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MEET THE NORTH FORGE MENTORS.

North Forge Mentor Raj Adhav

RAJ ADHAV

Biography: Raj has over two decades of experience in the industry, and he launched 200 mobile-first products on iOS, Android, and 400 on the Web. He built UX design-led development teams for over 90 companies like Moody’s, Kohl’s, and Boston Scientific.

During his consulting career with IBM, TCS, and Wipro, he partnered with industry leaders like Apple, Microsoft, and HP to deliver industry-leading solutions. He worked with Tier-1 industry research analysts such as Forrester, IDC, and Tower Group to promote products and services categories that didn’t exist before.

Raj currently advises startups from several accelerator programs across North America, Europe and India. Raj earned a master’s degree in Communication & Media Engineering from FH-Offenburg, Germany. His graduate research thesis is in UX, AR/VR.

Areas of Expertise: Product development strategy, User Experience Strategy, Go-to-Market Strategy

Industry Experience: Airlines, Automotive, Banking & Financial Services, Energy, Healthcare, Industrials, Retail, Technology

North-Forge-Mentor-Demetre-Balaktsis

DEMETRE BALAKTSIS

Biography: Demetre has been a successful speaker, educator and instructional designer for programs in schools, colleges, universities and the private sector for 30+ years. 

Demetre is a passionate international Psychological and Suicide Safety master trainer and keynote speaker. He heads a social enterprise that supports the formation of psychologically safe workplaces, schools and communities. As a thought leader, advocate and presenter in this area, he speaks to groups about the myths and realities associated with how effectively our society is managing workplace mental wellness. His mission is to change how we think about and prevent, psychological injuries in our workplaces. 

Demetre has participated as a startup mentor and coach for programs in Manitoba, Alberta, the North and internationally for over a decade. He is experienced in helping new and existing small businesses survive and grow through their difficult and vulnerable stages of development. He adds value to the business as an instructional designer, educator, strategist and marketer. His commitment to helping entrepreneurs become the best version of themselves inspires them to succeed both in their professional and personal lives.

Areas of Expertise: Psychological Health & Safety, keynote speaker, instructional design, adult education, marketing, video production, business strategy

Industry Experience: Health Care, Education

North Forge Mentor Dan Belhassen

DAN BELHASSEN

Biography: Dan has been a successful speaker, leader and software entrepreneur for 20+ years.

He is obsessed with improving digital learning and training. An engaging presenter and frequent speaker at eLearning events, Dan is sure to make learners and L&D professionals alike question long-held beliefs and stretch their thinking about how people learn and retain information.

As the founder and president of Neovation Learning Solutions, Dan is always looking for ways to improve organizational intelligence through their digital training platforms and course development services.

Areas of Expertise: SAAS, Software development, Sales, Marketing

Industry Experience: None in particular, though we have clients in pretty much every industry from healthcare to retail to defense

North Forge Mentor Dan Bergen

DON BERGEN, CPA

Biography: Don has been a CPA, CA for over 37 years. His experience includes Senior Controllership roles in small, medium, and large owner-managed businesses, as well as in small to large public companies. Don has helped several companies achieve significant growth.

Areas of Expertise: Leading all areas of accounting, finance and administrative functions, risk management, budgeting, forecasting IT systems implementations

Industry Experience: Transportation, Agriculture, and Construction industries

North Forge Mentor Steve Bolton

STEVE BOULTON

Biography: Steve is a builder; an architect, manager and real estate professional by training and education. His strengths include team building, stakeholder management, financial analysis and project delivery. Steve has always been driven toward creating value within the asset management paradigm and improving the places we inhabit.

Among other certifications and licenses, Steve holds a graduate degree in Business Administration & Real Estate from the Schulich School of Business in Ontario, and a Master of Architecture from the University of Manitoba.

His professional experience includes roles with various not-for-profit boards (Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, Architects Without Borders Canada, and Condominium Boards as developer contingent) as well as a current role as the Chair of the Urban Design Advisory Committee (Municipal – City of Winnipeg Committee)

Helping others succeed and making the people and processes around him better is at his core. Continuous learning has always been a key component that propels Steve, a testament to the great teachers that have supported him, some favourite writings include those of Peter Drucker, Buckminster Fuller and Benjamin Graham.

