Every year an advisory board made up of major Canadian business executives – such as CIBC CEO Victor Dodig and Nestle CEO Shelley Martin – comes together to select 40 winners from a pool of nominees under the age of 40 whom they consider up-and-coming leaders.

The importance of hard work was the overwhelming theme BNN heard this summer from this year’s winners.

From software developers to food-chain owners to medical doctors, the country’s next leaders weighed in on what it takes to be a young entrepreneur in Canada, and they didn’t sugarcoat it. Here’s what they had to say:

Foteini Agrafioti, chief science officer and head, RBC Research Institute


Canada's Next Leaders: Invest in AI ecosystem to halt the brain drain

Top 40 Under 40 award winner Foteini Agrafioti, Chief science officer and Head of RBC Research joins BNN to discuss how RBC is investing in the future of AI.


Agrafioti is responsible for RBC’s intellectual property portfolio in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. The things that scare you? Prioritize them. Your degree of discomfort should be rooted in the size of the impact you’d like to have – on the people around you, the company you work for, the industry you’re in, and even the country as a whole. It means taking on a big vision that goes beyond your personal goals and demands that you think about how you can move society forward.”

Tariq Fancy, founder, The Rumie Initiative


Canada's Next Leaders: The Rumie Initiative's Tariq Fancy

BNN speaks with Tariq Fancy, Top 40 Under 40 winner and founder and CEO of The Rumie Initiative, which seeks to provide education to the underprivileged around the world.

Rumie is a non-profit organization that aims to bring free education to underserved communities around the world.

"As an entrepreneur, you're always overworked and under-resourced. You have 100 things you could be doing – but time for only 10 of them. You have to very quickly figure out which 10 per cent of work drives 90 per cent of your targeted outcomes, and just say no to all the rest."

Robert Niven, chief executive officer, CarbonCure


How Nova Scotia's CarbonCure Technologies is making concrete greener

Robert Niven, founder and CEO of CarbonCure Technologies, joins BNN to talk about how his company is taking on the green building trend. Niven is a "Top 40 Under 40" winner this year.

CarbonCure retrofits concrete plants with a technology that recycles carbon dioxide to make stronger, greener concrete.

"Understand that the global industry is undergoing enormous changes to adjust to increased demand for green buildings, and solutions that help mitigate climate change. The industry needs young people to lead this. It’s a great time to enter the industry and be part of this change."

Sachin Aggarwal, chief executive officer, Think Research


Canada's Next Leaders: Think Research CEO Sachin Aggarwal

From the moment a new medical breakthrough is found it can take 10 years or longer before it reaches a patient's bedside according to Canada Top 40 under 40 winner Sachin Aggarwal. He's CEO Think Research, which creates cloud-based software tools for physicians - and he's aiming to close that gap.

Think Research is a cloud-based software design company that focuses on finding solutions to today’s healthcare problems.

“You need to be dogged. You can’t be the type to give up. Be out on the field and in your sector’s environment as much as you can. It’s important that you always know where your next funding cheque comes from.”

Corey Berman, president, Koru Distribution


Canada's Next Leaders: Koru Distribution's Corey Berman

BNN speaks with Corey Berman, Top 40 Under 40 winner and president of Koru Distribution, a wholesale distribution company that focuses on eco-friendly brands and non-toxic products.

Koru Distribution is a distributor of eco-friendly lifestyle brands.

“You need to love what you’re doing. It might seem obvious, but it’s important. You don’t want to be the person who has to drag themselves into work every day. Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart, and it’s not for everybody.”

David Segal, founder, Mad Radish


Canada's Next Leaders: DavidsTea's David Segal launches Mad Radish

David Segal, co-founder of DavidsTea is stepping into the world of healthy eating with his new venture: Mad Radish. He joins BNN to talk about it. Segal is also a "Top 40 under 40" winner this year.

Mad Radish is a new salad-based chain restaurant, created by the founder of David’s Tea.

“You need to make people fall in love with your concept. Great brands are built by customer evangelists, so keep your eye on delivering an unforgettable customer experience at every touchpoint.”

Matias Marquez, founder and chief operating officer, Buyatab


Canada's Next Leaders: Matias Marquez, founder of digital gift card solutions platform Buyatab

Matias Marquez, Founder & COO of Buyatab joins BNN to talk about his is digitizing the gift card industry. Marquez is also a "Top 40 Under 40" winner this year.

Buyatab offers online solutions that help brands sell their gift cards online.

“In the fast-moving world that we live in today, making an impact means growing with change. Have a vision, believe in your vision and execute. Hard work, by the way, is a part of the process and really just table stakes.”

Hossein Rahnama, founder and chief executive officer, Flybits


Canada's Next Leaders: Flybits CEO Hossein Rahnama

The Top 40 Under 40 Award winners have been announced they include a man that MIT has called one of the top innovators in the world. Hossein Rahnama, CEO of Flybits and co-founder of the Digital Media Zone at Ryerson University joins BNN to discuss his business.

