As president of venture-capital firm Next Equities, Sikandar Atiq oversees all the company’s investments, and it has made a lot of them, in fields as diverse as health care, education, vertical farming, dry cleaning and manufacturing.
But Atiq and his team don’t just sit back and hope their money grows. For one, he assumed the presidency of Kepler Academy, a childcare company founded in 2017. “The reason the childcare industry was interesting to us was because it was so fragmented,” he says. “There is little consistency in the quality of care from one location to the next.” Atiq spent 18 months speaking to industry experts and developing a unique curriculum focused on cognitive, physiological and emotional milestones. Kepler opened its first location in January of 2018 and now has 10 locations across greater Edmonton, caring for 1,300 children daily, and has won a Minister’s Award of Excellence in Child Development.
Atiq also took on the presidency of The Press Gallery, a dry-cleaning business that has upended a sector he says was dominated by “operations on every corner too busy on their day-to-day to think of innovation.” The Press Gallery now has a heavily automated facility in the west end, drop-off and pick-up lockers all over the city and a digital presence allowing customers to schedule services online.
“We’re looking to make dinosaur industries extinct,” Atiq says.
Atiq has taken his penchant for disruption and turned it to the cultural field. He’s been chair of The Mosquers Film Festival since 2018. The fest features Muslim artists from Alberta and around the world, with the goal of building bridges between Muslim and non-Muslim communities and, as he emphasizes, between various sects of Islam and the many ethnic groups that practice the faith.
The festival has grown to have year-round programming and a successful podcast, The Halal Gap. “We highlight Muslim creatives from all walks of life, not just film,” says Atiq. “We’ve featured professional wrestlers and gamers as well as writers, musicians and filmmakers. There are so many amazing Muslim creatives in Edmonton and around the world that don’t necessarily get the spotlight enough,” he says. “We need nuanced representation of Muslims in pop culture.”