Areas of Expertise: Property Development, Asset Management, Systems Thinking

Industry Experience: Architecture, Business Management, Real Estate / Asset Management

NorthForge Mentor Jim Buchanan

JIM BUCHANAN

Biography: A Strategic and Tactical Team Leader and Coach with a demonstrated record of business planning, development, improvement and execution, implementing tactical plans to support the defined strategic corporate plan, coaching and supporting teams to achieve their goals and that of the corporation.

Significant executive management experience with strategic planning and execution, client relationship management, operations management, sales & marketing management, profitability and fiscal accountability, financial planning & analysis and stakeholder relationships.

Results driven and a problem solver, building sound, integrity-based relationships with stakeholders at all levels including customers, vendors, colleagues and shareholders. Analytical and decisive approach that includes effective delegation, empowerment, team building and innovation. Self-directed, detail oriented, and well organized, with strong communications skills. Experienced in understanding and delivering corporate KPIs providing results for all stakeholders.

Areas of Expertise: Document Imaging & Management, Online Marketing & Website Development, Business Valuations & Brokerage

Industry Experience: Operations Management, Sales & Marketing, Team Leader & Coach

North Forge Mentor Katherine Devine

KATHERINE DEVINE

Biography: Katherine Devine is the founder and Principal Consultant, of Get the Market. Katherine is an entrepreneur, social scientist, market analyst and lean innovation guru. She has 20+ years of proven innovation process and research experience. She brings immediate value to the work she does by ensuring her own enterprises and those of her clients achieve product market fit before solution development begins.

As a market analyst, certified New Product Development Professional (PDMA), and a Leanstack Coach (Lean Canvas), her depth of business knowledge spans from strategy to operations. She’s been a founder and CEO (for her first company, a successful market research firm – kiSquared), as a COO (for a biotechnology start-up firm – Exigence Technologies) and now as the founder of a Get the Market, working exclusively in the innovation space. Her background as a qualitative and quantitative researcher, LeanSix Sigma Green Belt and market analyst gives her a unique perspective and know how.

She employs a market research playbook to idea generation, market validation, concept testing, product pricing and when developing viable go-to-market business models.

Areas of Expertise: Lean Innovation, Lean Canvas, strategy building, market validation, market research

Industry Experience: Technology (product and channel strategy), Manufacturing (advanced and traditional), Biotechnology (for pharma, food, industrial products)

North Forge Mentor Darren Fast

DR. DARREN FAST

Biography: Dr. Fast joined the University of Manitoba in 2012. He leads a team that is responsible for assessing and moving research-based technologies into the private sector as well as facilitating collaborative research partnerships with industry partners. He is also the Past Chair of the Canadian Committee of AUTM. Previously, Darren was the Senior Intellectual Property Advisor at the Public Health Agency of Canada. He was also the President of Solalta Advisors, providing market and business development services for early stage, technology based companies. Prior to Solalta, Darren was Chief Technology Officer for the Western Life Sciences Venture Fund, where he created new companies based on licensed technologies. Darren has also served as manager, Product Planning and Development at Viventia Biotech, where he was responsible for the development of several human therapeutic antibody projects. He has a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Alberta and a M.Sc. in chemistry from the University of Manitoba.

Areas of Expertise: Intellectual Property, collaborations with academic institutions, early-stage new product development

Industry Experience: Life sciences, Environmental, Engineering/Manufacturing

North Forge Mentor Kevin Glasier

KEVIN GLASIER

Biography: As founder and CEO of Tactica Interactive, Kevin leads the conceptualization, design, and development of mobile apps, games, websites and other unique interactive user experiences. Tactica is an award-winning digital media studio that delivers user-centred products for healthcare, social innovation, arts and culture, and ag companies.

Kevin is a veteran product owner and user experience designer with expertise in innovation, app development, and behaviour design. Over the past 20 years, he has worked on hundreds of digital media products for client’s across North America including Mount Sinai Hospital, Oprah Winfrey Network, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, CBC, Sick Kids (Toronto), Canadian Museum for Human Rights, University of Texas, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg, and most of the top universities in Canada.

Kevin’s passions include technology, biohacking, psychology, fitness, and design.

In the community, Kevin is a New Media of Manitoba board member, United Way of Winnipeg Marketing Committee member, and a North Forge mentor. At home, Kevin’s the proud dad of three amazing girls who find him extremely embarrassing.

