5 New Canadian Billionaires Who Struck It Rich During the Pandemic

By Stefani Balinsky | Published on 26 Jul 2023

Canadian Billionaires

The pandemic turbocharged a lot of business sectors, especially software, real estate, and cryptocurrency. The result is five new Canadian billionaires and each one a self-made financial success. Interestingly, 4 out of 5 of them started their companies in the last 13 years. Let’s meet some newly minted Canadian billionaires.

Michelle Zatlyn – $1.37 billion

When Cloudfare’s stock price went up, so did the net worth of its President and Chief Operating Officer, Michelle Zatlyn. Zatlyn owns 5% of the company she founded in 2009 with two others. According to Forbes, her net worth is $1.386 billion CAN ($1.1 billion US).

Zatlyn graduated from McGill University and later earned a Master in Business Administration from Harvard University. She spent time as a product manager at Toshiba and also founded Achievers in Toronto.

Cloudfare went public in 2019. The company provides website security services. Its current market cap is $40.92 billion US.

Mitchell Goldhar – $3.9 billion

Mitchell Goldhar teaches real estate development at the Rotman School of Management, part of the University of Toronto. He knows his subject well. He started SmartCentres and also reportedly convinced Walmart to let him open its first store in Canada in 1994. Another 175 Walmarts followed. According to Forbes, Goldhar is worth $3.906 billion CAN ($3.1 billion US)

Goldhar graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from York University. The early 1990s he started SmartCentres. Over the course of decades his company built hundreds of shopping centres in Canada. 

He sold SmartCentres in 2015 to SmartREIT for $880 million for cash and assumed debt. He also became the largest shareholder in SmartREIT. Goldhar still keeps busy on his own. However, Goldhar also has his private investment firm, Penguin Investments. Goldhar owns a professional soccer team in Israel.

Max Lytvyn – $5.04 billion

He became a billionaire because of bad writing. Your bad writing. Max Lytvyn and Alex Shevchenko started Grammarly.com and the website suggests ways to improve your written communication. It offers help with brand, tone, plagiarism, grammar, spelling, and other writing corrections. In late 2021, Grammarly had a $13 billion valuation and investors like BlackRock. According to Forbes, Lytvyn is worth $5.04 billion CAN ($4 billion US).

Max Lytvyn earned a Master in Business Administration from Vanderbilt University. He met Shevchenko when they worked together at Mydropbox.com. Grammarly is a paid subscription service with a free version. It started in 2009. It boasts 30 million daily users. 

Alex Shevchenko – $5.04 billion

Alex Shevchenko is the second grammar billionaire on this list. He co-founded Grammarly.com with Max Lytvyn in 2009 and also serves as the Product Lead for Grammarly.  According to Forbes, Shevchenko is worth $5.04 billion CAN ($4 billion US).

Shevchenko graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from International University in Vienna, Austria. He earned a Master of Business Administration from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. Shevchenko’s first business was MyDropbox.com, a plagiarism detector. That is where he began working with Lytvyn. He eventually sold the company to Blackboard.

Chapeng Zhao – $14.22 billion

How did Chapeng Zhao make his fortune? He started a cryptocurrency exchange, Binance, which is now the biggest in the world in terms of volume. According to Bloomberg, Zhao is worth $14.22 billion CAN ($11 billion US).

Zhao studied computer science at McGill University. After university, he worked as a developer for Bloomberg and was a partner at Fusion Systems. Then, in 2013, he became Head of Development at Blockchain. In October of that year, Bitcoin was only 4 years old and worth $196.02. In 2015, Chapeng Zhao started Bijie Tech, an exchange systems provider. Then in 2017, he launched Binance Holdings Inc. The goal is to build “the best crypto currency exchange.”

Binance is not publicly traded. However, Binance Holdings Limited has bought positions in a lot of important companies. For example, the  company spent $400 million on Coinmarketcap, the world’s most-referenced price-tracking website for crypto assets.  Binance Holdings also bought a large stake in Forbes. Binance Holdings also raised $1 billion in its latest fund that closed in October of 2021. 

Stefani Balinsky is the former Editor in Chief at Hardbacon. She has been writing professionally since her days at McGill University and her summer internship at the Just for Laughs Festival. She has multiple degrees from McGill University and her PMP from the Project Management Institute. She loves data and research as much as she loves a good story. She has held marketing positions in publishing, health, and fintech companies. She also has an entrepreneurial mindset that feeds her curiosity. She can be reached on LinkedIn.