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Our Team

Federation Co-Founders

Transportation Leadership Advocacy & Advisory

Edward Escobar

CEO & Co-founder

As the founder of the Alliance for Independent Workers and its #DriversUnite international campaign to UNITE ALL DRIVERS FROM ALL TRANSPORT SECTORS, Mr. Escobar provides Advocacy & Lobbying for Drivers and GIG Economy workers worldwide. In the U.S., The GIG Economy represents approximately a third of all workers. As this worker segment continues its rapid growth (projected to increase to over 40% within a few years and by 2027 representing a whopping 50% of the workforce), it is critically important that administrative and legislative advancements keep pace and begin to anticipate and plan ahead for the future of mobility and the accompanying needs of its workers.

Gig workers rely on fair treatment which, up until recently, has been the unchecked responsibility of corporations and lawmakers. Mr. Escobar saw the gap and realized the significance of early intervention. It was and is, in his experience, that it is far easier to correctly align an organization while the growth is occurring than to fix damage caused by inaction. His organization, The Alliance for Independent Workers, is the clear and dominant voice, representing this overlooked and underappreciated worker class, consisting predominately of immigrants, low income, minorities, seniors, the disabled, veterans, single moms, students and those with criminal records that are even further marginalized.

Escobar implemented the first & largest United Voice of Drivers in the U.S. media in 2016’s Day of Disruption collaboration with SEIU/FF15 – 340 locations with 20 major airports. A champion of workers’ rights, his focus early on was to address the core problem of misclassification of employment, knowing full well it would resolve the symptoms of exploitation of the Gig workforce – leading eventually to the recent successful passing of California’s AB5 legislation. 

AI, Automation, Self-driving Technology is of great concern to their movement as it will displace millions of Workers – a devastation of the driving profession across all transport sectors. Mr. Escobar has been championing the cause of exploited workers since early 2000, when he took on the automotive industry, organizing nationwide, the corporate spokespeople and workers of the International Auto Shows that were being MISCLASSIFIED as Independent contractors.

His commitment now, is to a higher level of engagement on a global scale “Uber is a virus adversely impacting the world, so we must meet and beat their UNSUSTAINABLE business model for the greater good of society”.

Ahmed Attia

President & Co-founder

Ahmed Attia is a successful serial entrepreneur with a passion for helping others overcome commercial barriers to success through co-operation.

In 1996, Ahmed founded International Business Exchange, a trading platform that enabled residents of developing nations to more effectively trade their commodities for finished goods and supplies by bartering, directly and indirectly, rather than paying in foreign currencies. As the project grew, it was re-branded as “Unibex” (Universal Business Exchange) and formed many effective partnerships, including with the American Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. As Unibex grew, Ahmed became concerned that it was straying from his initial vision by increasingly prioritizing the interests of large corporate partners.

Ahmed left Unibex in 1997 to found 416Direct, an internet-based buying group that would leverage economies of scale to increase the purchasing power of local small and medium-sized businesses (“SME”s) – 416 being the local area code for Toronto. However, despite considerable work in developing the 416Direct platform, SME owners were slow to appreciate the opportunity this model offered – many simply relying on the pricing offered through big box stores. In 2002, Ahmed put 416Direct on hold to help found Wiztel, a Canadian wholesale long-distance licensed communications company.

In 2011, Ahmed returned to 416Direct. As he updated the technology underlying the platform, he found a much stronger interest than before from associations that represent SMEs. A turning point came in 2013 when Ahmed became involved in community opposition to the development of a big box retailer in Toronto’s landmark ‘Kensington Market’ neighbourhood – long the home of small, family-run retail businesses. His engagement with this community and the owners of its many small businesses helped launch 416Direct. A key feature of the model that empowers SMEs is the ability of participants to collectively determine the products to be purchased. The company expanded into a new region in 2015, with the creation of 519Direct (based in the Kitchener-Waterloo tech-hub west of Toronto). Since then, Ahmed has introduced his web-based co-operative purchasing model to entrepreneurs and SME owners around the world. By 2017, what had started as a discrete, local project had evolved into Direct Global – a global solution for delivering the purchasing power of large scale orders to SMEs with over 15,000 participating businesses. In September 2017, Ahmed and Direct Global were profiled on Bloomberg-BNN in North America.

Ahmed remains an active community member, sitting on the advisory boards of the following companies:

1. Iristel (Canada’s fastest-growing carrier and the largest facilities-based local voice network extending Coast-to-Coast) and Kepler Communications (a Canadian satellite telecommunications provider that aims to deliver in-space connectivity to support the future space economy)

2. The Toronto Clinic (Canada’s premier corporate executive medical clinic)

3. Stemedica Cell Technologies (best in class FDA-approved allogeneic adult stem cell manufacturer in the USA)

4. Resdev Tax Consultants (top global R&D consulting firm serving Canada, UK & USA)

5. ConnectHub (next generation conference and business networking platform)

Danny Golnik

COO & Co-founder

Serial entrepreneur with a background in computer science and eCommerce platforms. After graduating with a BSc in Computer Science from York University (Toronto, Ontario) in 2009, Danny founded Orchidea Group – a company focused on imports and exports of products and raw materials for the construction industry. The company later shifted its focus towards distribution of alcoholic beverages in Ontario and other markets.
In 2011, Danny shifted his focus to the road construction industry, where he sought opportunities for innovative Canadian and US road construction technologies in the Eastern European and CIS markets.

In 2013, Danny managed one of the first projects of the Russian section of the Belt and Road Initiative in Yakutia, Russia, employing US and Canadian technologies to begin the construction of a section connecting Russia with Mongolia in the South. While continuing to carry out projects throughout Russia and Eastern Europe, as well as the Middle East, Danny became involved with the agriculture sector, assisting the expansion of the Belarus-based tractor manufacturer Minsk Tractor Works market into Canada and USA.

Danny joined Direct Global/Direct Co-ops in 2015 and quickly became involved in the company’s day to day operations and its business development. Due to his software development background, his focus included the development of the architecture for the Direct Co-ops platform, overseeing the work of the company’s software development team, as well as other aspects associated with scaling the company’s operations, both vertically and horizontally, including sales, partnerships and its domestic and global market expansion.

AJ Calloway

Head of Biz Dev & Co-founder

Two-time Emmy Award winning journalist, AJ Calloway has interviewed the most talked about humanitarians, politicians, and pop culture icons in the world. Most know for launching his entertainment career in New York as the co-host of “106 & Park, BET’s Top Ten Live,” a live music countdown show with a mix of celebrity guests, performances and music selected by viewers. To date, “106 &Park” remains BET’s most popular show earning network record-breaking ratings, becoming the number one video show in America.

Following his tenure at BET, AJ broadened his horizons and became the leading correspondent at EXTRA where he worked for 15 years earning the title of co-host and won two Emmys in 2014 and 2016 for Outstanding Entertainment News Program.

Currently, AJ serves as CEO and Chairman of Collective Professional Resource Group, a full-service media company, focusing on production, marketing, promotions and event-planning, as well as private consultancy to individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations.

A proud Howard University alum, AJ firmly believes in philanthropy, specifically supporting students and youth across the country. He serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and returned to his alma mater and taught a graduate course pro bono on Hip Hop culture and its relation to public history, the university’s first course of its kind. A proud and active life member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., AJ enjoys spending his free time with wife and their three children.

Muneeb Rehman

Co-founder

Muneeb Rehman is an entrepreneur with backgrounds in the security and transportation industries.

In 2001, Muneeb joined BMW Group, BMW Mini Cooper Plant Oxford, England, as Senior Quality Control Manager at the Body & Paint department. In 2005, when precision welding and handling robots were being installed at BMW’s Plant Oxford, BMW started to lay off workers and consequently, Muneeb resigned from BMW and moved to Glasgow, Scotland, where he started his career in security, joining Security Scotland as Operations Director where he provided security solutions to various law enforcement agencies, banks, casinos, night clubs, corporations and close protection services, also serving as head of security for The Arches – one of the biggest night clubs in the world.

After briefly moving to Pakistan in 2009 to take care of his father, Muneeb moved to New York in 2010 where he took the role of a Regional Inspector with Cambridge Security Services and Homeland Security, overseeing New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware & Washington DC, working closely with local law enforcement agencies.

In 2011, Muneeb decided to become a chauffeur in the black car industry, working with various limousine companies in New York City, where he noticed the problems prevalent in the dispatching culture. In 2012, he was contacted by the executive team at Uber, which was ready to launch in New York City in full force, eliminating all the issues drivers had been facing in the black car industry through total digital transformation.

After several years with Uber, Muneeb identified the major disruption Uber had introduced, turning the world of transportation upside down. In 2014, Muneeb met Travis Kalanick to address the issues and flaws Uber had in its tech location including spoofing, data breaches, spying on drivers & riders, etc. From that conversation, Muneeb understood that Travis wasn’t focused on drivers and to him, it was all about numbers as he was working on the launch of UberX, making rides cheaper than a taxi. Muneeb left the company in 2015, refusing to work for a company that puts profits over people.

