Canada's tech industry loses champion John Reid

Canada's technology industry lost one of its biggest champions last week with the death of John Reid.

Reid, 69, died while on vacation in Norway

Canada's technology industry has lost one of its biggest champions with the death of Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) president and CEO John Reid.

Reid, a lobbyist and advocate living in Ottawa, passed away suddenly on June 24 while on holiday in Norway with his wife.

He was 69.

"You didn't have to be a giant Fortune 1000 company to get time with John. He promoted little companies, big companies, medium companies," said Ottawa tech magnate Terry Matthews.

"He pushed the Canadian technology sector to be more global in their business."

Promoting diversity

Another aspect of Reid's legacy is his work behind scenes diversifying the tech sector and elevating the voices of women. 

Cindy Gordon, the founder and CEO of SalesChoice, met Reid more than two decades ago when she was working for Xerox Canada.

Gordon says Reid, through CATA, would highlight the work of female entrepreneurs in videos and helped create networking opportunities for women in tech.

Cindy Gordon poses with CATA president John Reid, right, at the CATA Alliance Gala in 2017. (Cindy Gordon)

Before his death, Gordon was working with Reid to lobby the federal government to boost diversity of the country's corporate executives.

They were petitioning for a new law that would guarantee women at least 40 per cent of director seats on corporate boards in both the public and the private sectors.

"John's goal was for Canada to move from (a grade of) D in innovation to really be an A," she said,

"He recognized that to get there that we need to invest more in education and in diversity and equality. Through diversity comes stronger ideas and innovation."

Supporting startups

John Reid died suddenly on June 24 while hiking in Norway. He was 69. (CATA)

Data analyst Paul Dombowsky met Reid through CATA while launching a startup in 2010.

He said Reid always encouraged local entrepreneurs to think big.

"He scoffed sometimes when people thought that it couldn't be done here. [He thought] there was actually no reason why we couldn't develop world class companies of any sort," he said.​​​​

Dombowsky says Reid always responded to his emails and calls and put him in touch with other experts.

As he was growing his company, Dombowsky appreciated Reid's lobbying of the federal government to allow startups to access public investment through crowdfunding. 

A passionate boss

Kevin Wennekes. CATA's former chief business officer, worked for Reid for more than 15 years. He said Reid had a knack for diffusing heated policy debates and reaching consensus.

Staff were accustomed to getting emails from him while he was on holidays and Wenneke says his ex-boss showed no signs of slowing down.

"He was … tireless and diligent and a champion for the work CATA did," said Wennekes.

"I don't think he would ever describe what he did at CATA as work. It was truly a passion and he loved it."

John Reid was the head of CATA Alliance for 32 years. His funeral will be held on Friday.


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