About Us

Our Entrepreneurship Team

YSpace is York University’s innovation hub creating positive change by fostering a community of innovators, entrepreneurs, and changemakers. YSpace is home to YSpace Digital is a suite of virtual programs to support entrepreneurs from ideation to scale mode; YSpace Markham is a physical incubator space located in York Region to support market-ready ventures; and ELLA, Ontario's first accelerator focused on supporting women-led product and service-based businesses.

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Sarah Howe

Assistant Vice President, Innovation & Research Partnerships

Sarah is a business development professional with extensive experience fostering innovation and developing strategic business operations. Over the past six years, Sarah has successfully created an innovation office at York University that provides a myriad of services across the university and has grown the team to 17.

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She has created and grown a pan-university educational entrepreneurship program, developed and manages two start-up accelerators; and developed and manages an 11,000 square foot innovation centre, YSpace, as a strategic step in the development of a new campus. In addition, Sarah is co-lead for the strategic development of innovation and entrepreneurship across the campus.

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David Kwok

Associate Director, Entrepreneurship

David is a driven leader with an extensive background in strategic planning, innovation program creation, and partnership development. Since joining York University in 2017, David has Co-Founded York University’s first physical incubator space call YSpace in York Region and Ontario’s first Food & Beverage Accelerator focused on growth stage CPG ventures.

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In addition, he now oversees the ELLA Women Accelerator program focused on supporting 70 women entrepreneurs to scale and grow annually. Prior to joining York University, David led the transformation of DMZ Sandbox into a renown startup and talent creation hub for Ryerson University. He also co-founded ZerotoStartup, an educational venture focused on creating curriculum for maker spaces upon graduation. He also served as an Advisory Board member for Pledges for Change, a community-based nonprofit focused on youth empowerment through volunteerism.

Nafis Ahmed

Entrepreneurship Manager, YSpace

Nafis joined York University in 2020 after spending 5 years with the Legal Innovation Zone at Ryerson University - the world's first incubator dedicated to legal tech. Nafis is a driven leader with a strong background in developing entrepreneurial ecosystems, fueling startup growth, and building communities and has supported startups in various stages of their development across the GTA tech community.

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Previous to the Legal Innovation Zone, Nafis was part of the operations team at The DMZ, and was also a Co-Founder of NuLens Innovation, using entrepreneurial frameworks to facilitate innovation projects and initiatives. He is deeply involved in startup and social innovation initiatives through his volunteer activities, and is passionate about supporting individuals pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations.

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Nicole Troster

Entrepreneurship Manager, ELLA

Nicole has over 10 years’ experience developing startups and working with organizations to design policies and programs to support entrepreneurship. Before joining ELLA, Nicole managed iBoost, an early-stage tech incubator at Ryerson University where she developed programming and partnerships to enhance entrepreneur education.

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Prior to that, she served as a Senior Analyst for the University of Waterloo Venture Fund as well as a Senior Policy Advisor for the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Growth, where she led a cross-government initiative to improve the regulatory environment and reduce business costs. Nicole holds a Master’s in Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology from the University of Waterloo, a Master’s in Public and International Affairs from York University and a Bachelor of Commerce from Ryerson University.

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Judy Chang

CPG Program Advisor

Judy Chang has over 20 years of experience in the food industry, with leading multiple businesses with Kraft & Mondelez, and working at the Nielsen Company as a VP in Analytics. She is an intrapreneur, with experience growing two divisions through double digit growth in revenue and fast-growing team to support.

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Judy is also the Founder of Pivot Perspectives, a coaching and mentoring company for leaders and entrepreneurs. She is passionate about supporting startup companies to refine their business plans, creating a vision, and developing a high performing and engaged team to lead the charge.

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Diana S

Students & Community Engagement Coordinator

Diana is a creative leader with over 11 years of communications, event management, and marketing experience. She has successfully coordinated and managed over 300 events across Canada, designed and developed strategic marketing and communication campaigns, and has created communication pieces aimed at telling compelling brand stories.

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In 2008, Diana graduated with a BA in Communications and Psychology from York University, as well as a Diploma in Creative Advertising from Seneca College. Diana is responsible for coordinating and marketing LaunchYU events and programs, contributing to the overall look of the brand, as well as providing marketing and event support for Innovation York.

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Keila Wochenmarkt

Marketing & Communications Coordinator

Keila works with organizations to establish effective brand strategies. Keila spent 3 years as CSR and Secure Desk Operator at TD Canada Trust before accepting a role as Marketing Assistant at Hy-Grade Steel Roofing. She was promoted to the management team as Marketing Manager, where she ran the province-wide company’s portfolio of marketing and communications for 2+ years before joining ELLA.

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Keila holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing Management from the University of Guelph. While there, she was Market Research Manager for the College of Business & Economics Students’ Association and joined the inaugural executive team as Director of Marketing for Guelph Women in Leadership. She brings in-depth experience with marketing portfolios, working with entrepreneurs and uplifting women leaders.

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Serena Tang

YSpace Coordinator

Serena joins YSpace after spending several years with the Markham Small Business Centre serving as a Small Business Assistant. She has extensive experience of coordinating programs and supporting entrepreneurs.

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York University is a familiar setting to her as she graduated in 2018 from Schulich School of Business. She is excited to combine her experience gained in the innovation ecosystem to support entrepreneurship and innovation at York University and in the wider community.

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Maria Lisa Lionti

ELLA Coordinator

Maria holds over 5 years of experience in programming, events and logistics management. Her portfolio includes such accolades as coordinating the International Human Trafficking and Awareness Conference for the Toronto Police Service and holding the Lead Facilitator position for the Business Management course; Strategies for Success.