Since 2016, Muneeb has been engaged in finding solutions for millions of drivers from all transportation sectors, including rideshare, taxi, trucking and delivery drivers. In 2019, he launched the concept ProDriver, a platform that enables all drivers across the nation to come together and provide solutions to the challenges facing drivers nationwide. Its goal is to support the drivers’ community by providing them access to helpful solutions, cost-saving programs, communication tools and more, all at the click of a button.

Matthew Daus, Esq.

Advisory Board Chair

Matthew W. Daus, Esq. currently serves as Transportation Technology Chair at the City University of New York’s (CUNY) Transportation Research Center of The City College of New York, where he conducts research, and continues to be extensively published as an expert on ground transportation regulation and technology. As a CUNY Distinguished Lecturer from 2010-2018, he taught courses on transportation history, policy, sustainability, for-hire regulation and technology. Mr. Daus also continues to serve, since 2009, as President of the International Association of Transportation Regulators (IATR), a non-profit educational peer group of government transportation regulators from around the world promoting best regulatory and innovative practices.

Mr. Daus is the longest serving Commissioner/Chair/CEO of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), where he served from 2001-2010. Prior to his tenure as Commissioner, Mr. Daus served in many other executive and counsel positions in NYC government for almost 20 years, including:  General Counsel to the TLC and the NYC Community Development Agency; Special Counsel to the TLC and NYC Trade Waste Commission; NYC Human Rights Prosecutor; and Commissioner of the NYC Civil Service Commission.  Mr. Daus is a partner at Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf, LLP, where he founded and chairs the Transportation Practice Group since 2010.

Mark Wilkinson

Co-founder

Head of Local Driver Co-op’s Guelph Pilot Project.
Background in treasury settlements for institutional and investment banks in Australia, UK and Canada.

Albert Norman

Co-founder

Al Norman is the founder of Sprawl-Busters, an international clearinghouse on big box sprawl issues, and an author/land use consultant who has guided hundreds of communities around the world fighting corporations like Wal-Mart.
In September of 2004, Forbes magazine called Al “Wal-Mart’s #1 Enemy.” He first stopped a Wal-Mart in his hometown of Greenfield in 1993. Over the past 26 years, he has become known internationally as a citizen-activist and author who helps small towns fight off big retail developers.
Al has traveled to 43 states, Ireland, Puerto Rico, Japan, Barbados, and Canada with his anti-big box message at the invitation of citizen groups and merchants. His website, www.sprawl-busters.com has become a clearinghouse for megastore research and organizing. Norman’s first book, Slam Dunking Wal-Mart: How You Can Stop Superstore Sprawl (Raphel, 1999), has become an underground classic for neighborhood groups, and his second book, The Case Against Wal-Mart was released in June of 2004.  Both books have been translated into Japanese. His latest book, Occupy Walmart (Brigantine Media) was published in May of 2012. This book is a collection of essays written for The Huffington Post. Al’s website, http://www.sprawl-busters.com, with more than 4,000 site fight stories going back to 1998, is the largest collection of stories of local big box battles on the internet.
Al was featured in the PBS documentary Store Wars, about one Virginia town’s battle against Wal-Mart;  in the 2003 ITVS film Talking to the Wall; served as a consultant for the movie High Cost of Low Price” in 2005; was featured in the Our Town movie in Damariscotta, Maine in 2006, and in the Canadian movie Wal-Mart Nation in 2007.  In 2007 Al appeared on Penn & Teller’s show Bullshit.
    Al’s work has been covered extensively by the media. In February, 2001, the London Sunday Times Magazine called Norman a “fire-breathing evangelist”. His appearance on 60 Minutes in 1995 earned him the title “guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement.” “He’s been invited to preach the anti-Wal-Mart gospel in dozens of towns,” said 60 Minutes. The Wall Street Journal has called Norman “a one man anti-Wal-Mart cottage industry”. Norman’s work was featured in journalist Bob Ortega’s book In Sam We Trust; in Jim Hightower’s book Thieves in High Places; in the book How Superstore Sprawl is Harming Communities by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and in former Sierra Club President Adam Werbach’s book, Act Now, Apologize Later.  

Al Norman has appeared on the Lehrer News Hour, NBC Nightly News, ABC’s Nightline, The Wall Street Journal Report, CNBC Steals & Deals, Marketplace, The Al Franken Show, Talk of the Nation, NPR’s Here & Now, NPR’s Morning Edition, The Osgood File, and has been written up in The Boston Globe, Time Magazine, and hundreds of small town daily newspapers. In 1994 he wrote Eight Ways to Stop the Store in The Nation magazine, which was reprinted in The Utne Reader.
Jim Hightower calls Sprawl-Busters the “number one resource” in the country for fighting big box sprawl. Hightower called Al “a burr under the saddle” of big corporations.
    A former journalist for Newsweek magazine, Norman has drawn the close attention of big box retailers. “He’s definitely anti-growth,” says Home Depot spokesman Amy Friend. Former Wal-Mart Vice President Don Shinkle says Norman “is making large sums of money and is purposely continuing to distort this issue to line his own pocketbook.” “There’s no question he’s an entertainer,” says Wal-Mart’s Les Copeland. “That’s what he’s paid to do.”
    Norman lives in Greenfield, MA. He owns one share of Wal-Mart stock.

Jeffrey Woods

Co-founder

Malcolm Straker

Co-founder

Chris Nowrouzi

Co-founder

Finance

Nicholas Thadaney

Co-founder

Mr. Nicholas Thadaney, also known as Nick, was President and Chief Executive Officer of Global Equity Capital Markets, TMX Group limited (“TMX Group”) until January 16, 2018. He left the TMX Group Limited on February 28,2018 after six weeks in a special advisory capacity to ensure a smooth transition. Mr. Thadaney has extensive business, leadership and client development experience, as well as a strong commitment to developing superior value propositions from the perspective of the market and TMX Group clients, both in Canada and globally. Prior to joining TMX Group in 2015, Mr. Thadaney was Chief Executive Officer of Investment Technology Group, Inc. (“ITG”) Canada Corp. since 2005. Previously, he was Director of Sales and Trading of ITG Canada’s Institutional Equities business from 2000 to 2005.Before his tenure at ITG, Mr. Thadaney was Vice-President, Business Development (Equities) at C.T. Securities Inc., which was later acquired by T.D. Securities Inc. in 1999. He was Director of Aequitas Innovations Inc. He is also a Member of several industry associations and registered charities, including the Investment Industry Association of Canada, the Young President Association (Ontario Chapter), the Redwood Shelter and others. Mr. Thadaney earned a BA in Economics from York University in Toronto, Canada.

David Olsen

Co-founder

David Olsen is an experienced financial services professional with more than 20 years in the industry. He currently serves as the regional president and principal officer for PNC Bank Canada Branch in Toronto, Ontario.

Working across a broad spectrum of financial services in the United States and Canada, Olsen has developed a deep-seated knowledge of corporate banking, treasury management, business banking, retail banking and risk management.

During his tenure with PNC, he has held a number of leadership roles, most recently as chief operating officer in Canada. He has also served as regional sales director for the regional president organization; division manager in treasury management, with responsibility for corporate banking product management; corporate banking relationship manager; workout loan officer; business banking underwriter and retail branch manager.

Olsen serves on the Public Affairs Committee of The Canadian Bankers Association. He is the chairman of Select USA in Toronto, and is also a member of the board of directors for the Greater Toronto Area Chapter of The American Chamber of Commerce in Canada.

Mr. Olsen holds a bachelor of science degree from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, and a master’s degree in business administration from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.

Marwan Al Sarkal

Co-founder

Marwan Al Sarkal is the founder and managing partner of Chapter 3, a boutique strategic advisory and management consultancy. Leveraging his vast network and investment experience, he partners with government entities, family offices, and global enterprises to execute strategies that deliver exponential growth and sustainable long-term value creation. Before founding Chapter 3, Marwan was the Executive Chairman of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq). At Shurooq, he developed an AED 12 billion portfolio of real estate, hospitality, and tourism assets, transforming the emirate’s socio-economic trajectory and repositioning it into a vibrant FDI destination.

Marwan is widely recognized as one of the most influential business figures in the GCC and sits on the boards of several innovative companies in the finance, automotive, education, technology, and agriculture sectors. An avid car enthusiast, he is also a passionate supporter of youth empowerment and an advocate of the region’s startup ecosystem.

He received his Bachelor of Applied Science in Accounting from Dubai Men’s
College and a Bachelor of Applied Science in Business Administration from
the Higher College of Technology. He has also attended Executive and
Leadership programs at Harvard Business School and the Singularity
University.

Board of Directors and Advisory Roles
• The Delage
• Roshel
• Micropolis Robotics
• VAAN Mobility
• Azzurro
• W Motors
• Pure Glass
• Dake Rechsand
• Platinum High Integrity Technologies
• AHK German Emirati business council

Awards & Recognitions.
• Social Category ’27 (International Police Awards Arts Festival)
• Excellent Online Reputation ’23 (Real Estate Reputation Awards)
• World’s Most Powerful Arabs ’21 & ’19 (Arabian Business)
• Key Leaders in the UAE’s Economic Growth ‘20 (Guide Point ME)
• Best CEO under 40 in the Middle East ’18 (Arabian Business)
• Golden Friends of India Award ‘17 (IBPC)
• Middle East CEO of the Year ‘16 (Burj CEO Awards)

Jasmin Ganie-Hobbs

Co-founder

As a Senior Technology Banker, Board Member, and Advisor, Jasmin brings to the table both in-depth financial and consulting expertise. She is an astute financial services executive that for the past 18 years has worked extensively with many of Canada’s best and brightest companies, especially those in emerging technology, innovation, and knowledge based industries. Jasmin understands the power of leveraging the financial community, and the technology ecosystem to build globally scalable Canadian companies.

