Waterloo Region Entrepreneur Hall of Fame

May 8th, 2024 | Bingemans Conference Centre, Kitchener, ON

An event recognizing leadership, vision, and integrity

Wednesday May 8th, 2024 | Bingemans Conference Centre, 425 Bingemans Centre Drive, Kitchener, ON

Online Registration is now closed.
For tickets or information, please contact Alicia at agall@jaswo.org or 519-439-4201 x.231

Announcing our 2024 Hall of Fame Laureates: Mike Kropp & Robert Harris, Co-Founders, PEER Group; Eldon Sprickerhoff, Founder, eSentire; and Sherry Shannon-Vanstone & Scott Vanstone (posthumous), Co-Founders, TrustPoint Innovation Technologies, Ltd.

The Waterloo Region Entrepreneur Hall of Fame celebrates local business founders who have made a positive, lasting impact in our community. Originally created by the Prosperity Council, the event was hosted by Communitech from 2006 to 2012 and had been on hiatus until JA Waterloo Region revived the event in 2015 as an evolution of JA’s long-standing Business Spirit Awards. We are pleased to celebrate Waterloo Region’s entrepreneurial leaders, past and present, while we strive to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs who are involved in JA’s programs.

Waterloo Region Entrepreneur Hall of Fame Laureates are individuals or families who have started a business, shown exceptional business leadership, and have demonstrated vision and integrity in their operations.

Laureates have demonstrated outstanding vision as an entrepreneur in one or more of their organizations and achieved a high level of respect within the business and public communities. Laureates have demonstrated leadership throughout their lives and have a record of leading others to success. Laureates have operated their businesses with integrity, following ethical business practices, treating employees and customers with respect and potentially implementing a triple bottom line system to measure corporate success.

Laureates have contributed back to their community and are active community members in Waterloo Region. Nominations are reviewed by the Nomination Committee and they decide who will be inducted.

For information, please contact Alicia at agall@jaswo.org

About the 2024 Laureates

Co-Founders, PEER Group

Mike Kropp and Robert Harris’ partnership began over thirty years ago, when they envisioned a revolutionary approach to factory automation software in the semiconductor industry. At the time, most factories relied on custom-written software solutions to connect automation equipment with information management systems. Kropp and Harris imagined developing reusable software that could be adapted to fulfill this purpose for factories around the world. To realize their vision, Kropp and Harris founded PEER Group in 1992. In the three decades since, the company has flourished, becoming a global market leader with over 250 employees and offices in Kitchener; Toronto; and Dresden, Germany. Today, PEER Group is the largest supplier of factory automation software in the semiconductor industry. PEER Group software is involved in the manufacture of virtually every computer chip produced on the planet.

Kropp and Harris’ vision for PEER Group was not limited to technical innovation and engineering excellence; they also set out to create an environment where people would love coming to work. The happiness and well-being of PEER Group employees has always been a priority for Kropp and Harris, and the company loyalty of their employees is testament to the positive culture they have cultivated. Out of PEER Group’s 250+ current employees, over 30% have belonged to the team for more than ten years. Based on employee feedback, Great Place to Work has listed PEER Group among the Best Workplaces in Canada in seven different years.

A final element of Kropp and Harris’ vision is a dedication to enriching the communities where PEER Group operates. Throughout the year, PEER Group runs a variety of fundraising events, such as auctions and bake sales, to raise money for meaningful local causes. A corporate matching program doubles employees’ contributions, allowing them to make an even greater impact on their community. Altogether, PEER Group has donated over $435,000 to local organizations, including KidsAbility, Send’em Off Smiling, Food4Kids Waterloo Region, and the local Humane Society. To provide additional support for KidsAbility, PEER Group led the PlasmaCar racing fundraiser, a fun and spirited competition for members of the community. In 2023, this event raised over $75,000.

Kropp and Harris also find personal ways to contribute to their communities. Since Harris’ retirement, he has taken up maple syrup farming. He donates the majority of the bottles he produces to support fundraising efforts for non-profits and charitable organizations. Meanwhile, Kropp gives back to the tech ecosystem by mentoring the founding team of a local start-up, ensuring that the lessons he has learned will be passed on to the next generation of entrepreneurs. He also serves as the first-ever Canadian member of the SEMI North American Advisory Board, a group dedicated to promoting the success of semiconductor companies in North America.

