Ashif Mawji and family donate $1 million to NAIT

Gift will establish a new centre to foster entrepreneurship

While growing up in Kenya, Ashif Mawji (Computer Systems Technology ’92) learned from his parents that if he wanted something he would have to work for it. That stayed with him when he came to Edmonton, where he attended NAIT before going on to become one of the city’s most successful entrepreneurs, founding a series of IT companies, including Upside Software, which he sold in 2012.

Another lesson stayed with him as well. “Back in Kenya, we’d always share. Even if we had a little bit, we would share that,” says Mawji. “Being an entrepreneur, and especially when you have some success, it is important to share.”

That’s one of the reasons Mawji and his family have made the largest donation NAIT has ever received from an alumnus. Their gift of $1 million will establish the Mawji Centre for New Venture and Student Entrepreneurship, slated to open in the fall of 2017 within the JR Shaw School of Business.

The centre will be a hub for entrepreneurship, innovation and new venture learning opportunities, including mentorship from established entrepreneurs. Upon announcing his family’s support at an event at NAIT on May 12, Mawji said the decision to make the gift was a “no-brainer”.

“This is an opportunity to celebrate entrepreneurship and give students in Alberta a leg up – to provide them with mentorship and help them be successful,” says Mawji. “When I first started, I wish I would have had access to this sort of help. I think it would have helped me get even further at a young age.”

Mawji served on NAIT’s Board of Governors from 2004 to 2010. He was awarded a NAIT honorary Bachelor of Business Administration in 2017, named a Top 50 Alumni in 2012 and received the Alumni Award of Distinction in 2003. Today he is a co-founder and key adviser at Trust Science, a new platform and app that calculates the trustworthiness of individuals and businesses.

NAIT's leadership sees the Mawjis’ gift as evidence of the grad’s advocacy of entrepreneurship in Alberta – and a natural fit for polytechnic. “The centre will provide all NAIT students an opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship in an applied learning setting,” says Tracey Scarlett, dean of the JR Shaw School of Business.

President and CEO Dr. Glenn Feltham agrees. “This gift will allow us to support aspiring student entrepreneurs across NAIT.”

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