Jasmin truly understands the value of strategic partnership. By building alliances and successful relationships across the Canadian business and financial community, she has been able to drive the inception of numerous innovative financial solutions. She is well known to create competitive value, seek out and seize business opportunities, drive change, and achieve objectives

Jasmin is also an experienced board member and advisor, and currently sits on the board of Elevate Export Finance, Red Dot Digital, B2B Match, Decidio.io, The Canada Arab Business Council, Lua Shayenne Dance Company etc.

In addition to funding companies, Jasmin’s role at the BDC often sees her as a frequent financial industry speaker and media commentator on the topics of finance, entrepreneurship, technology and innovation, and women in business. Through her travels she has been featured on the top rated Canadian business show Dragon’s Den, providing financial commentary and analysis both on and off air. An example of can be found at here. Off hours Jasmin’s true personal passion lies in philanthropy, diversity and inclusion, and giving back to the community through business mentorship and outreach, especially to those in marginalized communities.

Boris Gregory Tsimerinov

Co-founder

Boris has completed approximately 40 successful mergers & acquisitions, private equity and financing transactions in addition to interim venture capital fund management, valuations and strategic & operations consulting projects. He has experience with companies in food & consumer products, healthcare, technology, industrials, transportation as well as financial, oil & gas and business services sectors. Boris has experience with domestic, cross-border and cross-continental transactions.

Boris holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree with High Distinction and a focus on finance, quantitative economics and mathematics from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. He is also a CFA Charterholder and a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Executive MBA alternative (PLD). Boris is in the process of completing his Master of Laws in Global Business Law (GPLLM) at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law.

Boris is a speaker and presenter at conferences and panel discussions in Canada, the US and Europe with writings featured in the Canadian Business Journal. He has been involved with a number of not-for-profit organizations including War Child Canada, the Harvard Business School Global PLD Summits (New York, Boston, London & Barcelona), the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto Operetta Theatre and others.

Andres Iracheta

CFO & Cofounder

Partner ADC Finance & VCM Soft landing

Finance executive and business partner with extensive experience in all corporate finance areas, strategic planning, leadership, and operational execution. Has worked for top tier international corporations like PwC in assurance and transaction services, and in Schindler Elevators as Finance Controller and CFO in Mexico, Latin America, and Canada.

Currently is leading ADC Finance, where supports clients through strategic and financial planning, business processes automation, and improvements of the finance functions. While in VCM Soft landing supports International Corporations expanding operations and finding investment opportunities in Canada.

Andres Has a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the ITESM – Mexico; and a master’s degree in accounting and finance by the University of Technology Sydney – Australia. Lives in Toronto, Canada since 2014.

Michael B. Harris

Co-founder

Samuel Elkebbi

Co-founder

Samuel is an international investment banker, deep thinker, and effective communicator with an exceptional investment insight. He has a background of over 20 years in providing managerial, investment, financial & organizational services. Samuel’s substantial experience was gained in investment banking, private equity, Venture capital and family offices over the financial capitals of North America (US & Canada), Europe (UK & Geneva), and MENA region, GCC (KSA & UAE).

Samuel has been advising institutional investors, private and public corporations on governance, corporate restructuring, financial engineering, capital and fundraising, change management, and corporate finance. These have led to his recognition as a consultant that leaders of government and businesses alike can trust.

George Papas

Co-founder

George Papas is a Toronto-based real-estate developer and founder of Direct Capital Investments, a company that helps finance and develop projects through various investment tools primarily through mortgages and equity investments to completion. Since its inception in 2011, the company has raised over $860M in equity and investments, primarily in mixed use development and construction. Mr. Papas has financed and developed 7 of his own projects from acquisition to buildout.

In addition, he is the founder of Morphe Developments, a company in the financial consulting sector and real estate development which helps the developer achieve the most suitable financing and assists in project management.

As an entrepreneur, Mr. Papas has been involved in international projects including a bottling plant in Greece, a meat packaging plant in Turkey, as well as structuring the sale and financing of 3 ships to British Columbia Ferry Corporation and setting up 26 franchise locations throughout Florida and Nevada, USA.

Mr. Papas’ education includes a degree in Business Management and Finance, as well as certifications in Canadian Securities and Automotive Financing.

He is actively involved in fundraising for the Navy and City of Toronto’s new water park, the Masonic Child Identification Program, and a bylaw committee for a local school in North York.

Technology

Alex Veytsman

Co-founder

Industry acclaimed Technology Executive specializing in AI, Cloud, and Security with 15+ years of experience in developing high-tech organizations for enterprises, innovation/sales orgs, and leading some of the most vital initiatives in tech over the last decade.

Co-founded multiple startups and consulted over 400 Enterprises, OEMs/ODMs, VCs, Angel Groups, PE/Investment Firms, Consulting Companies, and Startups on technology strategy and shared subject matter expertise across multiple sectors (109+ in 2023 – 2024). These secretors include: Healthcare, Biotech, Electronics, Semiconductors, Retail, eCommerce, Payment Platforms, Manufacturing, Supply Chain, Agriculture, Automotive, Utilities, and Oil&Gas.

Currently, he is the Chairman of the Board at Artificial By Design, a revolutionary company that unlocks the potential of AI, driving innovation, boosting efficiency, and delivering unparalleled value through tailor-made cloud capabilities. Specializing in sourcing and deploying AI tools on Nvidia’s A100, H100, and H200 GPUs.

Alex’s mission is to empower enterprises to navigate the complexities of the modern business landscape, by embracing AI as a strategic imperative that propels and protects their growth. He leverages his expertise in AI, security, cloud, IoT, blockchain, 5G, metaverse, and other leading-edge technologies to craft the first-of-its-kind platform designed from the ground up to securely scale AI, mitigating risks for enterprises.

Samer Bishay

Co-founder

Samer Bishay is President and CEO of Iristel & Ice Wireless, Canada’s leading provider of wireless and wireline IP services. As Iristel’s founder, Samer led the company from a small startup to an international telecommunications service provider with domestic infrastructure licenses on three continents (North America, Europe and Africa). Samer oversees global and domestic strategies for Iristel and Ice Wireless and their various brands such as Sugar Mobile. He ensures business objectives are in line with telecommunications trends; guaranteeing customers continued success in highly competitive markets. Well known in the telecommunications field, Samer is a frequent contributor to various public platforms; from newspapers and television to social media and industry websites. Samer also actively participates in many public forums that are helping shape Canadian broadband policy; a key to Canada’s future, especially related to rural broadband development and bridging the digital divide.
A licensed jet pilot, Samer was appointed Honorary Colonel of 34 Signal Regiment of the Canadian Armed Forces in 2019. In this role, Colonel Bishay serves as an advocate for the Regiment and the CAF in general; and he helps strengthen the military’s bond with the community. Prior to founding Iristel, Samer was a lead systems engineer in the Radarsat program at the Canadian Space Agency. He is a graduate of the Space & Communications program at York University, with an Honors Bachelor of Science Degree.

Ramon Garcia

Co-founder

Entrepreneurial business and technology leader with 20+ years of global Health & Life Sciences experience creating and delivering transformative business and technology solutions with a focus on Commercial. In today’s Internet connected world this often involves an emphasis on patient outcomes and services driven by innovative business solutions and technology enablement. With his deep industry understanding Ramon facilitates and drives the creation of innovative, value driven solutions leading to long lasting client relationships.

Ramon brings passion and energy to everything he does and enjoys leading multi-disciplined teams. Offerings and capabilities Ramon specifically covers include Patient Services, Multi-Channel Marketing, Digital, Analytics and CRM (SFE Process and Technology). Develops and executes marketing plans to support offerings including conferences, points of view thought capital. Responsibility in leading client engagements and yearly account planning establishing goals and objectives.

As part of his remit, has worked directly for Country Managing Directors and Business Unit Heads across Health & Life Sciences industry, including Anderson Consulting, Accenture and Deloitte. He is experienced working in United States, Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Krishna Duncan

CTO & Cofounder

Senior executive experienced with global companies and dealing with industry leaders (CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CIOs, CTOs). Highly experienced leader proficient with technology and business operations, bridging the gap between corporate leadership and the technology group, ensuring that the corporate defined strategy is wholly translated into the technology strategies utilizing carefully selected solutions with highly efficient implementations and teams. Develops insightful strategies & hiring, building, & driving international teams to create global technology platforms and operations that dovetail seamlessly with business objectives. Has quarterly 1-on-1s meetings with eBay’s CIO and quarterly business operation review with the leadership team. Resourceful problem-solver with a proven ability to identify issues and collaborate with global stakeholders across multiple business verticals to meet both short-and long-term business goals. Demonstrated talent for turning around struggling IT operations or projects. Strong history of effectively managing teams. Record of meeting all regulatory requirements, driving effective technology solutions, evaluating and implementing various cloud-based platforms including Microsoft Azure, Salesforce, Google Cloud Platform, and Oracle Service Cloud; and continuous improvement. Noted by colleagues, leaders, vendors, and external customers (including national security agencies and international regulators) for exceptional implementation, process improvement, interpersonal, relationship-building, and communication skills.

