Speakers & Mentors

Speaker and mentor profiles for World's Challenge Challenge 2023 coming soon!

2022 Challenge Speakers

Alex Kopacz

Alex Kopacz

Alex Kopacz was born and raised in London, Ontario, and was always curious about the world. He loved asking questions and learning about how everything worked, including deep passions for history, the arts and of course sport. He started his sporting career as a varsity level shot put player at Western after being from being spotted at a gym by Olympian Jason Tunks. With encouragement from his university coaches, he attended a Canadian talent identification camp for bobsleigh athletes in April 2013. Kopacz would start racing later that year with Nick Poloniato on the North American race circuit. The next year he competed with Chris Spring in the 2014–15 Bobsleigh World Cup, his first year in the top-level circuit. At the 2015 World Championships, Kopacz battled through pneumonia to help push Spring to eighth place in the four-man bobsled. He stepped on the podium for the first time at the World Cup event in Lake Placid, New York, as part of Justin Kripps' four-man team.

In his final season he and Kripps found their groove, and would earn four podium finishes together in the 2017–18 Bobsleigh World Cup and finish first overall in the World Cup to win the Crystal Globe as overall World Cup champions. They would carry this momentum into the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In the two-man competition he pushed Kripps to second place through the first two of four runs. On the second day of competition, they were in the lead after three runs. In the fourth and final run they were just a few one hundredths behind Germany, but in the final run they made up enough time to win gold. In fact, the run put them in a tie for the top of the podium.

He has won 10 world cup medals over his 4 years in the sport: 1 gold, 4 silver and 6 bronze with 1 Crystal Globe for the overall season and still holds the start record in Altenberg. He lived in Germany on a military base/ learned German (among a few other languages), in order to train with the best bobsleigh coach in the world Olaf Hampel. He overcame many injuries and deliberate roadblocks, battled with mental health and strives to regain his physical health day by day.

Since his time in sport, he has founded Step Sciences, a medical device company, putting his engineering and physics degree to use. He coached two Olympic athletes who represented Canada in 2022, Sara Villani and Cyrus Gray and successfully overcame a near death experience with COVID-19.

The journey to his transformation from small town kid to Olympic champion took risk, daring, decisiveness and a relentless hunger to never stop chasing after the goal.

Daniel Wildcat

Doctor Daniel Wildcat

Daniel Wildcat, PhD., is a professor at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, and an accomplished scholar who writes on Indigenous knowledge, technology, environment, and education.

He is also director of the Haskell Environmental Research Studies Center, which he founded with colleagues from the Center for Hazardous Substance Research at Kansas State University. Wildcat helped design a four-part video series entitled All Things Are Connected: The Circle of Life (1997), which dealt with the land, air, water, biological, and policy issues facing Native nations.

A Yuchi member of the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma, Wildcat recently formed the American Indian and Alaska Native Climate Change Working Group, a tribal-college-centered network of individuals and organizations working on climate change issues.

In 2008, he helped organize the Planning for Seven Generations climate change conference sponsored by the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He is the author, most recently, of Red Alert! Saving the Planet with Indigenous Knowledge (2009).

Jake Karls

Jake Karls

Jake Karls is Co-Founder and Chief Rainmaker at Mid-Day Squares. Jake believes his purpose in life is to make people feel something deeply, to spread good vibes and show the world that you can win by being unapologetically yourself everyday.

Together with his sister and her husband, Jake launched Mid-Day Squares in 2018 in their small condo kitchen. Their goal was to build a modern-day chocolate snacking conglomerate brand. Think, ‘What would Hershey’s, Mars or Mondelez look like if they launched in 2022?’ That’s what they’re trying to accomplish: something that will take 25-30 years to build. A legacy!

They launched the first functional chocolate bar and, when scaling, were rejected by 26 co-manufacturers, so they went out and built our own fully automated chocolate factory.

Today, they sell in over 3,000 stores, and their facility can support scale of over $50 million per year. They have 65 amazing team members and continue to grow at over 150 per cent year over year.

Erin Bury


Named one of Bay Street Bull’s “2021 Women of the Year”, Erin Bury is one of Canada’s top female entrepreneurs as the co-founder and CEO at Willful. She is also a startup advisor and former marketer and technology journalist. Drawing on her experience, Bury shows audiences how to apply entrepreneurial skills to a business of any size, harness the latest digital and marketing trends for business success, and create a killer personal brand.

At Willful, an online estate planning platform, Bury drives the company’s mission to make it easier for Canadians to prepare for and deal with death in a digital age. She recently went head-to-head with CBC’s Dragons, securing a deal for her company in season 16 of Dragons’ Den. Willful was also named one of Bay Street Bull’s “Power 50” companies in 2021.