Since founding PEER Group over thirty years ago, Kropp and Harris have forged a remarkable legacy of technical achievement, employee satisfaction, and community support. In everything they do, they demonstrate their commitment to PEER Group’s four guiding principles: performance, innovation, compassion, and integrity.

Founder, eSentire

Eldon Sprickerhoff is a Founder and Strategic Advisor to eSentire, a Cybersecurity Managed Detection and Response services company founded in 2001 with global reach.  He is an active entrepreneur, investor, mentor, advisory and board member at the intersections of information security, computer science, machine learning, SaaS, and finance.

With approaching 30 years of tactical information security experience, he is considered to be a subject matter expert in information security analysis, particularly in regard to financial services firms on the buy-side.  He has a Bachelor of Mathematics (Major: Computer Science, Minor: Economics) from the University of Waterloo. In 2019 he was awarded their J.W. Graham Medal in Computing and Innovation for his innovative and entrepreneurial achievements in the field of cybersecurity.

Beyond his professional endeavours, he is deeply committed to fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing within the cybersecurity ecosystem.  He actively mentors aspiring professionals and advocates for greater diversity and inclusivity within the industry.  He currently as an advisory board member for several cybersecurity companies across North America in addition to directly serving on the board of Cavelo, cybersecurity scaleup based in Waterloo.

For the last three years he has worked as an Entrepreneur-In-Residence at the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst accelerator. For the last decade he has acted as an Advisory Board Member for the Hedge Fund Tech Connect group.  For the last seventeen years he has acted as an Advisory Board Member for SecTor (Security Education Conference – Toronto).  He recently completed a three-year term serving as a Board Member in the Finance, Risk and Audit Committee for the Waterloo Region Economic Development Corporation.

He is an Advisor in the Building Cyber Collective for Venture In Security, a grassroots organization to help build the security of the future.  He contributed to the recent Cyber For Builders: The Essential Guide to Building a Cybersecurity Startup, and currently is working with Sutherland House Experts on a book of advice and survival tactics for first-time technical founders as they make their way through their startup-to-scaleup journeys based on his experiences at eSentire.

Co-Founders, TrustPoint Innovation Technologies, Ltd.

Sherry Shannon-Vanstone is a purpose-driven, successful serial tech entrepreneur known for building high-performing teams. As a trailblazing woman in information security, she’s a strategic risk-taker who led start-ups to successful exits in Silicon Valley and the Toronto-Waterloo Tech corridor with two IPOs and two acquisitions.

Sherry earned a MSc. in mathematics and worked as a cryptologic mathematician with the US Government. This experience provided the foundation for a career in info security including VP Electronic Commerce at MasterCard and C suite positions with info security start-ups: Cylink, Certicom and TrustPoint Innovation, which she co-founded with her late husband, Dr. Scott A. Vanstone.

At Certicom Sherry was the catalyst in the commercialization of Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC), which formed the foundation of the security for Blackberry Rim. Today ECC is utilized to provide the highest level of security in every mobile device worldwide.

In 2018, Sherry founded Profound Impact, a data analytics firm that leverages AI to provide the perfect match of funding opportunities with academic and corporate researchers.

In 2019, Sherry received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Western University. She was also the recipient of the prestigious Leadership Excellence Award in Entrepreneurship for 2020 from Women in Communications and Technology. In 2021 Sherry received the Rogers KW Oktoberfest Woman of the Year in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. In 2015 she was named WOW – the World Waterloo Region’s Female Innovator of the Year.

Currently, Sherry serves as a board or advisory member for CANARIE, Protexxa, AI Partnerships and APMA Project Arrow among others. She’s also a highly sought-after speaker on topics such leadership, entrepreneurism and how to create a collaborative corporate culture. Additionally, Sherry is the co-founder of Women Funding Women, a collective with a mission to bridge the gap in funding for women led ventures.

Dr. Scott A. Vanstone (Awarded posthumously):

After receiving his PhD in mathematics in 1974, Dr. Vanstone was appointed Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the University of Waterloo. Professor Vanstone quickly rose to the position of Full Professor.