Areas of Expertise: User Experience Design, Digital Product Management & Ownership, Digital Health

Industry Experience: Software Development, Health, Research, AgTech

North Forge Mentor Lois Gray

LOIS GRAY BSA, MBA, CMC

Biography: Lois Gray is a business coach and a Certified Management Consultant with over three decades of experience providing business advisory services to firms and organizations across the private sector, governments and not-for-profit organizations. She has a particular interest in working with innovative high-growth companies, start-ups and mature firms. Her contributions include technology commercialization planning, business development, marketing and communications advisory services, proposal writing and fundraising. She is a published author and communicator who is adept at interpreting complex technical and business subjects for non-technical audiences.

She has many years of experience working with the Canadian innovation system, first as an entrepreneur tapping into these resources and then as part of the grant funding team within the federal government. She knows the system well and would love to help you capture some of that cash to grow your business.

Areas of Expertise: technology commercialization planning, business development, marketing and communications advisory services, proposal writing and fundraising, author

Industry Experience: Government, not-for-profits, private sector

North Forge Mentor Bruce Griffith

BRUCE GRIFFITH

Biography: Bruce is a true entrepreneur. He has been in private business for over 30 years and is still active in business. Bruce’s primary business is in high specialty shoes. From capturing a client’s vision to creating a finished product is what Bruce does best. Bruce also takes into account needs and special requests of clients to create footwear “out of the box” to assist clients with special needs that are not normal.

Areas of Expertise: Government regulations, logistics and brokerage International trade and manufacturing Research projects Grant proposals

Industry Experience: Manufacturing, Market Building, Logistics

North Forge Mentor Gord Holmes

GORD HOLMES

Biography: Through Gord’s experiences in life, sport, and his professional career, he learned a great deal about people and how they approach situations and view themselves. He grew up in a very positive household and has carried that through all aspects of his life and has enjoyed creating that environment with everyone and every task I am involved in.

Early in his professional career, he was given the opportunity to teach a renowned positive thinking course to an audience of generally negative thinkers. Gord took great pleasure in this and which helped him realize that he was passionate about challenging people to open their minds, view themselves and their environments differently, and embrace change and not fear it. From helping raise two wonderful children, to selling personal computers in their infant stages, to introducing online educational programs to a new and resistant audience, to leading large groups of sporting event volunteers, there was a common denominator – asking organizations and people to embrace things they had never done before or were afraid to try.

Areas of Expertise: Leadership Development, Leadership, Event Management, Sports Administration

Industry Experience: Training, Sport, Manufacturing, K-12 Education, Not-for-Profit, Technology, Sofware

North Forge Mentor Dale Jacobs

DALE JACOBS

Biography: Dale has spent over 15 years developing strategies and engaging the creative process for small businesses. He is experienced in helping new businesses grow and survive in the difficult start-up stages.

Dale has been featured in numerous news articles and publications for his efforts including Winnipeg Free Press, Toronto Star and was a finalist on Richard Branson’s Entrepreneurial Island. His charismatic hands-on approach brings an experience that is second to none in creating the buzz around business.

He will eventually want a bronze statue of himself at city hall, but he will likely settle for a bobblehead in his likeness.

Areas of Expertise: Social Media Marketing, E-commerce, Strategy & Leadership

Industry Experience: Retail, Digital Marketing

North Forge Mentor Katryn Kolt

KATRYN KOLT

Biography: ‘Growth is not one stage of your business, it should be a constant and reliable part of your long-term strategy. ‘

Katryn Kolt is the Sales Manager at GrowthGenius, Toronto’s top lead generation services and software agency. Katryn specializes in helping teams think critically about their target audience and why clients need your product. She focuses on creating systems that scale and testing what works so that sales teams can consistently optimize. She has worked with hundreds of revenue leaders through her work at GrowthGenius and as the Toronto Chapter Head of Pavilion, a private membership revenue leaders community.

Through the pandemic, her team adopted a remote work model, which gave her the flexibility to live across Canada, spreading her time between Winnipeg, Toronto and British Columbia. As an Alumni of the Asper School of Business, she is excited to see the MB tech scene growing and to help connect Manitoban companies with East and West coast opportunities.

Areas of Expertise: TAM (Total Addressable Market)/ICP(Ideal Customer Profile) Identification, Outbound sales strategy and campaign creation, Sales Technology & Automation

Industry Experience: SaaS/Tech (Fintech, Edtech, Sales Technology), Construction, Insurance, Energy

North Forge Mentor Jon Laco

JON LACO

Biography: Jon attended both the University of Manitoba and Winnipeg with a 4-year degree in Business Admin, majoring in entrepreneurship and marketing. His first position post-secondary landed him a sales role with a leading shipping & logistics company that gave him corporate sales training including problem resolution and objection handling.

