Barry Gekiere, pillar of Canada’s tech community, has died

Barry Gekiere MaRS

Barry Gekiere, managing director of the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund (IAF), died of cancer treatment-related complications in Buffalo, New York on May 22. He was 68. 

Gekiere spent more than 25 years as a senior manager at some of Canada’s most well-known venture capital institutions. For the past 10 years, he led MaRS IAF, a seed fund investing in early-stage companies.

“Barry was one of the ‘good ones,’ and he has had an enormous impact with so many entrepreneurs and colleagues in the innovation ecosystem across Ontario. A mentor, teacher, friend, colleague and respected elder in our community. We will miss him terribly,” MaRS CEO Yung Wu wrote in a statement. 

“I think we all have our fond memories of Barry – for me Barry was my North Star (for VC investing and ‘do the right thing’), he was my mentor extraordinaire, and my wise owl,” said Lance Laking, interim managing director of MaRS IAF. 

Prior to heading up MaRS IAF, Barry had been managing director of Kirchner Private Capital Group and a partner at Ventures West Management. He was actively involved in Toronto’s tech community and served on the board of the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA). Gekiere is survived by his wife Victoria, his son Adam, his daughter-in-law Katie, and his granddaughter Lauren. Gekiere played a key role in establishing the CVCA’s Ted Anderson Community Leadership award, named after his Ventures West business partner who died after battling prostate cancer in 2014. He also helped organize a memorial event held at MaRS, where over 60 friends and business associates shared thoughts about Anderson. MaRS has collected similar remembrances about Gekiere. “Obviously ‘normal’ funeral arrangements are not possible at this time,” said Laking. The incubator has also set up the Barry Gekiere Memorial Fund, which is raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada.

John Ruffolo, founder of OMERS Ventures, who had worked with Gekiere since the ‘90s, remembered him fondly. “He always possessed a remarkable balance of intelligence, thoughtfulness, and humanity,” said Ruffolo, adding, “He was a key champion of the innovation ecosystem in Canada and will be sorely missed.”

“What I most remember about Barry was that he was a great mentor to all of us in the innovation sector,” said Tom Corr, former CEO of the Ontario Centres of Excellence. “No matter how busy he was, he was always willing to provide advice and direction.”

Mark A. Smith, startup ecosystems lead at Amazon Canada, worked for Gekiere from 2015 to 2018; he is one of the many people he mentored. “Personally, Barry took a chance on me and helped to launch my career, as he did with countless others,” said Smith. “I owe him a lot, and learned so much from him over the last five years. He was so generous with his time and would always be available when there were big decisions to make.”