48-billion (U.S.) emerging market within the crypto space.

 


This story appears in the December 2021 issue of Toronto Life magazine. To subscribe for just $29.95 a year, click here.

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