Tech hub watch: Genesis loses its CEO, Edmonton Unlimited welcomes a new one

Genesis-Edmonton Unlimited
Tom Viinikka joins Edmonton Unlimited, Michelle Simms to depart Genesis.

Edmonton Unlimited has announced the appointment of Tom Viinikka as its new CEO. 

Viinikka will assume the role on May 15, taking over from Launa Aspeslet. According to a January report from Taproot Edmonton, Aspeslet was named the organization’s interim CEO after Catherine Warren departed the role that month.

The transitions add to a growing list of executive turnover at Canadian tech startups and organizations. 

Warren had served in the role since 2020, before Innovate Edmonton and its program divisions rebranded to Edmonton Unlimited in 2022. Warren’s departure from the agency was described as an ousting by Taproot, and followed a reconstitution of Edmonton Unlimited’s board of directors in 2023.

Edmonton Unlimited’s board chair Lindsay Dodd told Taproot in January that Warren did “nothing wrong,” but that the board wanted “a new set of leadership skills and experience to take Edmonton Unlimited to the next level of growth and success in the community.”

In a statement issued last week, Edmonton Unlimited said Viinikka’s selection followed a “rigorous” search across western Canada by a committee of the board, which was supported by an executive recruitment firm.

Viinikka has a career spanning nearly two decades in a number of industries, including technology. He has previously held roles in executive, operational, ownership, investing, strategic advisory, and economic development roles. He most recently led the Edmonton Screen Industries Office as CEO.

“My entire career, I have been an entrepreneur and supported entrepreneurs. It is an honour to collaborate with such a high-performing team at Edmonton Unlimited—working with innovative, bold entrepreneurs in our local ecosystem,” Viinikka said in a statement.

“Tom is a highly capable leader with deep experience in the entrepreneurial, startup, economic development, film and screen, energy, and venture mentoring sectors,” Dodd added in the statement. “The board is confident that Tom’s network in the local ecosystem, passion, and creativity will inspire the Edmonton Unlimited team to accelerate the vision and shape of the organization.”

RELATED: Gerri Sinclair steps down as BC’s innovation commissioner

And as has been the case in Canada’s tech sector in recent months, as one CEO arrives, another departs. In a separate leadership shuffle, Newfoundland and Labrador startup hub Genesis is parting ways with president and CEO Michelle Simms.

Simms, who announced her departure in a LinkedIn post on April 22, will serve in the role until May 24. She has worked at Genesis since 2002, and was named president and CEO in August 2016, according to her LinkedIn. She said she is leaving the role to pursue a new opportunity, but has yet to disclose where that will be.

“Undoubtedly, the greatest part of my job, and the hardest part to leave, are the people I have had the pleasure of working with,” Simms’s LinkedIn post reads. “Your passion is unmatched, and I am forever grateful to call you all colleagues.”

Genesis is a startup and innovation hub based in St. John’s, Nfld. The organization has existed since 1997 with a goal of supporting companies with everything from ideation to scaling their business.

The leadership transitions at both Edmonton Unlimited and Genesis add to a growing list of executive turnover at Canadian tech startups and organizations. Just some of the companies and organizations to either lose or gain new CEOs in the last six months alone include Top Hat, MindBridge, NowVertical, MaRS, Untether AI, and C100, among many others.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

0 replies on “Tech hub watch: Genesis loses its CEO, Edmonton Unlimited welcomes a new one”