Edmonton Unlimited hires new CEO from within city ecosystem

Edmonton Unlimited hires new CEO from within city ecosystem

· The Pulse

Edmonton Unlimited has hired Tom Viinikka, the current CEO of the Edmonton Screen Industries Office, as the permanent replacement for its former CEO Catherine Warren, whom its board parted ways with in January.

"Tom provides a number of dimensions that make him an excellent fit for Edmonton Unlimited," board chair Lindsay Dodd told Taproot. "He is well known in the community and has a history of building really mutually beneficial connections across the community. That's the role of the CEO at Edmonton Unlimited — to build those connections, and leverage and support all dimensions of the innovation community."

Viinikka assumes his new post on May 15, replacing interim CEO Launa Aspeslet, who will resume her role on Edmonton Unlimited's board. Aspeslet took over after Warren was dismissed on Jan. 22. Dodd said he could not say when Edmonton Unlimited signed a deal with Viinikka, citing confidentiality. Edmonton film commissioner Dorian Rowe will fill Viinikka's shoes at ESIO temporarily as interim CEO.

Both Edmonton Unlimited and ESIO serve at the pleasure of the City of Edmonton. In 2022, Innovate Edmonton, which was created from the dismantled Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, rebranded as Edmonton Unlimited. The organization's mission is to harness innovation for economic development. Meanwhile, ESIO supports the development of Edmonton's screen industries.

Dodd said the choice to leave ESIO for Edmonton Unlimited was Viinikka's to make, and asserts it should be a smooth transition for both organizations. The ESIO wished Viinikka well in a statement.

"No organization owns their staff," Dodd said. "Tom, as a strong leader, has a very strong succession plan … The ESIO has been very supportive of Tom."

Viinikka hasn't always served city-owned organizations. He co-founded techy screen-industry companies vrCAVE and AlignVR, and was president of Omen Capital Group from 2015 until joining ESIO in 2021.

"My entire career, I have been an entrepreneur and supported entrepreneurs. It is an honour to collaborate with such a high performing team at Edmonton Unlimited—working with innovative, bold entrepreneurs in our local ecosystem," Viinikka wrote in an announcement.

Dodd says Edmonton Unlimited is excited to see how Viinikka will build a new strategy for the organization. In January, as news Warren was leaving broke, Dodd told Taproot that founders "often step aside in order to make way for new leaders to come in and grow the organization, and that's what this organization is going through."

Over at ESIO, a town hall scheduled for April 18 has been rescheduled for May 7, so the office can "better prepare" for Viinikka and Rowe to answer questions, a representative told Taproot in an email.

Photo: Departing Edmonton Screen Industries Office CEO Tom Viinikka, right, poses opposite his interim replacement, Dorian Rowe, during a film shoot for Dept.9 Studios in Oct. 2023. That company's president and COO, Don Depoe, stands between them. (Supplied)