New Venture Program Mentors

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Elina Chow

Entrepreneur in Residence

Elina Chow an Alumna of UTSC. She is a serial entrepreneur with 15+ years of experience working with private and publicly traded companies in Healthcare, Tech, and Mining. Between 2010 and 2020, Elina founded and operated a boutique marketing and investor relations agency in Toronto that saw a number of clients go public and achieve successful exits for shareholders.

Before becoming the CEO of JotTech, Elina was the VP of Corporate Strategies of Orca Gold Inc., a TSX Venture-listed Canadian gold exploration and development company with a gold project in Africa. While at Orca, Elina led the company's stakeholder relations strategies and financing efforts, facilitated the spin-out of a project to create another listed company and was part of the team that achieved the ultimate acquisition of Orca by an Australian gold producer.

Dave Fenton

Dave Fenton
Assistant Director, External Relations, UTSC Management

Dave Fenton is the Assistant Director of External Relations with the Department of Management at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC). He leads a team of relationship managers that support Management’s accredited co-operative education program and oversees the curricular work-integrated learning (WIL) program through an innovation center named The BRIDGE. Through the team’s efforts, Management delivers roughly 3,000 WIL experiences in the classroom across 38 courses a year. Dave has been published in Cooperative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada’s (CEWIL Canada) e-book “The Practice of Co-op and Work-Integrated Learning in the Canadian Context”, presented publications at the WACE International Research Symposium, the World Association of Cooperative Education (WACE) World Conference, the CEWIL Research Spotlight, and serves as facilitator of Global WIL Modules. He is one of four practitioners globally that holds a Certificate in Global Work-Integrated Learning. Dave holds a Master of Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto


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Joe Gagliese

Entrepreneur in Residence, NVP Mentor

Since 2014, Gagliese has taken the agency world by storm and executed some of the most impactful marketing campaigns in recent memory. He was only 24 when he started to build Viral Nation, which has become one of the most powerful full-service marketing agencies globally and was ranked as Canada’s 4th fastest-growing company in 2020.


In less than half a decade, Gagliese has managed to scale his business by a remarkable 300–400% year over year, with zero outside investment. Leveraging innovative marketing tactics and ideals, an unmatched eye for detail, and the ability to predict future trends, Gagliese and his team work tirelessly to bridge the gap between brands and culture, partnering with companies such as Disney, Aston Martin, Lowes, Energizer, Twitch, Ubisoft, Tencent, Scotiabank, Viewsonic, and, to name a few. A contributing factor to Viral Nation’s success with big-name brands has been the development of its own proprietary software, Influsoft—a leading analytics platform for influencer marketing. 


Having carved out a major space in the marketing industry with Viral Nation, Gagliese is energized about lending his expertise to help inspire and mentor young entrepreneurs at the University of Toronto. His role will support select Management courses, including guest lectures (Winter 2021) in Marketing Management: MGMB01 and Entrepreneurship: MGSB22. Going forward, Gagliese will work directly with students in the New Venture Program to help guide their business development, in addition to headlining speaking engagements such as during U of T Entrepreneurship Week

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Lisa Harvey
NVP Mentor, Accounting and Governance

Lisa Harvey is an Associate Professor, Teaching Stream in the Department of Management at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Her teaching focuses on accounting, specifically financial accounting, management accounting and auditing. She is also actively involved in the Chartered Professional Accountant profession through teaching and marking appointments in the professional exam preparation process.

Mariana Jardim

Mariana Jardim
Liaison Librarian, Management, Entrepreneurship & Co-op

Mariana Jardim is the Liaison Librarian for Management/Economics, Entrepreneurship, and Co-op. She has held positions at the University of Toronto as an instructional technologist and as a faculty developer, and her professional areas of interest include information literacy, universal design, web accessibility, and online teaching and learning. Mariana holds Masters degrees from the University of Western Ontario and the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto.

Bill McConkey

Bill McConkey
Academic Director, New Venture Program, and Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship

In addition to teaching courses in Product Management, Entrepreneurship and Consumer Behaviour, Bill supervises students who wish to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities. Bill is involved in several student organizations, including MCC (Management Consulting Club) TMG (The Marketing Group) and the LIVE conference. Bill sits on the Board of Advisors and Board of Directors of a number of Canadian companies. 

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Nirusan Rajakulendran

NVP Mentor, Strategy & Fundraising

Nirusan Rajakulendran is a Product Manager at Inkblot Labs.

At Inkblot, Nirusan is supporting the organization's broad vision of developing a digital health ecosystem that will allow Canadians to access the care they need. Prior to Inkblot, Nirusan was the Manager of New Ventures at Green Shield Canada, a not-for-profit health insurance company. At Green Shield, Nirusan drove partnerships and helped to build a pipeline of innovative digital health products. Nirusan has been active in the startup space, having spent over six years at MaRS Discovery District in both market research and venture capital. 