AREAS OF EXPERTISE
• Global IT Ops Oversight
• Digitial Transformation
• Legal Technology Groups
• Project / Program Mgmt.
• Global Security Negotiations
• Stakeholder Relationships
• Vendor Negotiations / Mgmt.
• Strategic Alliances
• Cross-Functional Leadership
• Cloud Services Implementation
• 3rd Party Negotiations
• Regulatory Compliance
• ERP Implementation
• IT Policy Definition
• Process Improvement
• Risk Avoidance / Mgmt.
• Strategic Planning
• Financial Management
• SLA Negotiations
• SAAS Review & implementation

Deepak Baghel

Co-founder

Deepak Baghel is an experienced and highly capable leader, who will single-mindedly move an organization forward and hold accountable those responsible for the hundreds (even thousands) of daily actions and initiatives that underlie a typical program. He is an effective leader who will inspire employees and act as role model for the sort of behavior needed to encourage and embed change and progress.

Experienced Professional Engineering Executive in the Information Technology and Digital Transformation Industry with a demonstrated history of working in the Consumer and Business Services industry. Skilled in Business Transformation, Strategy, Sales, WEB Marketing, eCommerce Telecommunications, Business Management, Digital Automation, Leasing & Finance, Warehousing / Inventory / Installation, Call Centers Design / Build / Management, Network & security adviser, Business Intelligence and Analytics, Business Investment and Strategic Partnerships. Ex Senior Executive of Bell Canada with strong Telecommunications qualifications. Professional Civil Engineer from the University of Toronto with a Master Level Network Engineering Program in Electrical Engineering (Telecommunications) from University of Toronto. Co-author of “Practical Guide to Teleworking” for Bell Canada and its customers, basis of the guide was “Why take people to work, when you can take work to people”.

Ben Farzam

Co-founder

Ben Farzam, based in New York, United States, is currently a Founder and CEO at Callvox, bringing experience from previous roles at Hoolva, deltathree, Mediaring (Acquired by Spice i2i) and Bigstep (acquired by Affinity Internet). Ben Farzam holds a 1995 – 1998 JD in International & Corporate Law @ Georgetown University Law Center. With a robust skill set that includes VoIP, SIP, Telecommunications, Internet Services, IP and more, Ben Farzam contributes valuable insights to the industry.

Kapley Judge

Co-founder

After graduating Engineering from the University of Waterloo Kapley Judge had successful Manufacturing and Information Technology businesses. Kapley Judge is a serial entrepreneur that has transitioned into an avid investor and force helping to develop Canada’s strategic technology companies in his 300,000 square foot innovation and center next to Google in Kitchener. Kapley is also specialist in high density computing artificial intelligence and an original Blockchain technology developer and has been on many trade missions furthering Canada’s strategic technology position in the world.

Alessandro Castellan

Co-founder

Accomplished Director of Operations and Business Development expert with a proven track record of driving innovation and growth. I specialize in developing and implementing strategic marketing, sales, and go-to-market strategies to maximize ROI and streamline operations. Through continuous improvements and best practices, I have modernized infrastructure, optimized operational policies, and achieved ROIs upwards of 800%. I excel in leading cross-functional teams, establishing sales processes, and expanding into new markets. With a strong focus on efficiency and customer-centric approaches, I drive sustainable business growth.
Passionate about startups, innovation, and creating new ventures. I’m a curious self-starter that is always up for a challenge

Media, Influencers & PR

Julien Christian Lutz

CCO & Co-founder

Known professionally as Director X, Julien was born in Toronto, Canada and is of Trinidadian and Swiss descent. After moving to New York City, he became the protege of pioneering hip hop director Hype Williams. Now X is known for directing high-budget, visually distinctive videos for popular artists, including Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, Jay Z, Kanye West, Wiz Khalifa, Usher, John Mayer, Korn, Fifth Harmony, and many more.

His work has been nominated and awarded by the MTV Music Video Awards and Much Music Video Awards. Additionally, X has directed commercials for fashion designer Alexander Wang, Apple Music, Spotify, Gap, Virginia Black, Nintendo, Bacardi, Guinness and Yeo Valley; of the latter he earned a nomination for a Yellow Pencil Award for Outstanding Achievement by the D&AD Global Awards for Smirnoff Raw Tea Party which became a hit campaign for Bartle Bogle Hegarty UK. Whether working on memorable (or meme-able) videos such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” or Rihanna’s “Work,” or treading completely new ground, Director X continues to push his own boundaries.

Continuing his foray into the world of film and television, Director X made his studio feature directorial debut with Superfly, produced by the legendary Joel Silver. As Director X advances through the landscape of filmmaking, he continues to travel from his roots of Toronto to his residence in Los Angeles, trailblazing his way into our homes and onto our television screens.

Lorenzo Borghese

Co-founder

Lorenzo Borghese, commonly known as Prince Lorenzo Borghese, is an Italian-American businessman. He is a member of the House of Borghese, a cosmetics entrepreneur and animal advocate, and the featured bachelor on the ninth season of ABC’s The Bachelor American television show. Lorenzo is the son of Prince Francesco Marco Luigi Costanzo Borghese (born 1938) and his American wife, Amanda Leigh. His mother’s stepfather was sign and lighting designer Douglas Leigh. Lorenzo Borghese’s paternal grandmother was Princess Marcella Borghese, who founded the Borghese cosmetics line in 1958; it was a subsidiary of Revlon.

His storied paternal ancestors include Napoleon’s sister, Paulina Bonaparte Borghese (whose famous statue by Canova is displayed in the Galleria Borghese and is the focal character in Borghese’s new book, The Princess of Nowhere ,. ), Pope Paul V (Camillo Borghese) and Cardinal Scipione Borghese, both of whom had an enormous influence on Italian art and beautifying Rome in the 1600s, and who helped finish St. Peter’s Basilica. To honor Pope Paul V’s accomplishment, the Borghese family name (spelled in Latin, Bvrghesivs ) and coat of arms (eagle and a dragon) can be found on the façade of the famous basilica.

The Borghese family received their Papal Titles (Prince and Princess) from Pope Paul V in the early 1600’s. During that time, the Pope could raise armies and often had powers equal to a king, like a king, he had the power to bestow noble titles, called “Papal” titles, on people. These titles were often tied to territories of land. Prince Lorenzo’s branch of the family received five different titles, which include the Prince of San Paolo and Prince of Sant’Angelo and Duke of Bomarzo.

Prince Lorenzo’s ancestors were also one of the largest owners of property and art throughout Italy. While Pope Paul V was in power, he purchased entire towns and approximately 1/3 of the land south of Rome. As a family, the Borgheses became the largest landowners of the “Roman Campagna,” the central region in Italy, which is an area of approximately 1,300 square miles.

The Borghese name is displayed throughout Italy, including Florence at the Palazzo Borghese, Siena, where the family began and Rome where the name is most prominent. Rome’s largest Park, Villa Borghese gardens, was owned by the family until 1902, and one of Rome’s largest museums, Galleria Borghese, holds the family’s art collection. One of Rome’s most famous streets is also named after the family, Via di Fontanella Borghese, and the family’s crest can be found in many piazzas throughout Italy. The family also has a private chapel in one of Rome’s most famous basilicas, Santa Maria Maggiore. Beneath this Basilica is a private crypt where many of the famous Borgheses are laid to rest, including Pope Paul V, Paulina Borghese and her husband, Camillo Borghese as well as Lorenzo’s grandparents, Princess Marcella Borghese and Prince Paolo Borghese.

Personal life
Prince Lorenzo Borghese was born on June 9, 1972 in Milan and lived in Rome before moving to Paris and then to the United States. He is an American and Italian citizen. He was raised in Short Hills, New Jersey and attended elementary school there. Prince Lorenzo attended Pomfret School in Connecticut. He graduated from Rollins College in Florida in 1995, where he was initiated into the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He later received his MBA from Fordham University in New York City.

Business
Prince Lorenzo currently resides in New York City. He is the founder and president of Royal Treatment, a high-end bath, body and skin care line for pets, using organic ingredients and fragrance oils from Italy, which can be found in hundreds of boutiques nationwide and on the television station Home Shopping Network. Prince Lorenzo is also a managing partner in LB2, LLC, a private label Italian cosmetics company that sells numerous brands to major department stores and direct retail outlets. In 2011 he founded and became President of Animal Aid USA, a not-for-profit focusing on saving animals and changing laws to stop animal cruelty.

In addition, Prince Lorenzo is executive vice president of Multimedia Exposure, Inc., a family-owned business that acts as an agency for various products for television shopping channels in the U.S. and Europe.

Reality television and author
In the fall of 2006, Borghese starred in the ninth season of ABC’s popular reality show The Bachelor.

In the summer of 2009, Borghese announced he would be searching for his “princess” on a web reality show titled America’s Next Princess. The show was to coincide with the launch of Royal Pet Club, an online shopping destination for his Royal Treatment pet products.

