Northern Alberta Institute of Technology is establishing a new centre for entrepreneurship thanks to a $1-million donation from a distinguished alumnus.
“NAIT is where I learned my entrepreneurship skills,” Ashif Mawji said at the school’s Centre for Applied Technology on Friday. “It’s helped me learn how to run a business, how to manage my finances, manage a budget … and also to learn to give back to the community.”
The donation is the largest gift made by a NAIT graduate in the school’s history and will launch the Mawji Centre for New Venture and Student Entrepreneurship.
Mawji graduated from the computer systems technology program in 1992. He went on to found Upside Software, which he sold in 2012 for US$22 million. More recently, he launched the tech startup Trust Science, which developed an app to score the trustworthiness of individuals and companies.
He explained the money for the Mawji Centre is a family donation, along with his wife Zainul Mawji, who is Telus vice-president of market strategy and execution for Telus broadband, and their two young sons.
“I strongly believe NAIT is an institution that grows a lot more entrepreneurs than anywhere else,” he said.
Edmonton Centre MP Randy Boissonnault said NAIT graduates tend to stay in the province, so the centre will benefit Alberta businesses.
“As a business person, I worked with and got to watch Ashif blaze a trail in bold thinking, in having inclusive and diverse teams and always knowing he would make a legacy gift to his alma mater,” he said.
“Our city is truly the place where entrepreneurs thrive,” said Tracey Scarlett, dean of the JR Shaw School of Business at NAIT. She added that the centre will include student mentorship opportunities in the business community.
“In 2014, Edmonton recorded more than 18,000 entrepreneurs between the ages of 25 and 34, higher than any other city in Canada,” she said. “That’s what this will do, support our students who fit into that demographic in achieving those entrepreneurial aspirations.”