Flybits is a cloud-based platform that curates data into dashboards

“Have a bold vision and learn how to execute fast. Your idea on its own does not have much value. Your team is your biggest asset. Avoid becoming a follower and build something new that addresses a big market pain.”

Melody Adhami, chief operating officer, PlasticMobile


Canada's Next Leaders: Plastic Mobile's President Melody Adhami

She was in the digital game when we still used only SMS to talk to each other. Now she's the president and chief operating officer of HAVAS' Plastic Mobile, the company responsible for developing the apps for Pizza Pizza and Shoppers Drug Mart. Top 40 Under 40 winner Melody Adhami joins BNN to discuss her career.

PlasticMobile is a software development firm that focuses on mobile apps in the financial, retail and loyalty spaces.

"If you’re saying ‘that’s not my job’ or ‘that’s above my paygrade’ – stop. While this applies to young talent, it should ring true regardless of where you are in your career. Embrace the opportunity to wear different hats, build a variety of skills whenever you can, and take pride that you’re trusted to take it on. At the end of the day, it’s not what you're doing, it’s how you’re doing it."

Brad Katsuyama, co-founder and chief executive officer, the Investors Exchange (IEX)


Canada’s Next Leaders: How Brad Katsuyama shook up Wall Street

How a mild-mannered Canadian shook up Wall Street and obtained celebrity-like status in the financial world. We speak with Brad Katsuyama, Co-Founder & CEO, IEX Group, and one of this years "Top 40 Under 40" award winners.

IEX is an SEC-approved stock exchange based in the United States.

“I think it’s really important to be curious – always ask why – and to work hard. The combination of those two things can be meaningful to any company, large or small, and can help a young person make a difference for the company they work for.”

Ian Crosby, founder and chief executive officer, Bench


Canada's Next Leaders: Bench calling on universities to start looking at market demand for jobs

He is part of a wave of tech companies growing rapidly in this country. Bench is the largest online bookkeeping service in North America and relies heavily on the growth of homegrown Canadian tech talent. But this Top 40 Under 40 winner takes issue with the inefficient way Canadian universities pump out graduates.

Bench is a digital bookkeeping service

"The only truly sustainable advantage today in business is to become the best in the world at what you do. Becoming the best at what you do takes focus and specialization. It means giving up on all the other exciting things you could be doing to become excellent at one thing." 

Liam Brunham, principal investigator, Centre for Heart Lung Innovation


Canada's Next Leaders: Centre for Heart & Lung Innovation's Dr. Liam Brunham

It would be an understatement to say there has been turbulence around healthcare at the White House. Top 40 under 40 winner, and Principal Investigator at the Centre for Heart and Lung Innovation, Dr. Liam Brunham says this is only one of the reasons why Canada is becoming a more attractive place to practice medicine than in the U.S.

Brunham’s research focuses on understanding the genetic aspects of heart disease, and the genetic basis for how people respond to medication.

“I love this quote from Wayne Gretsky: “You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take”. Never be afraid to go for it. More often than not, attempts will fail. Embracing failure, and learning from it, is the key to moving forward towards your goal.”

Jeremy Gutsche, chief executive officer, Trend Hunter


Canada's Next Leaders: Trend Hunter CEO Jeremy Gutsche

Top 40 Under 40 award winner Jeremy Gutsche, founder and CEO of trend-spotting website Trend Hunter, tells BNN why he thinks Canada is too conservative when it comes to innovation.

Trend Hunter tracks and features innovative ideas, viral news and pop culture to advise brand clients and create custom trend reports.

“There are two keys to success in the world of innovation: Relentlessly obsess about how to get better at adapting to change, and get faster at finding ideas.”  

Reetu Gupta, chief operating officer, The Easton’s Group and The Gupta Group 


Canada's Next Leaders: The Gupta Group's Reetu Gupta

In our continuing series on this year's Top 40 Under 40 awards, we profile the only winner from the real estate sector in Canada: Reetu Gupta, chief operating officer at The Gupta Group.

The Gupta Group is a residential and commercial real estate development company.

“Always believe you can achieve anything you put your mind to, because the second you doubt yourself, that will be the reason you do not achieve it.”

Joshua Simair, CEO and co-founder, Skip the Dishes


Canada's Next Leaders: SkipTheDishes CEO Joshua Simair

Joshua Simair, CEO and co-founder of food ordering app SkipTheDishes, joins BNN to discuss his experience launching a thriving startup in the prairies. Simair was named one of Canada's Top 40 Under 40 for 2017.

Skip the Dishes is as a food delivery and online takeout ordering service that was acquired by the U.K.’s Just Eat.

"Being a founder is a rollercoaster of euphoria, anxiety and despair. It is less glamorous than people think. For most people, joining a high performance startup is a great first step to learn entrepreneurship. But if your heart is telling you that you are ready to be a founder? Go for it."