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Canadian ‘growth hacker’ takes senior post at Facebook

This file photo taken on May 10, 2012 shows a view of an Apple iPhone displaying the Facebook app's splash screen in front of the login page in Washington, DC.

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

One of Canada's most accomplished digital economy executives is uprooting from his Ottawa home to take a senior position with Facebook Inc.

Luc Levesque, 41, is leaving his role as a vice-president with TripAdvisor Inc. to take an unidentified senior role with the social media giant in Silicon Valley. He announced the move on his personal website on Monday, saying "this is the perfect next step in my life and I'm looking forward to leveraging my experience in product, growth and engineering to make an impact at a scale that very few companies can offer." He starts in January, following a three-month journey through Asia with his wife and two children.

Mr. Levesque is more than a senior executive with an American Internet company; he is one of the most connected and influential figures in the flourishing Ottawa and Canadian startup scene. He co-founded Fresh Founders, a group of Ottawa startup leaders that has led a renaissance of the city's tech scene, and sits on the innovation advisory board of local business development agency Invest Ottawa. He is close friends with such leading local entrepreneurs as Shopify's Tobias Lutke and Paul Lem of Spartan BioScience, and is also an active investor and adviser in the local startup scene.

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But Mr. Levesque is also internationally renowned as an expert in generating growth for digital companies – particularly by using search engines – that are looking to scale up into major enterprises. He led TripAdvisor's growth through optimizing search engines and, and on the side has advised Twitter, Pinterest, Quora and other digital startups on how to expand their businesses.

"There are a lot of people who call themselves 'growth hackers' or growth executives, but Luc is one of the top five in the world as evidenced by all the companies who go after him to advise on growth strategies," said Aydin Mirzaee, a friend and entrepreneur who sold his digital survey company Fluidware to Silicon Valley-based SurveyMonkey in 2014. Mr. Lem added: "He has created billions of dollars [of market value] for companies."

Mr. Levesque, who started his career teaching computer engineering at Algonquin College after earning his honours diploma there in 1995, turned a passion for travelling into an early travel blogging platform, TravelPod. He sold the company in 2007 to Expedia and stayed on with TripAdvisor (which Expedia spun off in 2011 as a separate public company) to lead senior teams from an office in Ottawa's Byward Market. Mr. Levesque also led the creation and growth of The Traveler IQ Challenge, an online app The Wall Street Journal called one of the most popular games on the Internet.

"Luc' s an amazing person in terms of what he's done for the Ottawa tech sector and what he has given back" to help entrepreneurs and ‎their businesses, said Mahesh Mani, Ottawa sector leader for KPMG's techology, media and telecommunications practice.

Mr. Levesque's friends say they will miss him in Ottawa but expect the job will be more of a "posting" and that he will return to his hometown to build another company and help further contribute to improving the city. They also expect he will be a key connection between Silicon Valley and the tech scene north of the border. "Now Ottawa and Canada have a connection to one of the most important companies in the world," Mr. Mirzaee said. "It puts a lot of people here one degree of separation from a lot of important players in the valley."

In a brief e-mail exchange, Mr. Levesque said he had "mixed feelings" about leaving his hometown. "Ottawa is a gem with a small but growing startup ecosystem. I'm going to miss being a part of that. I hope to not fully disconnect and to help in new ways from the valley."

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About the Author

Sean Silcoff joined The Globe and Mail in January, 2012, following an 18-year-career in journalism and communications. He previously worked as a columnist and Montreal correspondent for the National Post and as a staff writer at Canadian Business Magazine, where he was project co-ordinator of the magazine's inaugural Rich 100 list. More

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