However, when the show debuted online on August 17, 2009, the series was actually revealed to be a spoof of celebrities and reality TV shows, with the premise of a millionaire dog searching for love among ten finalists, who are also dogs. Borghese appears on the show but portrays the dog’s butler. The series also revealed its new name, America’s Next Top Dog: The Princess.

In 2010 Borghese starred in the Dutch SBS6 show Coming to Holland: Prins Zoekt Vrouw (Dutch for ‘Prince looks for wife’) as one of the three bachelor princes. This reality show was based on the movie, “Coming to America” in which Eddie Murphy went undercover and exchanged his crown for a job at a fast food restaurant.

In December 2010, Borghese’s first novel, The Princess of Nowhere, published by Harper Collins, debuted. This historical fiction romance novel is a re-imagining of the life of the author’s famous ancestor, Princess Pauline Bonaparte, who became Princess Pauline Bonaparte Borghese after her marriage to Prince Camillo Borghese.

In January 2012 Borghese’s house search was featured on HGTV’s Selling New York.

In August/September 2012 he appeared on the 10th season of Celebrity Big Brother UK and finished in 7th.

Stephen Belafonte

Co-founder

Stephen Belafonte is a widely known producer and director. He is popularly known for his films which include Thank You For Smoking (2005), The Mutant Chronicles (2008) and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009). Stephen has also produced the TV series I Pity The Fool. He started his career by setting up a film company called Remag right after he completed his graduation.

Jamal Weathers

Co-founder

Jamal Weathers stands as the epitome of a true renaissance man. Highly acclaimed for his roles as a serial entrepreneur, distinguished business consultant, relied-upon advisor, accomplished music manager, savvy investor, highly sought-after model, and accomplished actor, his devout passion as a philanthropist stands above all.

A Los Angeles native, Jamal hails from a lineage synonymous with trailblazing success, with his father, John, being a prominent actor of the 1970s and 1980s. His uncle, the legendary Ted Lange, is best known for his roles as the bartender Isaac Washington in ‘The Love Boat’ and ‘That’s My Mama.’

Acting and Entertainment Career:

Jamal’s journey in the world of entertainment is nothing short of extraordinary. His acting prowess became evident at the tender age of 7, following in his father’s footsteps. He has graced the silver screen with his talent, earning starring roles in over a dozen films, including ‘Belly 2,’ ‘We Own The Night,’ ‘Shooter,’ ‘Four Brothers,’ and ‘I Heart Huckabee.’ His presence on the hit TV series ‘Entourage’ further solidified his standing in the industry. Beyond his on-screen success, Jamal has made a significant impact behind the scenes as a reading consultant, collaborating with industry titans like Mark Wahlberg, Danny Glover, and Antoine Fuqua. His foray into the modeling world saw him become a sought-after model, featuring prominently in global campaigns for top-tier fashion brands. Music is another passion close to Jamal’s heart, leading him to successfully manage top musical acts and embark on tours with iconic figures like Prince and R&B legend D’Angelo.

Business Ventures:

In business, Jamal Weathers is the CEO of Kush Brothers and ‘Kush Brothers Investment Group.’ His astute leadership and strategic acumen have led to the successful negotiation and securing over $100 million for a diverse portfolio of brands. Notable successes include Aqua Hydrate, Amrstar, XXXXXXXXX, and his most recent triumph, Spatial/Halt Labs.

Philanthropy and Giving Back:

What truly distinguishes Jamal is his unwavering commitment to giving back. He has forged impactful partnerships with organizations such as the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation, leveraging his influence to make a difference today and tomorrow’s generations. Additionally, his dedication extends globally, with involvement in the EDEYO Foundation in Haiti, a noble non-profit initiative dedicated to nurturing and empowering Haitian youth by providing education and proper resources to promote better opportunities.

Future Plans:

Jamal Weathers views his current achievements as just the tip of the iceberg. His visionary plans for the future include becoming a motivational speaker and mentor, with a specific focus on guiding young men and women from underserved communities of color. He aspires to launch a foundation dedicated to fostering the talents of aspiring individuals in the entertainment industry, ensuring that their dreams find wings to soar.

Mark Modeski

Co-founder

Mark currently serves as a Vice-President at Ipsos Canada, leading its social intelligence & analytics practice. Over the course of Mark’s nearly 15 years in the field, he has spent much of that time working on and managing large and complex studies and projects with a primary focus on Brand and Communications.

Mark has taken pride in managing significant client needs across a host of consumer and service categories, including working experience with a number of tech, FI and CPG clients. He has significant experience in brand, media and advertising insights, and takes pride in developing creative solutions to answer his clients’ questions and needs.

Mark has a degree in Political Science and Anthropology from McMaster University, as well as a Post-Graduate certificate from Georgian College.

Alessandro De La Torre

Co-founder

Alessandro De La Torre currently heads Digital Media Strategy at the United Nations, for the UN Development Programme. (UNDP) Currently based in los Angeles California, he heads tracking trending content and analytics for Defy one Media, an agency responsible for Gen-Z media connections to news outlets such as ABC, MSNBC, Stern Germany, and Time Magazine. They also partner with private and public contractors such as the United States Senate Relations Department to create avenues that appeal and connect to Gen-Z audiences. Some notable media campaigns Alessandro helped aid were the Biden-Harris 2020 election, the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics, Unilever, and Bold.org.

In the public sector, he had worked in US Congress through California District 39, serving a constituency of 3 million people in the Los Angeles and Orange County Metropolitan areas. He also had worked for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti through his development campaigns in reinforcing the environments of the Downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood areas.

Currently, Alessandro is managing millions of impressions from various channels across TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter through Defy One Media.

Steve Anthony

Co-founder

Steve Anthony is a Canadian television host. He gained attention throughout Canada as a MuchMusic host, or “VJ” from May 1987 to November 1995. He was born Stephen Anthony Gomes on 2 April 1959 in Montreal, Quebec. In 1986 Anthony moved from Montreal’s CKGM to take the drive shift on Toronto’s Q107. He left the following year to join Much Music.

Since the year 1986, the name Steve Anthony has been recognized in media-markets around the world for his accomplishments and high standards. In Canada, Steve Anthony is one of the founding VJ’s of MuchMusic, which, along with MTV, pioneered music-video television in North America. During his tenure at MuchMusic, an unprecedented 9-and-a-half year, Anthony also became the morning show host at 102.1 CFNY in Toronto, followed by several other radio stops, including CHOM 97.7 in Montreal.

All through his on and off camera career, Steve Anthony became one of the country’s most sought after voice over talents. His dynamic and unique range allows him to compliment most any commercial and promotional campaign. On the commercial side, whether it be sophisticated high-ticket items, straight retail, or the some of that wonderful, creative quirkiness many of today’s ad agencies and clients demand, Steve Anthony’s voice sets brands apart and brings them to a new level. Yes, your station’s image needs to cut through; Steve Anthony’s voice will drive it home.

Steve is the former television co-host of CP24 Breakfast, owned by Bell Media, one of Canada’s largest broadcasters. As in his voice and radio work, Steve Anthony connects with listeners and viewers, who picked him as the GTA 2011 Top Choice Awards Television Personality of the Year. In addition to many other individual markets, Steve Anthony is also the signature voice of CTV Two, where his tones can be heard in every single market in the country.

He joined the CP24 Breakfast team in March 2009, helping wake up Toronto with co-host Melissa Grelo. Steve Anthony grew up in Montreal and landed his first gig at the local radio station CFOX-AM. His rich on-air voice and charismatic presence enabled him to build an award-winning career that has spanned over three decades in some of Canada’s most sought-after broadcast positions.

Some of the highlights in Steve Anthony’s career include 1986-1987, Q107 Toronto afternoon show; being one of the first MuchMusic VJ’s from 1987-1996; 1987-1989, CFNY-FM, Toronto radio morning show; co-hosting Toronto’s Breakfast Television from 1989-1994; hosting the Morning Radio Show for CHOM-FM Montreal from 1998-2001; 2001: A Space Road Odyssey television special; 2001-2009, Mix 99.9, Toronto radio morning and afternoon show; being a judge panelist for the top rated MuchMusic VJ Search in 2006.

Steve is a loyal supporter of the Hospital for Sick Kids, Princess Margaret Hospital, Rally for Kids with Cancer, Strike Out Cancer, plus many other local and national charities. Steve Anthony and his wife Tanya are dedicated pet owners to two-and-a half dogs and three-and-a-half cats, three very overweight felines. Steve Anthony has been voted for and awarded the Top Choice Award for “Top Television Personality in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area)” for the past two years, 2011 and 2012.

In August 2018, after learning of the downfall of so many “mom and pop” businesses over the years, Steve decided to join Direct Global / Direct Co-ops in their efforts to “change the world” and save the backbone of every community: its small businesses.

Yoshimasa Koga

Co-founder

Yoshi started to learn projection mapping in 2012 Tokyo, utilizing editing software and DJ mixing sound. After he created couple art projects in Tokyo, he realized that he need to go abroad to learn different cultures.

He continued studying video / sound editing in Canada, and he started to learn CG (Computer Graphics), Motion Graphics and VFX Animation. He wanted to express something above this world, not just capturing the objects in this world. He created over 20 projection mapping stages at the venues in Toronto such as Royal Ontario Museum, Daniel Spectrum Theater, MOD Club, The Great Hall, etc.

