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Ian MacKinnon

Forty under 40 winner 2019; Chief technology officer, co-founder, Later Media Inc., Age 37
Photo: Rob Kruyt

Ian MacKinnon doesn’t think of himself as a startup founder first.

“In my core I see myself as a software developer who started a company,” said the chief technology officer and co-founder of Later Media Inc.

MacKinnon’s fascination with ones and zeros goes back to his high school days in the mid-1990s – a period in which the internet was just emerging and software “wasn’t the cool thing that it is now,” he recalls.

His tech-driven career path eventually landed him an internship at Google LLC.

But the idea of settling in Toronto after graduating from the University of Waterloo with a master’s degree in computer science seemed “anticlimactic” to MacKinnon.

Instead, he moved to Vancouver on a whim and got involved in the startup scene, working as a developer and eventually a co-founder at a number of companies.

By the time he helped launch Later – a marketing management platform for Instagram – in 2014, one startup he co-founded had already fallen by the wayside.

But there were some signs that was catching on.

“It was actually something small, really – it was when we had 100 daily active users,” MacKinnon said, adding that number showed there were enough people returning every day because they found the platform genuinely valuable.

The exact value was later put to the test when the company determined it was time to start making some money.

“When we turned on paid plans, that was the ultimate decision of whether we were providing value to people,” the 37-year-old said.

“A lot of people who were used to getting something for free didn’t like that we started charging. But a lot of people started paying, and that’s when we really knew that we were providing something of value.”

Today, Later has tapped more than two million brands and agencies as clients, including YouTube, NBC News and Rolling Stone.

Birthplace: Oshawa, Ontario

Where you live now: Vancouver

Highest level of education: Master of math, computer science

Currently reading: Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool by Emily Oster

Currently listening to: Darknet Diaries podcast, Jack Rhysider

When you were a kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up: Astronaut or lawyer

Profession you would most like to try: Comic

Toughest business or professional decision: When my first startup failed I had to decide whether to get a “real” job or not. A lot of my friends were starting to buy houses and start families so it was a hard decision to stay with startups and not go to work at some big safe company with RRSP matching

Advice you would give the younger you: It’s always better to focus on something a small number of people care deeply about rather than something a lot of people only care marginally about

What’s left to do: Keep growing into the world’s premier social media management platform while looking for ways to incorporate new machine learning technologies into it. I’m also going to be a dad in the new year

Join us to celebrate the 2019 Forty under 40 Awards on January 30, 2020, at the Westin Bayshore. For tickets and event information visit