Prior to Willful, Bury spent six years as managing director of boutique marketing agency, Eighty-Eight, where she worked with big brands including Sony Pictures Television, Telus, and PayPal, as well as countless startups. Before joining Eighty-Eight, Bury was a tech journalist at startup publication BetaKit, and the director of communications at Sprouter, which was acquired by one of Canada’s largest media companies.

A journalism graduate, Bury is a former Financial Post columnist and CTV News tech commentator. She has also written for publications such as The Globe and Mail and TechCrunch, and comments frequently in the media on marketing and entrepreneurship. She has been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, CBC, Toronto Star, and Inc. Magazine, and was named one of Marketing Magazine’s “Top 30 Under 30”.

Bury has spoken at conferences and events across North America, including Haste & Hustle, CTAConf, Content Marketing Conference, and the Profit W100. She is also a skilled event host, moderator, and interviewer. She has interviewed leading executives and entrepreneurs on-stage including Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban.

In her spare time, Bury is the co-founder of The County Wine Tours, a bicycle wine tour company based in Prince Edward County. She also advises multiple startups, including podcasting platform Quill. She serves on the board for Save the Children Canada and is co-chair of the #Tech4SickKids initiative for SickKids Hospital.

Charity Kabango

Charity sitting on a pink couch leaning forward with her head resting on her hand

Charity Kabango is a co-founder at ESPartners. Raised in Canada, Charity has always maintained a connection to her native country of Rwanda. With a background in engineering and international development and public policy she brings a wide range of experiences to the team. Charity completed her Masters in Engineering and Public Policy with a focus on participatory planning, poverty and the environment.

In 2006, Charity joined OTF Group with a mandate to support ICT private sector development. As one of Rwanda’s key sectors ICT was in need of a strategy for one of its key initiatives. Her combination of technical background and business acumen gave her the skills to articulate a strategy that would represent the needs of a variety of stakeholders. Since then she has gone on to participate in a range of strategy development assignments in Rwanda and across Africa. Her consulting experience includes developing public sector initiatives like the Kigali ICT Park to advising fortune 500 companies on risk management. Over the years this strategy expertise has also been deployed in designing and supporting incubators and accelerators as a part of ESP Scale practice. Through this work she has provided capacity building, direct business coaching and other BDS support to a range of start-ups and early stage businesses. Her ability to rally the resources necessary, engage stakeholders and to facilitate change management has allowed her to be successful in each of her roles.

Charity has been featured on CNBC Africa, The Square (Rwanda Television), and on various panels including one with H.E Paul Kagame. Charity holds a Masters in Engineering and Public Policy from McMaster University, a bachelor in Electrical Engineering from Western University and a bachelor in International Development from Huron University College.

2022 Challenge Mentors

Kevin Vuong 

Kevin Vuoung

Kevin Vuong, MP, FRSA is a Canadian Member of Parliament. Prior to his election, he was an entrepreneur and investor, lecturer, and military officer. He was co-founder and chief operating officer of a leading knowledge management and govtech firm. His entrepreneurship ventures also include a rapid-response to the masks shortage and economic hardships brought by COVID-19. This venture developed Canada's first evidence-based reusable mask during the height of the first wave, created jobs for 200 Canadian factory workers, and has manufactured over one million masks with many donated to frontline agencies. Vuong also serves as a reserve officer in the Royal Canadian Navy, and was appointed in 2020 as a NATO 2030 Young Leader by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. For his service and impact, Vuong was named a COVID Hero in 2021; a medalist of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as HM The Queen’s Young Leader for Canada in 2017; and Canada’s Top 30 Under 30 in 2016.

Ben Barrows

Joel Faflak

Ben Barrows is the Director of Operations, Abraham Path Initiative . Ben is an accomplished professional with domestic and international experience in the corporate, public, and non-profit sectors. He is specialized in working with governments, multi-laterals and civil society on resilience, technical assistance and economic development, as well as disaster risk reduction and food security. For Ben, after 14 years of high impact experience in start-up, growth, and legacy organizations, Cabot7 is a vehicle for collaborating with inspiring individuals and organizations, and for further developing and applying his professional skills and personal values in North America and around the globe.  Ben holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from American University, a certificate in Mediation from the University of Southern Maine, and a Master of Arts in International Relations from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.   

Ben is a results-oriented adaptive leader with the experience to navigate dynamic, ambiguous, and high-pressure environments. With a background in international development and global diplomacy, his ability to influence and engage with stakeholders is exemplified by the high impact projects and programs he has led and executed over the last 15 years. The cumulative result of Ben’s work and experiences is a combination of perspective and skill that has enabled him to thrive at the intersection of international business leadership, strategic operations and service innovation.