He also was interested in virtual reality, so he started learning green screen VFX production, utilizing Tricaster switcher with multiple cameras.

In 2015, he got hired as creative director at Distractional Studios (Green screen live streaming studio). He created over 80 live streaming TVshow contents in the studio, such as LIVE Social Media News (1hour live local news show), Mixclusive (1hour live entertainment show), Dchannel (Tech Review show), Spirit of Tea (1hour live spiritual talk show).

In 2016, he started creating live streaming shows on location, such as Miss Asia Canada 2016 Grand Finale Live, Hollywood North Event at TIFF (Powered by Heineken), etc.

In 2018, he expand his video production category into higher quality cinematography. He created many commercial videos for companies, organizations and events, inclusing Toronto Fashion Week, FAT Fashion Week, New York Fashion Week, Canadian Asian Fashion Week, Restaurant Canada Show, Miss Face of Humanity, Miss Heritage Canada, JRAC(Japanese Restaurant Associations of Canada), Korea Beauty, JETRO Canada (Japanese Government), Sessionz App, MITURF App, Diamond Bride, Cause4Paws, Steelcon inc, etc.

In 2019, he started creating music videos for local artists such as Dr.Draw, Austin Strange, NANU, MelxDie, Sakuramai, etc.

In 2021, he became a show producer of Miss Face of Humanity Global Showcase and produced an International Live TV Show involving 40+ countries. He also started creating NFT development for events, and artists.

In 2022, he started Digitalize, which is AR, VR Marketing Solutions for local businesses, exploring new technology such as 3D avatar development, and Augmented Realty product package designs.

Sarbjit Kaur

Co-founder

Sarbjit Kaur is an award-winning communications professional with a background in journalism, government and PR. She ran her own consulting firm, Kaur Communications and was also a Senior Associate at Toronto-based Argyle PR for almost a decade, before launching KPW Comms.

Prior to starting her consulting career, she served in senior communications roles in the Office of the Minister and in the Ontario Public Service at four Ontario Ministries: Transportation, Small Business & Entrepreneurship, Consumer Services, and Government Services. She also served as Acting Director of Communications & Corporate Secretary of Ontario Creates.

Sarbjit works with clients from diverse sectors. Notable projects include: Lead consultant, City of Mississauga 10 Year Master Communications Plan, winner of IABC Gold Quill award (the highest honour for communications professionals); Ripley’s Aquarium of Toronto launch, CPRS National Gold Award and the IABC-Toronto Ovation Award and; WSPA Collars Not Cruelty campaign, winner of IABC Toronto Ovation Award of Merit in Social Responsibility; Beauty Gives Back, Beating the Cancer Blues, winner of CPRS Bronze Award.

Sarbjit currently sits on the Board of Park People and has served previously on numerous other committees and advisory boards. Commentator on Global Toronto’s Morning Show, CTV, CP24, Talk 1010 and others.

Community Leaders

Marty Williams

Co-founder

Chair of the Governance Committee and former President of the Ontario BIA Association (OBIAA), representing over 100,000 businesses. Served for more than 11 years as head of the Downtown Guelph Business Association (DGBA).

Josh Kopel

Co-founder

Josh Kopel is a restaurateur, tech pioneer and content creator. Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the spawn of bootleggers and retail giants, he was bred for the hospitality industry. Throughout Kopel’s 20+ year career in hospitality he has managed venues ranging from the Alligator Bayou Bar, located on Alligator Bayou Road, seated on Alligator Bayou (it was exactly how you’re picturing it in your mind) to the hottest Hollywood nightclubs, bars, and ultra-lounges (far less glamorous than you’re picturing it in your mind). 

Kopel went independent in 2010, opening his first concept Five0Four, a New Orleans-inspired bar, on the Walk of Fame in the heart of Hollywood. In subsequent years, he would open the Michelin-rated fine dining concept, Preux & Proper as well as South City Fried Chicken, voted the best fried chicken in Los Angeles by LA Weekly. Despite his success, he saw foundational issues within the industry and set out to fix them himself. 

In 2018, Kopel founded FLO Hospitality Solutions, a company solely focused on leveraging tech to bring more humanity to the customer service experience, not less. His first product, FLO, launched in 2019 offering an all-in-one communication solution for restaurants.

In 2020, the pandemic offered another opportunity for Kopel to serve the industry. In response to the devastation he saw, Josh created FULL COMP and Restaurant Marketing School, seeking out thought leaders from within and outside of the hospitality industry, using their wisdom to help the restaurateurs survive the present and thrive in the future.

Today, Kopel is on a mission to share his story, the lessons he’s learned along the way and the wisdom he’s collected from mentors like Brooke Williamson, Curtis Stone, Seth Godin, Wolfgang Puck, Will Guidara, Jon Taffer, Jet Tila, Nina Compton and Andrew Zimmern.

There is a proven recipe for success in the restaurant business and Josh shares it freely with the industry through the Million Dollar Restaurant community. 

Kopel’s varied interests and talents have landed him several positions of influence including his current role as President of the California Restaurant Association’s Los Angeles Chapter.

Political

Jeffrey Steiner

Co-founder

Jeffrey Steiner is a Toronto lawyer and business leader involved in the media, real estate, and mining sectors. He founded New Franchise Media Inc., which develops film & TV projects based upon the bestselling novels of Jeffrey Archer.

In his role from 2002-2009 as President & CEO of the Toronto Economic Development Corporation (TEDCO), he developed the new Toronto headquarters for Corus Entertainment Inc. – a 500,000 square foot LEED-Gold green building on Toronto’s waterfront.

Mr. Steiner is a member of the Board of Directors of Canada’s official export-import bank Export Development Canada (EDC). He previously served on the Board of Directors of the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE Inc.), which oversees government investment in the commercialization of university R&D through industry collaboration and venture capital.

His previous experience includes serving in the federal government as Chief of Staff to the Minister of Indian Affairs & Northern Development, and at the Department of National Defence.

Paul Sparkes

Co-founder

Paul Sparkes is an accomplished business leader and entrepreneur with over twenty five years of experience in media, finance, capital markets and Canada’s political arena. Paul spent a decade as a leader in the broadcast and media industry as CTVglobemedia’s Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs. He also held senior positions in public service, including with the Government of Canada as Director of Operations to Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, and as a senior aide to two Premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador.  Paul was a Co-Founder and executive vice chairman at Difference Capital Financial and serves on a number of private and public boards. He is currently President of Otterbury Holdings Inc., and is an advisor and deal maker for growth companies in the private and public markets.

Legal

Rodrigo Contreras Lara

Co-founder

With over 20 years of experience in International Trade, Government and Investor Relations, Rodrigo is the former Trade & Investment Commissioner of Mexico to Canada, where he had the opportunity to forge close ties with business leaders from some of the most important industrial sectors in the Canada – Mexico relationship.

During his tenure, he had the opportunity to collaborate as part of the negotiating team of the Small and Medium Enterprise Chapter of the USMCA, and as well, serve as liaison between leaders of the automotive sector of Mexico and Canada to push forward in the negotiation, the provisions relevant to the sector.

Prior to his appointment to Canada, Rodrigo was from 2011 to 2015 the Trade & Investment Representative for Mexico to the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), concentrating on building business relations for Mexico in two of the most important economic zones of PRC: the Pearl River Delta (Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao), and the Yangtze River Delta (Shanghai, Jiangsu, Anhui and Zhejiang), Economic Zones.

Prior to his appointments abroad, from 2008 to 2011, Rodrigo held the positions of Executive Director for Investor Relations, taking part in the formation of what would become one of the most recognized and successful Trade & Investment Promotion Agencies in the world: PROMEXICO.

Rodrigo, as well served from 2000 to 2008 as an official of the Administration of the Government of the State of Baja California, Mexico, responsible for leading the Technology Investment & Development Strategy of the State.

Rodrigo currently is an advisor and partner to global companies in the automotive, technology (Industry 4.0), Biotech, investment and finance sectors, assisting them in their International Government Relations and Business Development Strategies:

– Advisor for Mexico Affairs to MARTINREA International. Martinrea is a diversified global automotive supplier, engaged in the design, development and manufacturing of metal parts, assemblies and modules, complex fluid management systems and aluminum products. It employ approximately 15,000 skilled and motivated people at manufacturing, engineering and technical centers in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Slovakia, Spain and China.

– Economic Advisor to American Industries Inc. (Canada). American Industries Group is a private Mexican company founded in 1976 that has supported the successful establishment of manufacturing operations for over 200 companies in Mexico through Shelter Administrative and Industrial Real Estate Services.

– Partner at Global Business Connectors. Global Business Connectors is a global business advisory firm focused on providing access to alternative investment opportunities in developed, emerging and frontier markets.

– Partner at SERICEA LabsInc. Sericea Labs is a global reach, research and development consultancy firm that provides technical and financial advisory support to companies looking to elevate their R&D and production capabilities to global standards, as well as advising them on their capital raising strategies in the emerging CBD Industry.

Rodrigo sits on the following Board of Directors:

– Three Lefts (Canada). Is a research and development studio of emerging technologies focused on the Blockchain. Positioned at the forefront of the industry, Three Lefts have built leading bespoke blockchain enterprise solutions for a diverse clientele.

