Aaron Guan, 26
Boco Technology Inc.
Title: General manager
Birthplace: Wuxi, China
Social media: LinkedIn
Languages: English, Chinese
Education: Bachelor's and master's degrees in applied science, mechanical engineering, University of Toronto.
Associations: Society of Plastic Engineers, Thermoplastics and Foams Division. I am the youngest person to serve as a board director and I am on the membership committee, planning contests, scholarships and events. I also moderate our division's LinkedIn profile.
Q: Tell us about your family.
Guan: I come from an immigrant family in China. We landed in Canada when I was 12 years old. My father used to be a history lecturer in China, but worked multiple general labor-type positions to keep the family afloat financially during the earlier years of immigration. Now he runs his own legal services business. My mother was a lecturer at a Chinese university, and later became manager of a hotel. After immigration, she went back to school to study nursing at the age of 40 — a field completely new to her. Now she works as a nurse at a long-term-care center in Toronto.
Q: What was your first plastics job and why were you interested in the industry?
Guan: I'm still working at my first plastic industry job. I'm fascinated by materials in general, the building blocks that makes the world tick, however, plastics are particularly fascinating. It is very impressive that a brand-new class of material synthesized barely 50 years ago can compete, even excel, against the likes of metals and ceramics with thousands of years of history. I think the plastics industry is the most dynamic.
Q: What is your greatest achievement?
Guan: I could cite that I have won multiple national research awards and been featured in evening news and print media. But the greatest achievement has to be the giant leap of faith I took to start my current company.
Q: What is your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
Guan: I don't think I can call any particular life event a biggest failure; rather, it is a number of small lessons I've learned along the way. They all teach their unique lessons and contribute to who I am today.
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Guan: I'm facing the same set of challenges any entrepreneur faces: I feel like a one-man army, though I do receive help from a lot of good people. Also, having so much emotional energy invested, I can never leave my work at work. But this is the biggest learning experience I have encountered yet, and it's definitely worth the price to become a better person!
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Guan: We are a company that commercializes a bio-based reinforcing nanofiller, so naturally we look at nanocomposites, especially ones intended for biomedical applications, quite closely. Three-dimensional printing/additive manufacturing is quite a fascinating development. The prospect of rapidly creating a biomedical device/implant uniquely designed for a specific patient is just amazing.
Q: Who is your mentor, or someone you look up to?
Guan: Hani Naguib of the University of Toronto, my supervisor during my master's studies and currently my research collaborator with Boco Technology. He helped set me on the right path with sound advice, but also let me take control. Also, Xie Guo Ying, my current investor/business partner. He is just a legendary example of entrepreneurial persistence. When he immigrated to Canada barely 10 years ago, he was almost penniless. Now he runs one of the largest nutraceuticals companies in Canada.
Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?
Guan: I'd like to have exactly the same job I have now but with more assistants!
Q: What do you do to relax?
Guan: Oh no! You are going to find out how immature I am. I slay dragons and zombies in my free time (video game nerd, I know), but it's one of the quickest ways to take my mind off the stresses. I'm also a car enthusiast, finding some twisty roads to drive on the weekends, occasional track days and autocross events. Hiking is something I do pretty often too — fresh oxygen makes me think a lot better.