Celebrating Asian Heritage Month With Three Notable Asian-Canadian Entrepreneurs
Every May, Asian Heritage Month offers an opportunity to learn about and acknowledge the tremendous contributions Asian-Canadians have made and continue to make to our country’s business and economic landscape.
As Canada’s population becomes more diverse, we’re proud to reflect on our common history as Canadians and our collective commitment to a future of shared prosperity. Discover the stories of three Canadian entrepreneurs of Asian descent whose business success emulates innovation and perseverance—the theme of this year’s Asian Heritage Month.
Carl Rodrigues, president and CEO of SOTI Inc.
Back in 2001, the computer programmer of South Asian descent, wasn’t sure what he was going to do. Rodrigues had just left a lucrative IT consulting job. “I wanted to create something,” he recalls. “I was thinking, maybe I can create some app that can keep me going so I can just work from home.”
After a month, Rodrigues emerged from his basement with a software system that allowed users to control their mobile phones from laptops. SOTI Inc. was born. Today the company is valued at more than a billion dollars.
As a privately held firm, SOTI is unique among technology companies. “I don’t have to answer to shareholders and people who are really just interested in profit and money,” says Rodrigues. This allows him and his team to think long term while being incredibly nimble. These two factors “are both powerful tools that allow SOTI to really do cool stuff,” he says.
BDO has been an important partner with SOTI to help scale up into a global company. “When you’re building this kind of multinational organization, you need a specific type of accounting firm to deal with,” says Rodrigues. Not only does BDO assist SOTI with its accounting needs, but it also brings in legal specialists to help SOTI navigate the laws and rules in overseas markets. “They’re doing a really good job for us.”
Ali Tajskandar, founder and CEO of Wishpond
Tajskandar started programming as an 11 year old in his hometown of Tehran, Iran, and sold his first software to a friend at school whose father had a factory. “He asked me to build an inventory management software,” Tajskandar remembers. And so he did.
Tajskandar inherited his entrepreneurial spirit from his parents. His father ran a construction company in Iran, and after their immigration to Canada, his mother started a clothing and alteration shop in Vancouver.
In 2009, inspired by his parents’ work ethic, Tajskandar founded Wishpond, a Vancouver-based provider of marketing-focused online business solutions for small and medium-sized companies. Whereas most online marketing firms only offer a single piece of what a company needs—for example, an email-marketing service or a landing page—Wishpond offers clients cost effective all-in-one marketing platforms and expert service.
“That’s very unique in the market,” says Tajskandar. Wishpond now serves close to 4,000 businesses worldwide and achieved revenue of $14.8 million in 2021 with 87 per cent annual growth.
“For Wishpond, BDO has proven to be a valuable collaborator and have been very helpful in terms of putting us in front of the right people.”
Victor Liu, founder and CEO of Macro Universe Enterprises Ltd.
Liu immigrated to Canada 22 years ago with a degree in computer science and a latent interest in architecture—particularly in wood flooring, a major industry in the forested area of Northern China where he grew up.
Liu foresaw a shift in the Canadian flooring market from traditional hardwood to more environmentally friendly and customizable engineered hardwood. “Most people think flooring is a piece of building material, but it actually is fashion,” says Liu. “So how can we design this fashion?”
To answer that question, in 2006, Liu launched Macro Universe and its brand name, Fuzion Flooring. Unlike most companies that supply consumers with readymade products—which are often limited in dimensions and design—Fuzion crafts custom flooring solutions for each end user. “We don’t go to a manufacturer to take product off the shelf,” Liu said. “We customize and make the product [so it’s] suitable to the end user’s need. That’s a huge difference.”
Liu considers BDO a perfect fit for Fuzion. “BDO has done a great job to customize service in local markets,” he says. BDO’s position as a global accounting firm granted Fuzion access to resources in the US and UK, but BDO also understood the nuances of the Canadian market. More than that, BDO’s involvement felt like they were a part of Fuzion. “Their approach is more hands-on,” Liu says. “Instead of hiring a contractor, we feel like we have a partner.”
Learn more about BDO Canada.