Mentors

Mentors-in-Residence

Albert Seah

LinkedIn

Albert Seah is an educator and mentor with consulting experience in business development. Through business consulting, he provides business development activities ranging from establishing standard operating procedures, market research, product research, and fund-raising for early-stage business organizations. His expertise is mainly focused on the optimization of an efficient retail system.

Prior to arriving in Vancouver in 2011, Albert had more than fifteen years of wide-ranging experience in business start-ups, restructuring,
traffic generation, and traffic conversion in e-commerce. He combines a hands-on approach with an enthusiastic style that reaches out to the needs of his clients to succeed in their business ventures.

Areas of specialization:

  • Retail Systems
  • Business Strategy
  • Leadership Development

Chris Stairs

LinkedIn

Chris has 20+ years of experience helping organizations position for market entry, strategize revenue models, push through financial ceilings, and build foundations to become best-in-field.

A senior associate of CanadaStartUp.com, and a financial advisor for VolitionAdvisors.com, Chris supports ventures across a broad range of markets including construction management software, robotic welding, e-learning, workplace hygiene, therapeutic apparel, industrial automation, event technologies, and anti-counterfeit authentication platforms.

Prior to his work in the venture space, Chris Stairs began his career in tourism and sports marketing, working for such brands as the Vancouver Aquarium, NBA, Olympics and FIFA.

Areas of specialization:

  • Venture Development
  • Strategic Planning
  • Budget and Money Management
  • Research and Feasibility
  • Operational Startup
  • Project Management
  • Process Design
  • Board Development

Dave Thomas

LinkedIn

Venture Prize Lead
Lead VentureLabs Liaison

Dave Thomas is a Senior Partner with Rocket Builders. He was the General Manager of the Canadian Financing Forum, matching North American Corporate and VC investors with serious entrepreneurs looking to build world-class technology companies from 2003 to 2010.  He is an executive, business consultant and advisor for a number of technology companies and manages the Rocket Builders “Market Readiness Program”. Recent positions and projects include; Mentor in Residence at Simon Fraser University Venture Connection and a guest lecturer at the New Ventures BC program.

Thomas has worked with a series of start-ups over the past decade and was a member of the management team for four venture-backed tech companies. He is currently an advisor to companies, an entrepreneur, an angel investor and a shareholder in angel seed funds. He has an MBA from UBC and was a member of the coaching staff for Canada’s Olympic Sailing Team on four occasions. An enthusiastic sailor, Thomas is a partner in two sailing schools, one at Jericho in Vancouver and a second initiated in 2010 in Shenzhen China.

Areas of specialization:

  • Product Marketing
  • Go to Market
  • Market Research

Doug Fast

LinkedIn

Lead Embedded Mentor

Douglas really enjoys working with product-focused companies and sharing his experiences bending metal, writing code, building boards, and optimizing manufacturing. He also knows first-hand what happens when you let the magic smoke out of a component on the lab bench.

Douglas is a Mentor-in-Residence at SFU so that he can share his experience with student entrepreneurs and help them build successful companies.

When Douglas is not mentoring, he is the Founder and CEO of Dark Water Tek, a consultancy that provides guidance to clients in product commercialization – particularly products that incorporate hardware as a key element.

Prior to founding Dark Water Tek, Douglas held the roles of CEO at Nyce Control, President of Spectrum Signal Processing, and Executive Vice President of Vecima Networks Inc.  Douglas joined Vecima in its early days and played several key roles in helping scale the company to success at 921 staff and top line revenue of C$120M.

Areas of specialization:

  • Leadership Development
  • Embedded Systems
  • Product Management

Finlay MacNab

LinkedIn

Associate Lead, Life Sciences

Finlay MacNab is an accomplished research scientist with a broad understanding of the BC innovation ecosystem. He has over a decade of experience as a research scientist building novel telecommunications, microelectronic, and photovoltaic devices. Finlay holds a doctorate in materials chemistry and a graduate certificate in technology commercialization from SFU.

Ken Fielding

LinkedIn

Ken Fielding’s more than 25 years of experience in the technology industry has been fully centred on innovation and change in the energy efficiency sector.  He is now advising and being an ‘ear’ for founders of emerging growth tech/innovation-backed companies.  Previous to this, Ken was the CEO of Delta-Q Technologies, a power electronics company he co-founded in 1999 supplying the electric vehicle industry.   

