An Edmonton software developer whose company has expanded from a two-person operation into an global provider of enterprise contract management software has won this year’s Business Development Bank of Canada’s Young Entrepreneur Award for Alberta.
Ashif Mawji, 35, started his entrepreneurial career at a young age, selling watches on commission at the age of 12 in his native Kenya.
He came to Canada when he was 15 and started a consulting firm in 1995, soon landing a major public sector contract with computer giant IBM.
Today, he’s at the helm of Upside Software, a company with 130 employees serving customers in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany and South Africa.
“We were profitable from the second year on,” says Mawji. Between 2001 and 2006, he adds, Upside realized an increase of more than 3,300 per cent in revenues and more than 400 per cent in profits.
“I recognized a business opportunity and took a risk; that’s how it started,” adds Mawji, who also sits on the boards of a number of charitable organizations.
BDC president and CEO Jean-René Halde called the company a “real success story.”
“By taking a risk and making smart business decisions, Ashif has put his company at the forefront of its sector and attracted clients from around the world. He is a role model for other young Canadian entrepreneurs,” Halde says.
The BDC’s Young Entrepreneur Awards event was the highlight of Small Business Week, held Oct. 14-20 with the theme: “A world without boundaries, open to new markets.”
The awards honour the entrepreneurial spirit and business success of Canadians between the ages of 19 and 35.
Jim Prentice, minister of industry and minister responsible for BDC, said this year’s award recipients represented “the very best and brightest of their generation.”
“The entrepreneurial spirit and drive of these award recipients are exactly what Canada needs,” said Prentice. “Our economic prosperity depends on the success of growing enterprises like these.”
Winners from each province and territory are selected by a panel based on the originality of their business concept, its success, growth potential and their community involvement.
The panel also considers the entrepreneur’s age when the business was started and any special challenges that had to be faced.
BDC is a financial institution wholly owned by the government of Canada.
It supports the development and growth of Canadian small and medium-sized businesses through its financial, investment and consulting services.