Digital disruptors: DeGroote alumni are shaking up the establishment

May 23, 2017 | Hamilton
Contributed by Andrew Baulcomb, Communications Officer
Chris Bondarenko leading the discussion

Chris Bondarenko, B.Com. ’05, is Maropost’s new Vice President of Sales. “Taking on the bigger players is very exciting to me,” Bondarenko admits.

No industry is immune to digital transformation. To this end, the DeGroote School of Business is training the next generation of leaders to excel in this technological revolution. They’ll be on the front lines soon enough, but there are already a number of DeGroote alumni leading the charge.

Chris Bondarenko, B.Com. ’05, has been navigating digital disruption for more than a decade. Fresh from a stint in New York City with Vision Critical, he was recently hired by Toronto-based SaaS solutions provider Maropost as Vice President of Sales.

The company offers two distinct, but complementary, product streams in marketing and sales software. They provide all-in-one enterprise-grade services for companies who want to remain lean and competitive as they scale up. For example, with Maropost Marketing Cloud, a single marketer can drive results previously only attainable by large teams relying on multiple vendors, the company states.

One of Bondarenko’s goals is to increase revenue tenfold in the next three years. A key component of his plan is to develop a North American sales team of 50 people, comprised of both seasoned veterans and recent MBA grads. Anyone who is willing to embrace digital transformation will be invited on board.

“Taking on the bigger players is very exciting to me,” Bondarenko admits. “I think we’re ahead of the curve on customer care. We’re reinventing this industry, and we’re challenging the titans, folks like Salesforce and Oracle. Our company is part of this upstart community of innovators in Canada, and we’re beating people upmarket and downmarket.”

There are no signs of slowing down, either. Since launching six years ago, Maropost has opened offices in New York, London, and Chandigarh, India. Last year, the company was ranked fourth in Deloitte’s Canadian Technology Fast50. Clients include the likes of Mercedes-Benz, the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, and News Corp.

In the real estate world, digital transformation is having a profound impact on traditional players in the industry. Ray Taaeb, B.Com ’13, is on the cutting edge of this shift.

After finishing his studies at DeGroote, he relocated to Toronto to pursue a career at KPMG. While searching for a place to live, Taaeb was turned off by the “cumbersome” paperwork that came with submitting countless rental applications. That was the genesis for Casalova, a digital real estate service he co-founded and now runs full-time.

Ray Taeeb

Ray Taaeb, B.Com ’13, is on the cutting edge of digital transformation in real estate with his company, Casalova.

Casalova allows prospective renters and buyers to browse thousands of listings across Canada, schedule viewings, and make offers completely online. Its billed as a ” full-service real estate marketplace,” the type of high-level experience only top athletes and celebrities are used to receiving. Only now, it’s available to the general public.

“The traditional real estate process is very archaic. It hasn’t changed in decades,” Taaeb says. “When Casalova was in development, we started to ask questions like, ‘how can we utilize technology to make the process of finding your next home smooth and enjoyable?'”

After starting with just two people, the company now employs 28. The service is available in 140 cities across Canada, and boasts 130,000 listings for rent and purchase. Business is booming, too. Taaeb says Casalova is on track to do $100 million in sales during 2017. He’s heading to Vancouver at the end of the month to establish the company’s west coast office, and a U.S. expansion may not be far off. Earlier this year, they received a $2.5 million investment from Aviva Canada to help further the rapid expansion.

“The core of Casalova is really our technology,” Taaeb continues. “We are very much a technology company first, with our focus being to innovate in real estate. The real estate industry hasn’t seen much technological improvement, mainly because they haven’t had to do anything to improve the process. Demand has always been there from consumers. In the past, it’s been very hard for competitors to enter the marketplace and compete with the likes of RE/MAX or Royal LePage, but we’re changing that and providing an experience and product that will change the way people think about real estate.”

Anne Connelly

Anne Connelly, MBA ’10, says embracing digital transformation will be the key to success in any industry.

Anne Connelly, MBA ’10, says embracing digital transformation will be the key to success in any industry in the not-too-distant future. She is the Vice Chair of Blockchain Canada, and was recently selected as one of 80 participants at Singularity University’s Global Solutions Program in Silicon Valley, teaching entrepreneurs to use exponential technologies to solve problems that impact over one billion people around the world.

“Technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain are the future,” she states. “MBA students need to understand how they work and how to work with them, not as a leg-up, but in order to simply survive. Those who are not willing or able to adapt will not find themselves employed.” According to Connelly, approximately 40 per cent of Canadian jobs will disappear in the next 10 years due to automation, blockchain, and artificial intelligence.

In comparison to today’s systems – where credit card details are routinely hacked and personal medical results are still being sent by fax machine – technologies such as blockchain will give individuals and companies more control over their personal data and who sees it. Government entities will also be impacted in a major way. There are teams right now working on the infrastructure for a “post-nation state world,” Connelly continues.

“From an enterprise perspective, blockchains are going to be the bedrock of almost every industry that conducts transactions of value,” Connelly told DeGroote earlier this year. “Think well beyond pure finance into supply chain, governance, insurance, healthcare, extraction, and entertainment … the most critical skill for students to learn is adaptability.”

Want to embrace digital transformation head-on? DeGroote’s new Executive MBA in Digital Transformation (EMBA) is now accepting applicants for its second cohort, set to commence in September 2017. Featuring four residential modules held in Canada and Silicon Valley, California, the EMBA prepares executives from a wide spectrum of industries to lead their organizations through digital disruption. Find out more here.

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