From initial back-of-the-envelope business idea through to profitable growth and eventually a successful acquisition by an International company, Ken has been involved in all facets of growth.  Along the way, Ken gained experience with raising capital from government sources, angel investors and private equity not to mention the many challenges in running a start-up through scaled growth and the commercialization of new technologies. 

Areas of specialization:

  • People and culture development within teams/organizations/institutions
  • Strategy and competitive positioning
  • Energy efficiency adoption and sustainable development solutions to help our planet

Lesley Esford

LinkedIn

Life Sciences Lead

Lesley is an experienced Life science professional with a varied background related to company innovation and commercialization, securing finance, and scientific research and development. In terms of education, she has degrees in both Business Administration (Hons. B.Admin., with a major in finance) and Science (B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D.).

Since 2006, she has worked with over 100 entrepreneurs developing drugs, medical devices, and diagnostics addressing a wide array of medical diseases at every stage of the innovation process from concept to commercialization.

Through this work, she has expanded her professional network and gained a more comprehensive understanding of the Life Sciences sector and investment community globally. Lesley is a Kauffman Fellow, a Silicon Valley-based international leadership program for venture capitalists and innovators of all kinds.

Areas of specialization:

  • Innovation strategy
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Partnership development
  • Fundraising
  • Ecosystem building

Lynn Warburton

LinkedIn

Creative and Digital Lead

Lynn Warburton, Managing Partner at Emdoubleyu Communications + Design, is an expert in engaging stakeholders in values-based conversations. She empowers those she works with to develop their voice through strategic communications to inform, persuade and influence behaviour. Her clients are municipalities, institutions, businesses and non-profits. She’s an advocate for social innovation through sustainability, diversity and health care. Through award-winning materials, online campaigns, branding and public relations tactics she addresses issues with sensitivity and authenticity to raise awareness and strengthen communities.

She develops brand platforms, campaigns and messaging for the City of Surrey and signature projects at the University of British Columbia. She recently facilitated dialogue to advance Indigenous housing issues with the federal government for the Aboriginal Housing Management Association. She’s a compulsive volunteer and fundraiser who sees generosity almost everywhere.

She loves epic road bike rides, lively dialogue and eating outdoors. 

Areas of specialization:

  • Communications/marketing plans and tactical execution
  • Media relations
  • Relationship building/stakeholder engagement
  • Partnership development
  • Corporate Social Responsibility development
  • Municipal, provincial, and federal government relations
  • Aligning marketing activities with business plan goals

Timothy Ames

LinkedIn

Tim brings over 30 years of experience in business, sales, general management, executive leadership as well as personal development. During his career, Tim has worked and contributed to the success of both start-ups and seasoned businesses from nominal to $ 250M in annual revenues.  He has held significant roles at  “for profit”, “not for profit” and “charitable” organizations and has experience in the tech, lighting, disability, government, education, foundation and personal development sectors.  Tim is very comfortable in strategizing with organizations for early and late-stage growth, identifying and removing barriers, people and culture as well as organizational planning. 

Areas of specialization:

  • Idea Viability
  • Strategic Planning 
  • Operational planning and start-up
  • Project Management 
  • CEO Capacity Building
  • H/R  Collaboration 
  • Board Cultivation
  • Innovation 
  • Sustainability 
  • Rapid Growth
  • Equity-Based Design 
  • Not-for-Profit – Society Governance 

Trish Mandewo

LinkedIn

Diversity and Inclusion Stream Lead

Trish Mandewo is a multi-award-winning, experienced entrepreneur, mentor, board professional, politician and author. She was elected to the Coquitlam City Council in 2018. She is the President & CEO of Synergy Executive & Boards Consulting Group, a recruitment, HR and leadership consulting company that supports the advancement of Black, Indigenous and Visible minority subject matter experts and senior-level executives seeking to take their voices and expertise to the boardroom, c-suite and other decision-making tables.  

With an impressive early career in microbiology & embryology followed by nearly 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship, governance and as a small business advisor/mentor, Trish has a passion for working with startup and growth phase entrepreneurs. She is the author of “Growth Strategies for the hungry entrepreneur.

