Published on January 31, 2019
Alumni Award of Distinction ’03; Board of Governors 2004-10
As the former President and CEO of Upside Software, Ashif Mawji remembers the first time the company bought new chairs for the office.
“That was a big deal – everyone was really excited.”
Formed 12 years ago, just as the dot-com bubble burst, the contract management software company had to be frugal to weather the shattered market. “We got a lot of things from eBay,” he recalls.
Mawji learned the value of self-sufficiency while growing up in Kenya, where, from the age of 12, he sold watches on consignment to make pocket money.
And he’s long had a keen sense of the smartest uses for his money, one that would help his future business survive and thrive through market ups and downs. On a family trip to the United Kingdom, he bought a computer to sell at a profit back in Kenya.
After he immigrated to Canada, Mawji used that same entrepreneurial savvy to start two companies, including Upside. Its first client was Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and, a couple of months later, Hewlett Packard signed on. From there, the deals kept coming.
In time, so did offers to purchase the company. This August, he finally accepted one, freeing him up to focus on volunteer efforts with charities including the Kids Kottage Foundation and the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation.
It has also allowed him to look toward new ventures. Among them: a software-as-a-service venture to help non-profits become more efficient and, just as he learned to do, survive and thrive.
— Eliza Barlow