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Our picks for Alberta Business Person of the Year in 2027

Up-and-comers from Replicon, PetroBakken and Neopolitan Pizzeria make our list of potential BPOY candidates

Apr 1, 2012

by Alberta Venture Staff

Prognostication is a fool’s game, and those who indulge in it are just asking to be mocked by history. Who, after all, would have predicted back in 2005 that the U.S. housing market would collapse or that the global economy would fall into the deepest recession since the Great Depression?

Trying to identify who might become Alberta’s Business Person of the Year in 2027 makes the challenge associated with, say, anointing a future Super Bowl winner look easy by comparison. After all, while you can be fairly certain that the Dallas Cowboys aren’t going to collectively decide to give up football for a life of poverty – in other words, journalism – there’s no guarantee that a junior executive on the fast track won’t do something equally silly and self-destructive.

Still, it’s fun to try, and it’s in that spirit that we’ve tried to identify the 15 candidates in Alberta who are most likely to hear their name called (possibly by a robot) at the BPOY awards ceremony in 2027.

Chris LaBossiere

Co-CEO and founder of Yardstick Software

LaBossiere has extensive experience in a variety of roles in the private sector and has turned Yardstick Software into one of Alberta’s most consistently excellent and successful technology companies – and one of its most frequently honoured. He’s also a well-connected and savvy networker who does more than his share of volunteer work as well as a political animal who played a key role in the creation of the Alberta Party.

Lakshmi Raj

Co-CEO and founder of Replicon

It’s not easy to build a successful high-tech business in the midst of a salary-inflating commodity boom, but that’s what Raj has managed to do in Calgary with Replicon. The time- and expense-tracking software company now has offices in San Francisco and Bangalore, with over one million users and 7,300 customers worldwide. Raj lives in California right now, but she still has plenty of time to come home and make an impact here in Alberta.

Christian Bullock

Co-founder of Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria

The former amateur football player has become Alberta’s hottest franchisor, and his latest venture – a chain of Neapolitan pizza joints with an innovative serve-yourself ordering style – looks to be Bullock’s most successful yet. Famoso is quickly spreading out across Alberta, has pushed into B.C. and has designs on expanding south of the border.

Ken Bautista

Co-founder and CEO of Startup Edmonton

Bautista is a fixture on the Edmonton high-tech scene and has already created two successful companies in Hotrocket Studios and Rocketfuel games. Now, as the co-founder and CEO of Startup Edmonton, he’s looking to help other entrepreneurs enjoy the same success he already has, but it’s safe to assume it won’t be too long before he tries his own hand at it again.

Nathan Armstrong

Director and president of Motive Industries

If, as we suggested in our February issue, Alberta is capable of creating a world-class automotive industry, Armstrong will play a major role in making it happen. The president of Motive Industries worked for Boeing and engineered products for the International Space Station before getting into the automotive industry. In 2004, he founded Motive, which has since helped design innovative products and parts for major auto manufacturers around the world. But he could have a major hit on his hands with the Kestrel, a bio-composite electric car made partially from hemp, which should be ready for testing this year.

Robin Greschner

Investor relations at PetroBakken Energy

Don’t tell Greschner, the head of investor relations at Petrobank Energy and the chairperson of the Canadian Association of the World Petroleum Council’s youth committee, that something can’t be done. When colleagues told her it would be difficult to draw a decent crowd for one of the youth committee’s events last September, she decided to prove them wrong. Figuring that she needed a marquee name to get the attention of her peers, she convinced W. Brett Wilson to speak – and ended up attracting almost 200 people. She’s still in the midst of a Queen’s MBA, but once she’s done, there’s no telling how far or how fast she could rise.

Kyle Kasawski

Owner of Provident Solar

Kasawski has long had an interest in alternative energy, and in 2010, he left his day job to launch Provident Solar, a company that provides consulting services to homeowners, businesses and government. If solar power ever takes off in Alberta – and if you ask Kasawski, that day isn’t far off – you can be sure that the former TEC Edmonton Entrepreneur-in-Residence will be at the centre of it all.

Judy Fairburn

Executive vice-president (environment and strategic planning) at Cenovus Energy

Fairburn is a professional engineer with an impeccable pedigree that features a master of science degree in chemical engineering and an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business. Prior to arriving at Cenovus, she worked in a variety of key operational and strategic roles for Shell Canada and Syncrude Canada, and has continued on that path in her current position. Her expertise in environmental strategy and corporate governance makes her a particularly attractive candidate for the role of chief executive going forward.

Ryan Johnson

President of Iunctus Geomatics

Johnson and his company are at the centre of a rapidly expanding tech cluster in Lethbridge that’s focused on the multimillion-dollar geomatics industry. The industry, which has potential commercial applications in the oil and gas industry, the agricultural sector and other location-oriented fields, recently received a major boost with the opening of Tecconnect, an incubator that will help early-stage companies develop and commercialize their products and services. Johnson and his company made a considerable investment in it, too, spending $1 million to build their new corporate headquarters on-site. It’s a prudent investment that will almost certainly pay off – and if it does, you might just be reading about it in 2027.

Brian Boulanger

Senior vice-president and director of ARC Financial

Boulanger, a graduate of the Richard Ivey of School Business, joined ARC Financial in 1997 and quickly rose through the company’s ranks. Boulanger is a student of deal-making, and represents his firm on the boards of Crocotta Energy, Nexterra Systems and BluEarth Renewables. He’s also a family man, though, and a committed member of Calgary’s philanthropic community. That emphasis on balance will almost certainly be one of the defining characteristics of the BPOY in 2027 – and it might just be him.

Shane Walper

CEO of Predator Drilling

If the business world is about the survival of the fittest, then there aren’t many executives much fitter than Walper. He created his Red Deer-based drilling services company in early 2008, only to have to contend with the deepest recession in recent memory. But the company survived, and he’s now applying the hard lessons learned during 2008-09 to grow an increasingly profitable and prosperous company. His outfit landed at number 15 on the 2012 Fast Growth 50, and as business in the oil sands continues to grow, it seems likely that so will Predator’s – and Walper’s – fortunes.

Kristina Williams

Director of investments with the Alberta Enterprise Corporation

Williams is a Swedish citizen who moved to Edmonton to settle down with her Canadian husband. She had to leave her training as a corporate lawyer behind (Alberta doesn’t recognize law degrees from Sweden) but she quickly re-invented herself after getting an MBA at the University of Alberta. Now, in addition to her charitable work with NorQuest College Foundation and her role as the honorary Swedish consul in Edmonton, she advises the Alberta government on high-tech venture capital investments.

Malcolm Adams

Vice-president of corporate development for Surge Energy

There are plenty of rising stars in Alberta’s oil patch but few have the combination of technical expertise and deal-making finesse that Adams brings to the corporate boardroom. He’s a University of New Brunswick-trained chemical engineer who got his start working as a reservoir engineer on early waterflood and horizontal drilling operations in Saskatchewan in the 1990s. He has since worked with ARC Financial Corp., first as an engineer and later as a vice-president responsible for deal generation and execution. He joined Surge Energy in 2010.

Boaz Shilmover

CEO, Arte Group

The flow of talent between the roofing business and the oil and gas industry tends to go in one direction only. But when he was 25, Shilmover fled a good job in the energy sector to work for his father’s roofing company, Arte Group. He hasn’t looked back since, and the Richard Ivey MBA graduate has grown the business into a formidable player in the Alberta construction industry. Shilmover’s considerable talents should ensure that the company continues to thrive going forward.

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