Speakers & Mentors

Additional speaker and mentor profiles for World's Challenge Challenge 2022 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 ID 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 competedwith 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, they 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 (amongst 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 that represented Canada in 2022, Sara Villani and Cyrus Gray and successfully overcame a near death experience with Covid. 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.

Dr. Daniel Wildcat

Doctor Daniel Wildcat

Daniel Wildcat, Ph.D., 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

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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.


2022 Challenge Mentors

Kevin Vuong 

Kevin Vuoung

Kevin Vuong is the Co-Founder, TakeCare Supply and Vice-President, Delphic Research. The son of refugees from the Vietnam War, Kevin Vuong is dedicated to serving Canada for welcoming his parents when other countries were closing their borders to people in need. 

As a rapid-response to the masks shortage and economic hardships brought by COVID-19, Kevin co-founded TakeCare Supply with Larry Lau, which rapidly developed Canada's first evidence-based reusable mask. Over 750,000 masks have been sold across North America, creating jobs for nearly 200 Canadians during the pandemic and supporting Canada's vital manufacturing sector.  

Today, TakeCare masks can be found worn by mayors, government ministers, and Canada's Ambassadors to the UN and WTO and other leaders, including celebrities like Steve Martin. Most recently, Kevin was appointed Canada's NATO Young Leader. 14 Young Leaders were selected from across the 30-member Alliance to advise Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on NATO 2030 and the future of the Alliance.

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.