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While receiving her Bachelor of Commerce in Business Management from Ryerson University, Maria held consecutive positions with the Ted Rogers Student’s Society at the Ted Rogers School of Management and was responsible for the planning and execution of several events on campus. She served as Event Associate, Vice President of Events, Business Management Director, and finally as President in her final term. She is excited to contribute her variety of event and programming skills in creating unforgettable experiences for ELLA women.

Our Entrepreneurs in Residence

Our Entrepreneurs in Residence (EiR) will host bi-weekly office hours but they are also here to support you outside of the office hours. Please know that all our EiR have had experiences building and growing their companies. They are here as resources to provide advice and guidance but are by no means meant to complete work on your behalf.

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Ben Stacey

From scrappy indie studio to the beating heart of agency-world Ben has been pushing the boundaries of business-minded design for just over a decade. Couple that with 4 years volunteer work and close examination of over 1200 pitches with the world’s premier idea-stage accelerator and you've got one hell of a presentation designer.

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With insights drawn from the music industry, startup ecosystems and Fortune 500 presentations, Ben provides invaluable lessons on the art of visual and verbal communication.

Currently, Ben operates Pitchverk, a presentation studio, helping founders communicate their message, close deals and raise capital. Additionally, Ben serves as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Ryerson DMZ and continues to volunteer with Founder Institute Toronto.

Areas of expertise and interest include:

• Pitch Coaching
• Pitch Deck Design
• Visual & Verbal Communication
• Storytelling

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Bonnie Yau

Bonnie is a Product leader who has been innovating at the intersection of business and technology for over 15 years. She is a passionate team builder and a firm believer that fully integrated cross-functional teams are what it takes to win in today’s ever-changing competitive landscape. Having endured the pain of digital transformation in corporations large and small, Bonnie sees huge opportunity in start-ups getting it right from the get-go.

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During Bonnie’s career within enterprises such as LoyaltyOne and start-ups such as SecureKey, she oversaw products for consumers, citizens, and businesses. Bonnie brings best practices and lessons learned from a variety of domains including loyalty programs / marketing, business intelligence, digital identity, authentication, payment, API platforms, and developer programs. Her experience in leading both Product and Technology teams has given her a deep appreciation for the productivity and engagement that is gained exponentially through cross-functional collaboration.

Areas of expertise and interest include:

• Product Management
• Business Analysis
• Cross Functional Team Building
• Agile Product Development

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Eva Wong

Eva is Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Borrowell, a Canadian fintech company that helps make financial stability possible for everyone. She provides leadership to the Product, Engineering, Design and Data teams and is a member of the Executive Team.

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Eva's career has spanned both the private and not-for-profit sectors, including roles at The OTF Group (a Monitor spin-off), Maple Leaf Foods, UNDP and Oliver Wyman. She has studied or worked in the US, Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Europe.

Eva is an EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2019 award winner in Ontario, and was named one of the Standout 35 globally on the 2018 Women in FinTech Powerlist. Eva is a frequent speaker at events, and was named one of 20 Canadian tech start-up founders to follow by Twitter Canada.

Areas of expertise and interest include:

• Operations
• Business Strategies
• Leadership
• Startup Development

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Russ Armstrong

Russ is a sales and finance leader and co-founder of Limelight Platform, the worlds first experiential marketing cloud. Russ ran sales, finance and operation at Limelight for 5 years. Russ's expertise is building and developing teams in the B2B SaaS space, across finance, operations and sales & marketing. He is a dynamic and passionate go-to market leader with a proven track record of applying strong leadership, technology, Data and analytics to achieving corporate objectives.

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Areas of expertise and interest include:

• Roles and KPI's of your sales team
• Sales team structure and design
• Sales funnel and definitions
• Mapping the buyer journey
• Sales Enablement Tools

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Suraj Gupta

Suraj K. Gupta is the Co-Founder, President and CEO of Rogue Insight Capital, and is the CIO for the Easton’s Group of Hotels; Canada’s largest private hotel development corporation. The Easton’s Group owns a portfolio of over 20 hotels across Canada as well as residential condominium projects across the Greater Toronto Area.

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One of Suraj’s primary mandates includes investing in female, immigrant, and visible minority founders. Suraj believes that these groups of entrepreneurs do not get the exposure they deserve, and therefore over 70% of Rogue’s portfolio companies have diverse founding teams at the helm. Additionally, although Rogue invests globally, another of Suraj’s primary objectives is to support and spotlight Canadian founders by aiding great companies in their growth trajectory. He hopes that the world will increasingly recognize the incredible innovations that come out of the Canadian market, and that Toronto will become a hub for entrepreneurship similar to New York City and San Francisco.

Areas of expertise and interest include:

• Business Strategy
• Financial Analysis
• Sales & Marketing Initiatives
• Fundraising Preparation

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Mick B

Mick Be is the CEO & Founder of IAmI Authentications, Inc. (“IAmI”), an Identity & Access Management cybersecurity company. Being a startup founder of 10+ yrs, Mick advises coaches, and mentors numerous technology-based startups of all sizes and business types. Over the last 2 years, Mick has been an EiR and key member of the YSpace community.

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Mick began his entrepreneurial journey after having worked for the financial services and card payment industries as a product marketing executive. Since beginning his first company, he has pivoted twice and now leads a highly innovative cybersecurity company. Mick possesses a very strong knowledge base in business development strategy, marketing, sales, operational management, technology & security strategy, and relationship building/management. He continues to be front and center at the crossroads of advancing technologies and user experiences, with a particular focus on privacy and security.

Areas of expertise and interest include:

• Privacy & Security
• Business Strategies
• Go to Market Strategy

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