Ashif Mawji honoured for supporting entrepreneurship

Mawji Centre founder inducted into Business Hall of Fame

After graduation, it wasn’t long before Ashif Mawji (Computer Systems Technology ’92) set himself apart as an entrepreneur in Edmonton’s business community.

After establishing his own consulting company in his early 20s, he founded a series of successful IT companies over the next decade. Among those startups included Upside Software, a company he had grown to employ more than 100 employees and subsequently sold in 2012 in a multi-million dollar deal to SciQuest Inc.

Today as founder of Mawji Ventures and venture partner with Rising Tide, Mawji is known as one of Alberta’s most versatile serial entrepreneurs and IT innovators – and for giving back to Edmonton’s startup community.

"Alberta is filled with amazing entrepreneurs and NAIT is a tremendous developer of this talent."

In 2017, he and his family donated $1 million – the largest gift NAIT has ever received from a graduate—to create the Mawji Centre for New Venture and Student Entrepreneurship. The centre provides NAIT students with entrepreneurship, innovation and new venture learning opportunities, including mentorship from established entrepreneurs. 

“Ashif is a true believer in the power of giving back to the community,” says Dennis Sheppard, dean of NAIT’s JR Shaw School of Business. “His support of the Mawji Centre for New Venture and Student Entrepreneurship represents an investment in the creation of future economic value in Alberta by providing NAIT students with opportunities to acquire entrepreneurial knowledge and skills.”

For his dedication to aspiring entrepreneurs, Mawji was inducted into the Junior Achievement of Northern Alberta and Northwest Territories Business Hall of Fame in May 2019.

"It is a huge honor to be inducted into the Junior Achievement Hall of Fame - Alberta is filled with amazing entrepreneurs and NAIT is a tremendous developer of this talent,” says Mawji. “My family and I look forward to continuing to give to the community and helping build the next generation of entrepreneurs who will no doubt lead from Alberta and take on the global marketplace."

Celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit

Looking back, Mawji thought about the many lessons he learned along his journey that influenced his decision to give back.

“Imagine how far ahead new entrepreneurs will get if we can create a place where successful entrepreneurs can share their experience.”

“NAIT is where I learned my entrepreneurial skills. Our family’s vision was to celebrate entrepreneurship and provide students with mentorship to help them be successful,” says Mawji. “Imagine how far ahead new entrepreneurs will get if we can create a place where successful entrepreneurs can share their experience.”

Retired ATB CEO and current Mawji Centre advisory member Dave Mowat endorsed NAIT’s nomination of Mawji to acknowledge his business leadership and innovation.

“Ashif has a mind that is constantly challenging the status quo.”

“Ashif has a mind that is constantly challenging the status quo,” says Mowat. “His humble beginnings gives him a pragmatic context that produces outside-the-box ideas.”

Fellow entrepreneur and Mawji Centre advisory member Blaine LaBonte agrees Mawji is a driver of entrepreneurial opportunity.

“Ashif is well-grounded and a good role model who embodies the purity of the entrepreneurial spirit,” says LaBonte, the founder and executive director of Cougar Drilling Solutions. “He goes for it and will continue to go for it to bring wealth and prosperity to our province.”

By nature, entrepreneurship involves taking risks and making mistakes. Thanks to Mawji’s dedication to sharing knowledge, the next generation won’t have to make the same – often expensive – mistakes that come with learning to become an entrepreneur, LaBonte adds.

“The Mawji Centre has been a champion and enabler for our startup."

For founder of Pegasus Imagery Ltd. Cole Rosentreter (Disaster and Emergency Management ’19) ,  having access to the Mawji Centre helped him start up his company while he was still a NAIT student.

“The Mawji Centre has been a champion and enabler for our startup,” says Rosentreter. “They have provided us opportunities, connections and home field advantage, all critical for a small business.”

Find out more about how the Mawji Centre is supporting aspiring student entrepreneurs at NAIT.

Published on May 10, 2019