Nov. 8, 2023
Shining a light on Calgary’s exceptional entrepreneurs
This year’s Avenue Magazine Top 40 Under 40 honours list includes 20 people with University of Calgary connections and highlights the rising entrepreneurs, creators, researchers and activists who are paving the way for what comes next. The induction celebration on Nov. 2 marked 25 years of acknowledging Calgary’s best and brightest.
In Part 3, you’ll meet: Renee B. Matsalla, BComm'13, BA'13; Dr. Aravind Ganesh, MD'12, DPhil; Dr. May Choi, BHSc’10, MD; Dr. Hadis Karimipour, PhD; Adam J. Martinson, MEDes'09, MBA'14; and Kathryn Pearce, MArch’11.
Renee B. Matsalla, BComm'13, BA (Hons)'13
Co-founder, Tacit Edge Product Leadership
Renee Matsalla entered the field of product management after studying marketing, working in mobile gaming in Berlin and then landing at Calgary-based tech company Benevity. Now, Matsalla is helping to diversify the field through Tacit Edge, a startup she co-founded in 2021 that offers a 12-week applied micro-credential course, delivered in partnership with SAIT, that has become the global standard for equitable product-management education.
Through partnerships with Alberta Innovates and Platform Calgary, hundreds of Albertans have enrolled in Tacit Edge free of charge. Graduates have a 73-per-cent hire rate, more than 56 per cent are women and 72 per cent are people of colour. With the yearly salary for graduates averaging $93,000, and the program having produced three startups so far, Tacit Edge contributes to the innovation ecosystem in Calgary with educated talent and equitable access to career opportunities.
Dr. Aravind Ganesh, MD'12, DPhil
Assistant professor of neurology, vascular and cognitive neurologist, Cumming School of Medicine and Hotchkiss Brain Institute
Chief executive officer, Let’s Get Proof
Some of the most powerful lessons Aravind Ganesh learned about neurology came from an unlikely place: stand-up comedy. Ganesh, who started performing as an amateur stand-up comedian in high school, says the practice taught him to observe, communicate and recognize lightness in difficult situations. Today, Ganesh is a global leader in neurology through his efforts to improve outcomes for people who have experienced strokes.
With more than 100 peer-reviewed publications to his credit, he puts his research to work in stroke prevention clinics and hospitals. Clinical trials are also about to begin on a device Ganesh developed through his startup, SnapDx Inc. — a product that could become the first effective pre-hospital treatment for stroke and the first effective treatment for vascular dementia. He’s also the CEO for Let’s Get Proof, a crowdfunding platform that connects researchers to financial support.
Dr. May Choi, BHSc’10, MD
Rheumatologist and assistant professor of medicine, Cumming School of Medicine
Scientists often say their achievements build on work of earlier generations of scientists. In May Choi’s case, that pioneering scientist is her father. When Choi was in medical school, her father, Vincent — a rheumatologist in Calgary with an interest in lupus — died unexpectedly. She heard stories about the impact he’d made.
Today, along with being the mother to two young children, Choi works across hospitals caring for patients with severe autoimmune conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma, and runs an outpatient clinic dedicated to lupus. Choi leads CatalystDx, a research program funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, to study biomarkers in the blood using artificial intelligence. She is also an associate director at MitogenDx Laboratory, a private laboratory that provides novel autoimmune biomarker testing for patients, physicians and researchers.
Dr. Hadis Karimipour, PhD
Canada Research Chair and associate professor, Department of Electrical and Software Engineering,
Schulich School of Engineering
As a faculty member of UCalgary’s Department of Electrical and Software Engineering, Hadis Karimipour researches the use of AI for security analysis of critical infrastructure while teaching students to become cybersecurity experts. As a Canada Research Chair in Secure and Resilient Cyber-Physical Systems, she has secured more than $1.6 million in funding for her research, which addresses the gap between information technology security and operational technology security.
Karimipour is also co-founder of TechnoVibe, a startup that focuses on AI-powered decision support and condition monitoring systems for critical infrastructure. She is a Calgary representative for the global organization Women in CyberSecurity, a mentor with the non-profit Society of Women Engineers, a UCalgary representative for Women in Data Science at Stanford University, and, in 2022, was named one of the Most Inspiring Women in Cyber by the online news digest IT Security Guru.
Adam J. Martinson, MEDes'09, MBA'14
President and founder, AJM Environmental
The desire to protect sensitive species drove Adam Martinson to start his own environmental consulting company, AJM Environmental, in 2012. He employs a range of experts to help businesses navigate environmental and regulatory challenges, enabling development with the least amount of environmental impact possible.
In 2019, Martinson founded BioLogic, a sister company to AJM, whose goal is to solve environmental challenges with technology. Martinson continues to volunteer his time to research rattlesnakes in Southern Alberta. He presents “snake talks” in elementary and junior high schools in the region, bringing along one of his two pet ball pythons to help students get over their fear.
Kathryn Pearce, MArch’11
Executive director, Maud Collective
Project manager, City of Calgary
Behind successful communities is a process called placemaking, which Kathryn Pearce describes as “fostering connections between people and place by reinforcing positive life in the public realm.” Pearce was passionate about placemaking long before she was familiar with the term and has since used that passion to invigorate various projects in her roles with The City of Calgary and Maud Collective, a company she founded that creates activations using art and augmented reality (AR).
During COVID-19, when indoor in-person interactions were limited, Pearce adapted her work with Maud Collective by creating the Northern Reflections Augmented Reality Art Walk, an exhibition of painted windows that used AR to animate the art by viewing it through an app. The exhibition allowed people to enjoy public spaces while adhering to social distancing. Northern Reflections has since become an annual event.
In Part 1 of our three-part series on the Top 40 Under 40, we introduced six young powerhouses who are changing the face of Calgary: Anna Murphy; Dr. Husein Moloo, MD’13; Dr. Lauren DeDieu, PhD; Dr. Steven Yip, MD; Andrea Marie Urquhart, LLB'10; Stephanie Hutchinson, BComm’07; and Dr. Julie Deleemans, PhD’22.
In Part 2, we met more rising stars who are addressing some of society’s biggest challenges: Dr. Benjamin Tutolo, PhD; Ishita Singla, BComm’16; Dr. Dion Kelly, MBT'18, PhD’23, and Dr. Eli Kinney-Lang, PhD; Ashley Wanamaker, MC'17; Krista F. Lauridsen, MArch’14; and Dr. Nauzer Forbes, MSc’18, MD.