Trish has served on more than 20 boards. She currently sits on the Women’s Enterprise Center Board, Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) Indigenous Relations Committee (chair), UBCM Economic Development Committee, Metro Vancouver Indigenous Relations Committee and The Black Opportunity Fund Governance Committee.

Trish’s roots are from the Shona tribe of Zimbabwe. Her totem is Shava Mhizha / Mhofu (Eland Antelope) from Chivhu reserves. She is a first-generation settler and is humbled and grateful to live and work in the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of Kwikwetlem Nations.

Areas of expertise:

  • Advisory and company board development
  • Strategic planning
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Multi-sectoral relationship building
  • Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
  • Leadership & Team Development

Avi Arya

Instagram

Avi Arya, likes to best describe himself as a father of two girls, 6 dogs, husband to a Superwoman, a street car racer turned hotelier, and now Founder of Internet Moguls. 

Avi owns and operates 2 very famous boutique hotels in India that gave his deep exposure to hospitality in his earlier years. 

He lives in Vancouver and runs an award winning Digital Consulting & Training company helping universities, startups and mega corporations – Get Known, Get Leads and Close Sales through his very popular content creation frameworks. 

Avi recently founded the Digital Creator’s Club Canada, a Landing & Take off space for Entrepreneurs who want to become Creators and Creators who want to become Entrepreneurs, to facilitate an ecosystem for up and coming creators and entrepreneurs to grow together. 

Avi is represented by the world’s leading speaker bureaus and delivers talks and conducts workshops on Digital Entrepreneurship around the world.

After co-authoring 2 books with his two teenage daughters, he is now launching his fourth book called Family First Entrepreneur.

He is most active on Instagram and dedicates 1 day  every week to help Entrepreneurs create multiple pieces of content for all their channels. 

Avi’s favourite 3 words, Thank You God.

Community Experts

Bob de Wit

LinkedIn

Angel in Residence

Bob de Wit is a mentor, advisor and investor in start-up and growth-stage technology companies. 

Bob’s career began in university technology transfer then, transformed by entrepreneurship, evolved into angel investing. Along the way, Bob gained C-level leadership experience with start-ups, public companies, and not-for-profit societies. Areas of specialized knowledge include corporate development (M&A strategy and execution), corporate finance (raising equity capital) and corporate governance.

Bob has served on numerous boards and advisory boards of private and public companies as well as societies and foundations. He holds a BBA (marketing) and MA (economics) from Simon Fraser University and lives with his family in British Columbia. 

Areas of specialization:

  • Corporate finance
  • Marketing
  • Investor and government relations
  • Board governance in not-for-profit, private and public company settings

Mark Bodnar

Business Librarian

Mark Bodnar is passionate about helping others understand and uncover the information they need to move forward with their projects and dreams. In more than twenty years as a Business Librarian at SFU, Mark has taught hundreds of sessions on research strategies and resources. He has also consulted on thousands of complex and frustrating market research problems with people throughout the SFU community.

Mark is an SFU alumnus with a BBA degree. He also holds an MLIS degree from UBC. 

Contact Mark by email at mark_bodnar@sfu.ca if you’d like to discuss the information you need for your plans and pitches. 

Sarah Lubik

LinkedIn

Director of Entrepreneurship

Sarah Lubik is SFU’s Director of Entrepreneurship and is focused on aligning and accelerating entrepreneurship support across faculties within SFU and with SFU’s partners, including pre-SFU partnership, education and early-stage incubation.  Her background is in university entrepreneurship, commercialization, innovation ecosystems and incubation.  Sarah is a lecturer in Entrepreneurship & Innovation in the Beedie School and the co-champion of Technology Entrepreneurship@SFU. 

Prior to joining SFU, Sarah worked in the Centre for Technology Management at the Institute for Manufacturing at the University of Cambridge. She has also worked as a business coach, specializing in market analysis and strategy, and project manager and coordinator on a number of international European projects aimed at supporting start-up firms through incubation. She is also the co-founder and Marketing Director of a high-tech manufacturing startup, Lungfish Dive Systems. Sarah has a BBA (honours) from SFU and her Masters and PhD in Technology Commercialization from the University of Cambridge.

Areas of specialization:

  • Entrepreneurial Mindset
  • Incubation
  • Commercialization
  • Innovation Ecosystems
  • Interdisciplinary Programming