Nirusan has a Masters in Biotechnology and a Masters in Business Administration, both from the University of Toronto. Nirusan has experience and expertise in market research, business consulting, venture financing, health technology, and product development.

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Vania Sakelaris

NVP Mentor, Strategy

Vania Sakelaris is a seasoned certified healthcare executive (CHE) and the founder of VAS & Associates Inc. (VAS) a management consulting firm which provides customized advisory, coaching and training services to corporate executives, their boards, and their teams. She specializes in service-based industries including healthcare, financial services and education.  VAS supports systems, organizations, and people across Canada and the US in managing transformation, strategy development and implementation at the corporate and individual levels with a focus on governance and leadership development.  As a solution catalyst, Vania has supported hundreds of individuals through impactful change.  

Vania is a respected senior executive, who has been consistently recognized as a strategic, collaborative, and values-based professional throughout her 25+ year career.  Vania's portfolio includes a decade as CEO of healthcare organizations in the for-profit and not-for-profit (NFP) sectors. It advanced to a decade of executive leadership within a $4B regional health authority. She was accountable for engaging with over 200 boards, senior leaders and funding partners across Ontario to design and implement system level healthcare strategies and transformation initiatives.   Vania has also served as a Director of various provincial NFP boards.  

Vania's lifelong passion for capacity building has been reflected throughout her career and inspired her coaching work and the launch of her business which supports leaders and emerging leaders in their professional journeys. Vania shares her extensive experience as a public speaker, as an adjunct university lecturer and as a case writer with a focus on strategy, leadership, and entrepreneurship, including a focus on women.   She supports entrepreneurs as Chair of two Advisory Boards of GroYourBiz, an organization with 30 chapters across Canada, US and the UK.  Vania also provides business coaching in collaboration with various Canadian Universities including the Ivey School of Business, The University of Toronto as well as The Sauder School of Business at UBC where she supports the Physician Leadership Program.  

Vania holds an MBA from the Ivey Business School and is a graduate of Rotman’s Executive Leadership Program, and ICD Not-For-Profit Governance Program. She is a Certified Executive and Business Coach and a member of the Harvard Institute of Coaching and the International Coaching Federation. 

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Thierry Sans
NVP Mentor, Digital Strategy

Thierry Sans is an Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream in the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences at University of Toronto Scarborough. He teaches courses in computer security, web development and entrepreneurship. His research interest focuses on computer security including web security and language-based security.

Prior to joining to the University of Toronto in 2017, Professor Sans as was Carnegie Mellon University Qatar as a Postdoc and Assistant Teaching Professor.

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Shreyas Sekar
Professor, NVP Mentor, Artificial Intelligence

Shreyas Sekar is an Assistant Professor of Operations Management at the Department of Management, University of Toronto Scarborough, and cross-appointed to the Operations Management and Statistics area at the Rotman School of Management. 


His research is centred around data-driven decision-making in dynamic and strategic environments, with applications to digital marketplaces. His work draws upon techniques from diverse domains such as optimization, machine learning, revenue management and pricing, and mechanism design to tackle problems at the interface of operations management, online platforms, and data analytics.  


Prior to his appointment at the University of Toronto, Shreyas was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard Business School and the Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he was awarded the Robert McNaughton Prize for the best graduate dissertation in CS. 

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Maria Shibaeva-Escarraga
NVP Mentor, Presentation Design & Delivery, Business Strategy



Maria Shibaeva-Escarraga is an award-winning executive-level business leader, effective communication expert (Master Storyteller), and faculty at the University of Toronto (Top 20 Global University). As an ex-P&G Brand Director, Maria has 13+ years of passion and expertise for developing winning communication to win the hearts and minds of the audience.  

In 2019, Maria was the Winner of two Cannes International Film Festival Lions - (1) Glass: The Lion for Change, (2) Social & Influencer: Social Behaviour & Cultural Insights, for creating and leading the Canada-led Global Gillette #MyBestSelf campaign and Gillette First Shave film launch.  

Maria has 13+ years of Teaching/Public Speaking experience across multiple Universities (most recently having joined the Faculty at the University of Toronto), Industries and Countries - helping student and young professional entrepreneurs use effective communication to advance their personal and business goals.  

Maria has 11+ years of Independent Strategic Consulting Experience - as a Consultant, Investor and Officer of the Board - helping CEOs succeed in the market, with a focus on Organizational Effectiveness, including Brand-Building/Marketing/Business Development Strategy, Organizational Design/Development and Executive Coaching.  

Maria is a philanthropist with Rotary International - a service-based organization that provides humanitarian support, where she has led Global Teams in International Service Projects. 

English and Russian (native), French and Spanish (intermediate), Italian (basic).