Despite having a promising career with a salary and commission-based income out of university, he decided to go for broke and start the first high-end car care business in Winnipeg in 2010 that has now flourished into a well-known brand associated with high-quality standards and the nicest vehicles in the city. This was done through an acute marketing and management strategy that has allowed him to retain employees for long enough terms to help him scale the business and coach a younger generation to focus on their goals.

Jon has spoken for the University of Winnipeg as a keynote speaker on entrepreneurship and is also part of an exclusive group of the best automotive detailers in North America.

Starting a business from the ground up with no financing and an incredible amount of sweat equity, Jon has vowed to give back to the Manitoba business community to help lend advice on business start-up and strategy. He also speaks freely on the emotional toll of being an entrepreneur in a very demanding profession and seeks to advise up and comers on how to handle time management, heavy workloads and stress that comes with it. Jon attended both the University of Manitoba and Winnipeg with a 4-year degree in Business Admin, majoring in entrepreneurship and marketing. His first position of out post-secondary landed him a sales role with a leading shipping & logistics company that gave him corporate sales training including problem resolution and objection handling.

Areas of Expertise: Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Sales, Advertising, Management, Networking, Keynote Speaking, Website Design (WordPress), Bookkeeping

Industry Experience: Automotive Detailing, Paint Correction & Polishing, Ceramic Paint Coatings, Paint Protection Film & Window Tinting, Shipping & Logistics, Hospitality, Small/Medium-sized Business and Corporate, Social Media Strategy

North Forge Mentor Jay McDonald

JAY McDONALD

Biography: By day, Jay is an unabashed technologist, and brings this background to over 25 years of sales and territory management experience, across a range of industries. Having worked with leading hardware and software vendors, like EMC, ServiceNow, and Google Cloud, as well as running his own software development and services company, Jay endeavoured to become a trusted advisor to his clients. He is honoured to have had the opportunity to help companies across the prairies with their digital transformation, employee, and customer experience journeys. By night, Jay is an avid 3D Print and CNC hobbyist, who enjoys weekends at the lake and the inevitable projects that come along with them. He is a proud father of two amazing boys, who somehow turned men in a blink.

Areas of Expertise: Healthcare, Government, Manufacturing, Insurance, and Financial Agriculture

Industry Experience: Enterprise Sales, Sales Management, Business Technology Consulting, Technology Advisor, Go To Market Strategies Customer, Employee Experience

North Forge Mentor Diana Olynick

DIANA OLYNICK

Biography: Diana Olynick is a registered Engineer and the founder of M4 Method, an app design studio for mobile and XR (Extended Reality) experiences.

Diana has been interviewed in a variety of business podcasts, women entrepreneurship communities and conferences, recently supporting the XR Global Conference in Europe as a featured speaker in the topics of best practices for design in XR as well as marketing and advertisement.

With more than 15 years of expertise in project engineering, business systems practices and app design, Diana believes that giving back is one of her main philosophies in business and life, so she currently serves as a business mentor for Futurepreneur Canada and North Forge in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Areas of Expertise: Keynote speaker, Business Systems, Marketing and Advertisement in XR, App Design and Development, Virtual reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality.

Industry Experience: Engineering, Manufacturing, Infrastructure, App Design and Development, Marketing.

North Forge Mentor Hernan Popper

HERNÁN POPPER

Biography: Hernán Popper brings over 30 years of experience advising business and non-profit organizations on technology, cost efficiency, marketing and innovation. Hernán has vast management experience, including Director of Innovation at Western Canada Lottery Corporation, Portfolio Manager at MTS Allstream and Business Development Manager at Lockheed Martin Global Telecom. He owns, since 2016, the Winnipeg franchise of Schooley Mitchell, the largest expenses reduction consulting network in North American. Some of his clients include United Way of Winnipeg, Winnipeg Goldeyes, Shindico Realty, Jewish Federation of Winnipeg and many more.

With a life-long interest in the human side of Cybersecurity, Hernán launched, in 2020, POPP3R Cybersecurity, to protect small and medium-sized organizations from today’s biggest threat: Cybercrime. As a way to give back, Hernán is passionate about giving back and actively volunteers for multiple non-profit organizations. Hernán is a Certified Ethical Hacker, and a Certified EC-Council Instructor at CyberWave/The Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology. He holds a Cybersecurity degree from HarvardX and an MBA from Universidad de Buenos Aires.