Vanstone developed a reputation as an outstanding lecturer and a world class researcher. He directed a large number of graduate students over his career. Many of his students have impressive careers and are recognized at the top of their fields in mathematics, computer science and electrical engineering.

Out of Vanstone’s research came a fundamental breakthrough in cryptography. Vanstone recognized the practical significance of his fundamental work and started a company which eventually became known as Certicom. This company went public on the TSX in 1995 and later on the NASDAQ.

Certicom secured the BlackBerry that made Research In Motion (RIM and now BlackBerry) a major supplier of secure mobile handsets. In 2009 BlackBerry acquired Certicom and 450 patents by Vanstone and his Certicom Research team.

After leaving Blackberry in 2012, Dr. Vanstone co-founded with his wife, Sherry Shannon-Vanstone, TrustPoint Innovation Technologies, a leading provider of security for the Internet of Things, in particular for the driverless and autonomous vehicle.  Sherry continued to lead the company after Dr. Vanstone’s death on March 2, 2014. In 2017, TrustPoint was acquired by the Robert Bosch Group.

Dr. Vanstone was elected to the Royal Society of Canada, Academy of Sciences in 1998. In 2004, Vanstone received the University of Waterloo’s Excellence in Research award. Upon Vanstone’s retirement from the University in 2009, he was honoured by being given the titled “Distinguished Professor Emeritus”.

Waterloo Region Entrepreneur Hall of Fame Laureates

John Baker

Erma, Ester, Jonas, Lawrence and Marshall Bingeman

Ron Caudle
Caudle’s Catch Seafood

Francine Chambers, Carinne Chambers-Saini
Diva International Inc.

Georgia Cunningham
SG Cunningham Ltd.

Dan Einwechter
Challenger Motor Freight

Jim Estill
Canrock Ventures

Charles Greb
Greb Shoes Ltd.

Frank Hasenfratz

Howard and Elsie Herrie
Herrie’s Country Farm Market

Larry Hundt
Great Canadian Holidays, Coaches and Fleet Services

Jacob Kaufman
Kaufman Footwear

The Lang Family
The Lang Tanning Company

Michael Litt

Kurtis McBride
Miovision Technologies

Jim Moss
Plasticity Labs

Val O’Donovan
COM DEV International

Carl A. Pollock

Alan Quarry
Quarry Communications

Gerry Remers
Christie Digital Systems Inc.

J.M. Schneider
J.M. Schneider Ltd.

Jody Schnarr, John Stix

Joseph Seagram
Seagram and Sons Ltd.

Ray Simonson
Software Innovations

Moses Springer
Mutual Life Assurance Company

Fred Stork

Peter van der Heyden
Goliger’s Travel Plus

Theodore Witzel
Onward Manufacturing

Clifford, Emory, and Lester Zehr
Zehr’s Markets Ltd.

Jim Balsillie, Mike Lazaridis

Don Bowman, Dave Caputo, Tom Donnelly, Marc Morin, Brad Slim

Savvas Chamberlain
DALSA Corporation

Manfred Conrad
The Cora Group

Carl Dare
Dare Foods

Vernon Erb
Erb Transport

Joseph Fung
TribeHR, Kiite and Uvaro

Walter Hachborn
Home Hardware

Ted Hastings
Global Beverage Group/ Moxy Media

The Huber and George Piller Family
Piller’s Sausage and Delicatessens Ltd.

Tom Jenkins

Oscar Kuntz
Kuntz Electroplating

Carol Leaman

Paul Maxwell
Maxwell’s Concerts & Events

Ian McPhee

John Motz
Waterloo Region Record

Eric Peterson, Larry Williamson
Mitra Imaging

Mate Prgin

Heather Reisman
Indigo Books and Music

Frank Rovers
Conestoga-Rovers & Associates

Ron Schlegel
RBJ Schlegel Holdings Inc.

Gerald Schwartz
Onex Corporation

Harold Seegmiller
E & E Seegmiller Ltd.

Stephanie Soulis
Little Mushroom Catering

Joerg Stieber
Ontario Drive & Gear Ltd.

Barney Straussburger Sr.

John Whitney
WHITNEY & Company Realty Ltd.

Klaus Woerner

The program was laid out very clearly!! I liked how short and entertaining the videos were.

– Grade 8 Teacher JA Economics for Success