Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Forty under 40 Award winner profile: Nejeed Kassam

CEO, Keela

BIV is proud to recognize Nejeed Kassam, CEO of Keela, and 39 exceptional business leaders with 2022 Forty under 40 Awards.

Each recipient is featured in BIV's annual Forty under 40 Magazine, and will be celebrated at an awards gala Feb. 22. Profiles of each award recipient – originally published in the magazine – will be available at in the days ahead.

Who or what is responsible for your work ethic?

My grandfather. He built his businesses twice, on two different continents (starting from nothing, twice). While he passed away when I was only two, his legacy (and maybe his DNA) lives on and inspires me to work harder and be better everyday.

What drives you?

A visceral belief that anything and everything can be made better. From a business process, to a product, to how we imagine civic engagement – I firmly believe that change isn’t only possible, it’s an incredible opportunity.

A favourite book you would recommend?

A nearly impossible question so I’ve divided it into three categories. As a dad: The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson. As a CEO: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. As a human: Siddhartha by Herman Hesse.

Now that you are (or are close to) entering your 40s, what goals have you set for yourself?

I aspire to prioritize being a father and a husband, as well as building for generations to come. For Keela, the next decade will be centred on making the company a household brand and transforming how every non-profit fundraises.

What was your childhood career dream?

To be a paleontologist. At my core, I yearn for discovery. The thought of spending a life discovering seemed inspired. 

What was your toughest business or professional decision?

Letting people go. The ebbs and flows of growing a business require us to make heartbreaking choices. The first time I terminated someone’s employment, I couldn’t keep my lunch down. It still is one of the worst feelings in the world, even when I know it’s the right business decision.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

Leadership is almost always character over knowledge; don’t be scared to fail, but don’t ever make the same mistake twice; build EBITDA-positive businesses; and enjoy the grind, it’s never going to get easier (and you shouldn’t want it to).

Best piece of advice ever received?

Be comfortable being uncomfortable. If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re probably not pushing your own boundaries and growing.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in business?

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. The value of building a team that is aligned, engaged and working (ideally in lock-step) towards an agreed-upon and measurable goal is nearly impossible to stop.

What career highlight are you most proud of?

Our customers at Keela raise almost $1 billion per year. The scale of this impact is remarkable and humbling.

What’s left to accomplish?

Almost everything. Help non-profits unlock tremendous generosity; work on my one-handed backhand; help build for our children the tools to build stronger societies and democracies; grow our family; 10x Keela’s revenue; see the Northern Lights; hit a hole-in-one.

Read the profiles of all 40 award recipients in BIV's annual Forty under 40 Magazine. Register to recognize this year's winner at the Forty under 40 Awards gala on Feb. 22.