– Centro Escolar Ingles A.C. (Mexico). For over 20 Years, CEI has dedicated its efforts to the development of competitive youth for higher levels of education.

He has a degree in International Business, from the Center for Technical and Higher Education (CETYS University), from Baja California Mexico.

Bill Oemichen

Co-founder

William L (Bill) Oemichen is a Senior Researcher in the Law School and College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and serves on the boards of a number of U.S.-based co-operatives and companies, including the education and insurance arm of the cooperatively-owned $340 Billion Farm Credit System and the board of the nation’s highest rated health care provider for quality.

Oemichen served as a Public Policy Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Policy and he served as an Adjunct Professor in Business Law in the university’s School of Population and Clinical Sciences. He practiced co-operative law at a major Midwestern law firm and served fourteen years as President and CEO of Cooperative Network, the largest state-based co-operative trade association in the U.S. with more than 800 co-operative members operating across the country with a focus on Wisconsin and Minnesota. Oemichen has also served as Deputy Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner where he worked to create co-operatives, as Wisconsin’s chief Consumer Protection official where he regulated co-operatives and other types of businesses, and as Wisconsin Director of the Office of Preparedness & Emergency Health Care where he worked to create disaster response co-operatives.

He is chair of the board of trustees for Wisconsin’s $5.5 Billion College Savings Program and served on the Advisory Board to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services on the development of new health care co-operatives funded by $6 Billion in federal funds. Oemichen is also a governance consultant to the Alberta Community and Co-operative Association and Realize Strategies in Vancouver, BC. Oemichen is engaged in research on co-operative governance, financing, regulation, and risk identification and mitigation.

Oemichen earned a B.A. in Economics from Carleton College with a Concentration in Science, Technology and Public Policy and a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Elliot H. Bridgewater

Co-founder

Elliot is a member of the Alberta Law Society and Fellow with Sustainable Economies Law Centre in Oakland, California and has taught advocacy focused on Co-operatives at the University of Calgary. He has been providing independent legal services to co-operatives, social enterprise and community-minded businesses since 2017.

​Member of ACCA collaborating with cooperative start-up formation, board governance, co-operative principles, and community investment. He is also Alternate Delegate for Canada to International Cooperative Alliance Americas (ICA).

​Elliot was elected as a Director of Calgary Co-op in 2023. He has been contributing co-operative leadership and strengthening board governance in one of the largest retail co-operatives in Canada.

Healthcare

Dr. Fabio Varlese

Co-founder

Dr. Fabio Varlese is a prominent specialist in Internal Medicine and Geriatric Medicine. He is the former Medical Program Director of the Rehabilitation Department and the Acute Care Unit at Baycrest Hospital. Dr. Varlese currently holds a position as staff Specialist at Mt. Sinai hospital and at Baycrest Center for Geriatric Care. He is the Honorary Medical Director at Villa Colombo Vaughan and recently accepted the position of VP of Medical Services at Runnymede Hospital.

Dr. Varlese is the founder of the Toronto Clinic, an Executive Health Centre at the forefront of the highest standards of medical care, personalization of service, Precision Medicine and medical innovation serving the corporate executive world. He is the founder of Global Medical Consulting, a satellite entity of the Toronto Clinic which addresses rare and life altering medical conditions, helping patients find innovative breakthrough treatments that can improve health outcomes.

He currently holds the rank of Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto and both his academic and professional work have honoured him with numerous prestigious awards.

Dr. Chun Yuan Chiang

Co-founder

Mr Chiang is an expert of bioscience and digital technology as well as an innovative technology entrepreneur. He studied in life science from The University of Hong Kong after a background in electronic engineering in The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

In 2014, he founded IHDpay Group, which is a digital technology company committed to provide a safe and efficient information technology platform. This platform is committed to making the digital world of medical services to be more convenient, accurate and cost-effective.

In 2016, he was appointed as the Chairman of The Hong Kong Institute of Cell & Molecular Medicine (HKICMM). HKICMM started with big data and cooperates with renowned academic institutions and other elite professionals. This is an open research platform, which applies advanced and safe digital platform, combines genomics, bioinformatics, systems biology, molecular pathology and clinical analysis, to serve precision medicine.

In 2018, he was appointed as Chief advisor of Technical Committee of AFS-IT ( Alliance for Financial Stability with Information Technology). AFS-IT is a non-government and non-profit international organization aims to help set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating threats to the integrity of the international financial system, to ensure the sustainable development of digital economy.

In 2019, committed to improving the well being of people through innovative healthcare service provision, Mr. Chiang is the co-chair of the Digital Health Global Initiative Foundation (DHGI) that is incorporated in Geneva. The DHGI is in cooperation with other relevant units & organisations such as WHO, GDPR and WIPO, to enable the worldwide availability of technology support and security application of healthcare services information digitization in order to promote the goal of “universal health-care , no one is left behind”, as envisaged by the sustainable development goal #3 Agenda 2030.

Dr. Sukhmeet S Chohan

Co-founder

Clinic Director at the Yorkville Sports Medicine Clinic in Toronto, Dr. Chohan is a clinical expert in assessing and resolving all complex muscles and joint issues. Completing is Doctor of Chiropractic in Toronto Canada, he takes pride in helping people find answers to pain, including those conditions that patients have struggled with for longer than they should. Alongside standing Clinical Director of Yorkville Sports Med, Dr. Chohan has been published in numerous scientific journal articles, and sits as a Director on the Canadian Medical Institute, Heal 2 Go, as well as Advisor on significant health boards.

Dr. Chohan has quickly become the go-to expert for those suffering from sciatica, disc herniation and degeneration. Dr. Chohan focuses on root causes of pain, along side the current symptoms. He is currently teaching Atlas Low Back pain courses, and enjoys educating the future healthcare professionals on his therapeutic approach that is focused on results.

Joe Lu

Co-founder

Joe Lu started from very humble beginnings. Joe came from a Chiu Chou Chinese family that immigrated to Canada from war-torn Vietnam in the lates 1970s. He was raised in a traditional Chinese family teaching him to respect, being well-mannered and honourable. Joe graduated from Seneca college with a marketing diploma and started his first real career working at a Rogers dealer. He was the top inbound sales rep for the first 2 years. After working at Rogers for almost 4 years, he started his real estate career purchasing his first property in 2008. It was then Joe found his passion in design and build. Joe and his wife, Lisa developed and sold more than a half dozen properties before he got into commercial real estate. From there he found creative ways to re-purpose properties before he found his interest in developing co-working spaces and helping startups. He founded his first startup in connectHUB, a Live corporate networking app that will revolutionize how business people network during events. When Joe isn’t working he spends most of his time with his family and friends, playing sports and reading inspirational books or listening to motivational podcast or videos. Joe now focuses on developing real estate, building connectHUB and helping his wife with their vegan fast food restaurant chain, Vego. He is passionate about philanthropy and is in the process of building a foundation to give underprivileged immigrant kids an opportunity to entrepreneurship.

Commerce & Co-ops

Holmes H. Stoner

Co-founder

Mr. Stoner has spent the last 18 years as Founder and Chairman of the Pacific Rim Chamber of Commerce and the American International Business Council. His primary mission was to set up and administrate international business development, consulting services and business relations in the major emerging markets throughout the world. He personally manages the China National Tourism membership and the CCPIT (China Council for the Promotion of International Trade), KOTRA and JETRO and simultaneously assists in all other international operations of the company specializing in China and most of Asia and most of the Americas.

He has worked with most PacRim Governments closely setting up promotions for Trade, Tourism, Technology Transfer and Cultural Exchange Programs as well as financing programs.

Mr Stoner has been lecturing and giving workshops and seminars internationally for over 20 years and is recognized as an international trade expert in many business and government circles in the Pacific Rim Trade Arena. Prior to this position, Mr.Stoner was the Senior Vice President/Founding Partner of Artesa Marketing Group based in Studio City, California. Artesa Marketing Group served over 50 major fortune 500 companies assisting them through their major advertising agencies and public relations companies in establishing communications and promotions programs with the exploding populations of ethnic groups in the USA. Companies like McDonald’s, AT&T, United Airlines, Philip Morris USA, Century 21 and Domino’s Pizza spent over $25 million annually through his company in their desire to reach these population segments. Other programs led to expanding into the international markets throughout the world in multimedia applications.

Program syndication in sports, movies, and music were also very much a part of Mr. Stoner’s duties helping many large companies enter the international broadcasting and internet markets. Mr. Stoner originally started in advertising sales in foreign language radio and television and was a principal in the first Asian radio station in the USA, KAZN AM 1300 in Pasadena, California as well as a pioneer in the International Channel on national television in the Americas. He worked closely with producers, production and post production people creating promotional campaigns for his clients. It was here that he made strong connections with foreign broadcasting network executives and advertising clients later expanding into IPTV and internet streaming programs. Mr. Stoner has served on many executive panels and committees in the last 15 years giving insights on multi-cultural international business relations and international women’s issues . He has been given national recognition many times for his expertise in these areas being interviewed over 20 times in major publications like Venture magazine, L.A. Business Journal, San Francisco Business Journal, Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Examiner and Seattle Times; not to mention 3 full interviews on CNN and CNBC’s Wall Street Report. He has a degree in Marketing and Marketing Communications from UCLA and is a graduate of the KIIS Broadcast Workshop. During the .com era, Mr Stoner served on the Board of Directors of FutureVest Securities and Web Capital Group helping many high tech and IT companies raise money and go public including several in Singapore, China and India. As of 2007 his latest accomplishments include co publishing of the PAIG of China (Official Procurement and Investment Guide) and to handle all international relations with the The Summit Club of Beijing, an exclusive millionaire’s residence near the Beijing 2008 Olympic Village. Other project include the launch of high definition internet television worldwide as on of the limited partners based in Vancouver Canada.