Areas of Expertise: Cybersecurity Consulting, Telecommunications, Non-Profit

Industry Experience: Cybersecurity, Innovation, Marketing

North Forge Mentor Chris Schmidt

CHRIS SCHMIDT

Biography: Chris started his first business at the age of ten and is still protecting Winnipeg’s trees from Dutch Elm Disease. After completing a B.Sc from the University of Manitoba, he decided not to follow in his family’s footsteps and pursue medicine. Instead, he founded the world’s first Snapchat filter company, Geofilter Studio.

Geofilter Studio exploded at an unprecedented rate of 24,000% and grew to 85 employees in the first year. It was Canada’s fastest-growing company in 2017 and created over 100,000 filters that accumulated 5 billion views worldwide. Chris then formed EveryStudio, which housed Geofilter Studio, EveryStudio AR, and EveryStudio Stickers. EveryStudio AR created augmented reality products, while EveryStudio Stickers made iOS sticker packs with over 150 million views in the App Store. In 2019 EveryStudio was acquired.

In 2018, Chris started Pluto Ventures, an artificial intelligence company with a world-class team backed by a strong group of investors and advisors. Together, they are building Parallel, a social commerce platform that curates your feed to show you others most like yourself, based on your body dimensions.

When Chris is not working on his companies, he enjoys helping others with their business journey and has presented at over 125 events.

Areas of Expertise: Going from zero to one leadership, entrepreneurship

Industry Experience: Consumer

North Forge Mentor Keith Sinclair

KEITH SINCLAIR

Biography: Keith has had a distinguished career as a Human Resources Executive and Management Consultant in the private and public sectors. As a corporate and government executive with mid-to large-size organizations, he has lived and worked across Canada, the US and abroad. As a Management Consultant he has been an HR practice leader and CEO, specializing in executive search, leadership assessment and development, executive coaching, and organizational strategies and development.

Keith has sat on numerous volunteer and private boards, and has regularly acted as a mentor and coach to business leaders.

Areas of Expertise: Executive Search, Leadership Assessment & Development, Human Resources, Executive Coaching, Strategic Thinking and Planning, Organizational Effectiveness, Board Governance.

Industry Experience: Cybersecurity, Innovation, Marketing

North Forge Mentor Danielle Tkachyk

DANIELLE TKACHYK

Biography: Danielle Tkachyk is an entrepreneur. She is the owner of Savante Insurance Inc. and mokada custom jewelry design studio inc.

Danielle has been in the insurance industry since 2000. She has filled the roles of an independent broker, broker support representative and ultimately training coordinator for Manitoba Public Insurance before buying into her brokerage. Since then she started and sold Van Moss Corporation (another property and casualty office) and is currently the sole shareholder of Savante. She is also the administrative support and marketing force behind mokada since 2012; a much more creative endeavour in which she founded with her mother, Mona Stott.

Danielle pursued her Integrated Bachelor of Arts/Education at the University of Winnipeg. Has her Canadian Accredited Insurance Broker designation (with honours) in addition to a rare Canada Border Services Agency Document Examination certification.

She has been vetted as an expert witness by the Province of Manitoba, is a published author for Property Guide and Golden Girl (which was later picked up by Yahoo Finance). She sits on the broker council for Wawanesa Insurance and SGI Insurance, is a mentor for North Forge Technology Exchange, the chair of the Better Business Bureau of MB and NW Ontario and its charitable Educational Foundation and is a director for the Insurance Broker’s Association of Manitoba (currently leading the MPI Operations committee). She has been a guest lecturer for the University of Manitoba Asper School of Business and Red River Community College, speaker, mentor and is clearly deserving of her past and future recognitions including, but not limited to, RBC Woman of Influence nominee, CBC Top 40 under 40 nominee, YMCA Woman of Distinction Finalist, Future Leader of Manitoba nominee and three-time Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award nominee. In 2020, Danielle received the PAL Insurance Brokers Award for Young Achiever of the Year for Canada. In 2021, Savante was listed as a Top Insurance Employer by Insurance Business Canada.

Danielle was born and raised in Niverville, Manitoba and is happy to report that she returned ‘home’ with her husband Matthew and their daughters Mataya and Kennedy.

Areas of Expertise: Property and Casualty Insurance, team building, marketing, panel speaker, author

Industry Experience: Insurance, Retail, Education