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Arnold Leung holding iPhoneWhen Arnold Leung graduated with his BCom in 2007, the young entrepreneur already had the beginnings of a web and mobile development company in his back pocket. Today, at 25, his work as CEO of Appnovation Technologies, a North American leader in the use of open-source web and cross-platform mobile development, recently won him the Business Development Bank of Canada’s 2011 Young Entrepreneur Award.

Starting out with just a handful of contractors, Leung has grown Appnovation Technologies into a 30-employee operation with revenues of $1.6 million in 2010. This caught the attention of Profit Magazine which included Appnovation in its latest Hot 50 List, which ranks Canada’s emerging growth companies.

Appnovation’s story began during Leung's internship in BMO Nesbitt Burns’ retail banking division while studying at Sauder. He began helping investment advisors develop their websites on a contract basis. By the time he graduated, he was armed with the knowledge, skills, and connections to begin a new venture.

“I knew I had to make a decision when I graduated; either go work for someone else or see what I could do with this web development work. I decided to give myself six months to make some money and then evaluate my situation,” he explains. “And so far it’s working out pretty well,” he modestly understates.

In fact, Appnovation is one of only 40 or 50 companies in North America specializing in building web and mobile applications that run on multiple device platforms such as Blackberry, Apple, Android and Windows.

As a result, Appnovation has developed partnerships with influential companies such as Massachusetts-based Acquia, Drupal’s commercial business support venture; Atlanta-based Alfresco, which specializes in open source enterprise content management; and Silicon Valley-based Strobe.

Being a young CEO can have some unique challenges, says Leung. “I had to learn that everyone won’t do things exactly how I would and that’s okay. Actually, the psychology courses I took at UBC really helped when it comes to understanding how people work and how I can best work with them,” he explains.

“And of course, the finance and accounting courses I took at Sauder were also incredibly useful for me; it’s the numbers that really matter when you’re running a business.”