Three key executives depart OMERS’ OneEleven tech hub

OneEleven CEO Dean Hopkins (left) and Toronto executive director Siri Agrell (right) at OneEleven. Both remain with the company.
OneEleven CEO Dean Hopkins (left) and Toronto executive director Siri Agrell (right) at OneEleven. Both remain with the company. Photo: Dean Hopkins (Twitter)

Almost half the executive team of OMERS’ OneEleven tech hub has departed, The Logic has learned.

George Eichholzer, chief technology officer; Pearl Chiu, chief people officer; and Sandy Perlman, chief marketing officer are no longer with the firm. Perlman joined OneEleven six months ago. Eichholzer joined in July 2018.

The departures follow a difficult few months for the startup-support firm. In May, OneEleven said it will shut down its Ottawa location on July 31; it also put its London expansion plans on hold.

CEO Dean Hopkins said the moves will help OneEleven focus on the Toronto market, but did not provide specific details of the firm’s plans. “I can’t really talk about them at this time, but we are working through a series of initiatives to invest and grow the capabilities that we have determined, with feedback from the membership, that are valued by them,” he said. “This set of changes allows us to make those investments to double down on the things that we know the membership are very interested in.”

OneEleven was founded as a non-profit and became a for-profit corporation in September 2018, said Hopkins. He said the company is an investment vehicle of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System’s (OMERS) Growth Equity division, under managing director Mark Shulgan.

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The building that houses OneEleven’s Toronto location is owned by Oxford Properties, OMERS’ real estate subsidiary. Allison Wolfe, chief financial officer at Oxford, is one of OneEleven’s four board members; OMERS Growth Equity has two seats, including Shulgan, and Hopkins has the last seat, the CEO said in May.

Oxford has previously said it plans to redevelop the building, which is on Front Street. Hopkins said his company’s lease on the space runs for another seven years.

The firm’s remaining executive team consists of Hopkins; Siri Agrell, Toronto executive director; Emma Jing, director of finance and operations; and James Innis, director of corporate development, who Hopkins said is on contract. Hopkins said the decision for Eichholzer, Chiu and Perlman to leave was taken by the organization’s management team collectively, including the three departing executives themselves. Eichholzer, Chiu and Perlman did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Hopkins said the company is consulting with member firms about hiring additional entrepreneurs-in-residence and mentors, instead of executives, to perform operational functions, like marketing at OneEleven itself.

A number of other staff have left the company in recent months. John Mavriyannakis departed from his role as chief operating officer in April. Elana Ziluk left her role as marketing and communications manager the same month. In an Instagram post from June 9, Ziluk described the pride she felt in her role in contributing to Toronto’s tech ecosystem.

“Although satisfaction with my employer declined by the end, I didn’t disengage. I couldn’t. I cared too much. Too much about the brand. Too much about the companies we were serving,” said Ziluk. She’s now the public relations lead at Toronto-based software firm Jobber.

Eichholzer joined OneEleven to create and build software for the firm’s international expansion. He also worked “closely with the technical co-founders and their engineering teams to offer services that allow small technical teams to maximize their leverage and punch above their weight,” according to his LinkedIn profile.

When OneEleven first announced the expansion in April 2018, it named Boston, Berlin, Austin, Singapore and Beijing as cities it was scouting. At the time of the May closures, Hopkins said the international efforts were paused. “We’re still bullish on markets like London and New York,” he said. “We’re just waiting for the right time for those.”

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OneEleven charges firms a membership fee. In May, Hopkins said it was also exploring other sources of revenue, such as information products. It’s also planning to add facilities like a media production studio for its member companies.

The Toronto location reached 50 member companies in April, with a combined 850 employees. “We’re seeing huge potential here,” said Hopkins, “and that we’ve effectively done what great entrepreneurial companies do, which is re-allocate the capital and resources into the part of the business that’s actually working.”

Hopkins said OneEleven’s Summer Social, an annual event scheduled for July 18, will proceed, and “we are selling out rapidly.”