In 2009 Mr Stoner was instrumental in assisting in the development and execution of the 3rd World CEO Roundtable Conference in Beijing focused in the Sustainable Environmental Programs around the world working hand in hand with various United Nations organizations in the field. He helped bring small and medium sized businesses into the movement and got them to support the Green Movement in the Pacific Rim.

At the present time most of his efforts are concentrated in promoting issues with water, food and travel throughout the region and helping members expand their business internationally through his network of high level contacts and connections.

Zoran Cocov

Co-founder

Zoran Cocov has over 30 years of experience in managing real estate investments in all asset classes of residential and commercial segments of real estate in Canada and USA. He held positions in property and asset management for variety of projects and currently has over $300 millions in projects under management. His expertise includes purchasing & disposition of real estate assets, due diligence in real estate developments and has an extensive experience in transaction structuring inclusive risk management. Zoran has participated over the years in large portfolios, individual projects, private capital corporations, partnerships, and JVs with over $800 million in completed commercial real estate and development projects.

Ismail Awan

Co-founder

Ismail Awan is a successful serial entrepreneur who is involved in a variety of industries and ventures. Having studied Political Science at York University in Toronto, Ismail went on to lead the business development at Finetrade Ltd. – a company based in the United Arab Emirates, focused on trading of raw materials and particularly timber from all over the world. During Dubai’s construction market boom in 2007, the company was one of the pioneers in the country that started Dubai’s accelerated development. Today, Ismail sits as the chairman of the company.

He is also the founder of Simulation 1 Systems, a company founded in Canada, that is engaged in the creation of simulators for the automotive and aviation industries. The company later expanded to the GCC region, opening an additional branch in Saudi Arabia.
Ismail is also the co-founder of Iristel Kenya, a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MNVO) that is physically located in Kenya, due to the considerable emerging markets in Africa and the Sub Sahara region.

Additionally, he is involved in OWS – an automotive supplier in the GCC/MENA, where he is a strategic partner and shareholder. The company manufactures and supplies automotive spare parts, as well as re-manufactured auto components. OWS has a joint-venture with the UAE government entity RAFID, which operates accident assessment and response units in the emirate of Sharjah. The company also expanded to full service and maintenance of government first response vehicles (police, ambulance, fire services etc.).

Ismail also sits on the board of directors for ARCH Corporation, a Canadian-based company that offers alternative real-estate investment opportunities – a senior care fund which is focused on the development and operations of Tier 1 Long Term Health Care facilities for the growing elderly population nationwide.
In 2017, Ismail became the Direct Global / Direct Co-ops licensee in the GCC region and the UAE, founding both GCC Direct and 971 Direct. Ismail is also involved with the Direct Global Trade Center and Water City in the Niagara Free Trade Zone.

Nader Marzouk

Co-founder

Nader Marzouk is a self-styled serial entrepreneur – who over the last three decades has garnered success through innovative and ambitious endeavours while creating and nurturing the community of Toronto with his pursuits. A graduate of the Computer Science Program at the University of Toronto, his first pivotal moment within his career came as the founder of Digital Canvas; a web development agency that saw rapid growth with a top tier client list.

Following suit, Nader went on to help structure and grow the social media landscape – as we know it today – by creating one of Toronto’s pioneering social media platforms, meetmeinto.com. At its peak, meetmeinto.com boasted 500,000 members and 30,000 unique visitors daily with multiple press features in renowned national and local publications.

His entry into the Hospitality industry came by chance while sponsoring a charity event which led to the launch and development of a nightlife/hospitality marketing division of meetmeinto.com. This expansion later evolved into a highly successful company of its own.

Today, Nader is at the helm of a growing hospitality empire, which, includes various entertainment, food and beverage venues among other complimentary business holdings.

His success derives from his diverse background in business, and his innate attention to detail within all aspects of the business such as finance and people management has led this innovator to become one of Toronto’s most watched entrepreneurs.

Brendan Denovan

Co-founder

Brendan is a strategic communications and public relations professional. As an entrepreneur, Brendan founded a communications company specialized in marketing, web development, communications strategies, branding, and graphic design in 1996. In 2013, he joined Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada to manage the communications and public relations program, which promotes the co-operative business model and advocates for an economy that puts people before profit.

In that role, Brendan was responsible for planning and executing communications strategies to advance and develop co-operatives and mutuals in Canada, including championing new and innovative ideas. Brendan also led CMC’s advocacy communications, member engagement, events programming, and policy research for more than five years. Brendan remains active and engaged with a global network of co-operative developers and advocates who are working with emerging co-operative business models on digital platforms.

Oweis Zahran

Co-founder

As a dynamic entrepreneur in the automotive industry, Oweis Zahran is the force behind launching innovative solutions in this sector in the Middle East. Born and educated in the USA, Oweis has a strong affinity to this region since his father set up businesses in the UAE under MZ Holdings in the early 90s. The Holding company’s 16 subsidiaries, in three continents, are primarily in the field of equipment supply, industrial manufacturing, automotive R&D, oil and gas as well as construction.

Before he joined University of Maryland as a business undergrad, Oweis was being mentored by his father and unlike other teenagers he was involved in major international business deals. This hands-on experience prepared him for a leadership role, which helped in the evolution and expansion of MZ Holdings’ B2C business. From setting up the largest auto remanufacturing unit in the UAE and expanding it to seven countries, to developing exclusive auto solutions with international celebrities, to launching a joint venture with the Government of Sharjah, Oweis, at the age of 28, manages three of its companies that include OWS Auto, Tatra Middle East and Transaxle ME.

As a serial entrepreneur, Oweis established Rafid Automotive Solutions in 2017 as a joint venture between Sharjah Asset Management and OWS Auto. Today Rafid operates diverse services that includes an accident reporting app, fleet of electric cars and provides vehicle emission testing to quick service and parts supply and more. In 2017, Oweis Zahran also launched Voltron Motors in the UAE and the US with Hollywood actor Tyrese Gibson, mostly known for his roles in The Fast and The Furious franchise. Customizing cars for corporates or individuals, Voltron Motors’ clientele range from Hollywood celebrities to corporate fleets to high profile people in the Middle East.

Oweis’s philanthropic endeavors match his business ambitions. The company runs a small yet significant operation of providing clean drinking water to families in Nigeria and Ghana. Established in 2015, with the collaboration of Nigerian ambassador to the UAE, H.E. Mohammed Gello, Oweis along with his brothers, have since established six drilling rigs in Africa.

Ashutosh Jha

Co-founder

Often described as a tribe of one, and one of the tribe, Ashutosh is an Entrepreneur based in Toronto (Canada). His projects are driven by needs and frustrations of his own, and people at large. He has been working with leading thinkers, artists, executives and entrepreneurs on initiatives across business, arts, philanthropy and public policy for over 19 years.

Ashutosh is currently focused on investing, consulting for and operating businesses that initiate or improve radical changes across diverse industries.

He is the co-founder of Abu Hummus (a healthy fast food chain), Urban Heights Real Estate (low income housing in the united states), Mama’s Water Kefir (natural pop with probiotics and no caffeine or dairy), La Fermenteria (gut friendly fermented packages foods like sauerkraut & pickles) and the newest partner to the “4Life natural Foods” store franchise in Toronto.

He is also a Director and Executive Advisor of dg Market, a micro-multinational procurement technology and data company, founded in 2001 by Development Gateway at the initiative of the World Bank, to make public procurement transparent.

In 2012, after losing his favorite cousin to smoking, he learned that smoking affects at least 1 billion people globally, making it the #1 preventable cause of death. He partnered with renowned heart surgeon Dr. Gopal Bhatnagar and Boris Giller to start 180 Smoke Vape Store, a crowd-sourced provider of a harm reduction products for smokers of tobacco, shisha, and cannabis. The business continues to help hundreds of thousands of people in their harm reduction journey. It was acquired by a publicly traded company in 2019.

He is also the former publisher of Canadian (online) music publication, The Scene Magazine, He was the group publisher for several addition e-magazines spanning mixed martial arts, advertising and wellness products.

Prior to taking entrepreneurship full time, he worked with Accenture Canada for several years in various roles including IT strategy and corporate sales. In the past, he has served as executive advisor to the CEO of ‘Karma Candy’, one of North America’s largest contract manufacturer of branded and premium chocolate products, and Prego Della Piazza, a landmark restaurant based in Toronto’s Yorkville Village. He has also worked in hospitality, publishing, special events promotions, artist development, software development, coding and enterprise technology businesses over the last decade. Through University, he ran a consulting company employing dozens of students part time in Toronto.

Fadi Dirani

Co-founder

Hanna Singh

Co-founder

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