The Accelerator Centre’s CEO reflects on what it takes to build a truly innovative business
What do a successful startup and a Hollywood blockbuster have in common? According to Accelerator Centre CEO, Dr. Paul Salvini, each one is a blend of business, technology and creativity — and the best businesses can do all three very, very well.
“Innovation happens in every part of an organization. People often don’t understand why an innovative business model can be as important as anything else. For instance, if you look at a company like Uber, there’s technology involved, but the real innovation is the customer experience.”
His philosophy of uniting varying disciplines is grounded in his own life experience. If you had asked a young Paul Salvini what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would have said a photojournalist. However, as a summer student at small, local newspaper, he developed a program to help simplify the sizing process for images.
Building on his strengths in programming, he went on to earn a BMath in computer science from the University of Waterloo and MASc and PhD in engineering (computer simulation) from the University of Toronto. In order to balance his technical background with formal business knowledge, he also completed an MBA from the University of Toronto Rotman School of Business.
Whether by serendipity or intent, he managed maintain a connection to visual arts in his professional career as he guided innovation as CTO at Toronto-based Side Effects Software, makers of Academy Award-winning 3-D animation and visual effects software, and Waterloo-based Christie Digital, provider of world-leading digital projection and display technologies.
As Accelerator Centre CEO, a role he assumed in 2014, he now combines his business experience, technical background and 23 years of teaching, first at Ryerson University then the University of Toronto. He will leverage these skills as he helps further the organization’s vision to develop strong, scalable, globally competitive and potentially disruptive businesses.
“In the next 10 years, we will focus on helping to build holistic companies. The future isn’t just about interesting technologies, it’s about building strong businesses that innovate across all areas of operation from product development and market validation to growth strategy and culture creation.”
A cornerstone of this philosophy is the AC Momentum Program, targeted at early-stage companies in the process of identifying their business strategies. With the opening of the Reactor Space in August, 2015, the Accelerator Centre now has space to welcome an additional 30 companies into the program.
“There’s a rich ecosystem of entrepreneurship in the Region of Waterloo. As a whole, we need to work on enhancing this environment so that entrepreneurs can think and dream even more boldly.”
Family: He and his wife, Julia, have two children, Lindsay and Kai. The family pet is Penny a petite golden doodle.
Wishes he could have lunch with: Walt Disney
Best business book: Creativity Inc. by Pixar CEO, Ed Catmull
Who he admires: Anyone with a clarity of vision for what they define as success and who has worked hard to achieve it.
Three things people don’t know:
- He’s a licensed, instrument-rated, commercial pilot with an interest in aerial photography.
- He’s a devoted hockey dad and unofficial team photographer.
- He also owns a Ducati