Bonfire Interactive Ltd., a Kitchener-based provider of strategic sourcing and procurement software, has appointed veteran team member Omar Salaymeh to the role of Chief Executive Officer.

Salaymeh has held a number of leadership roles at Bonfire since joining the company in 2013, a year after the startup was launched. Most recently, he served as Chief Client and Product Officer, overseeing a range of strategic functions from customer experience and support to defining the product vision and guiding it through development and commercialization.

Bonfire, which was acquired for US$108 million in 2018 by U.S.-based GTY Technology Holdings Inc., now employs more than 90 people, most of those in Waterloo Region.

“The key to Bonfire’s success over the years has always been our amazing people and the strong culture we’ve all built together,'' said Bonfire founder and former CEO Corry Flatt. “Omar is the embodiment of that culture and the values that have shepherded us here. His profound understanding and connection to our people, customers and business, made this an easy decision. I’m delighted to have Omar take on this important role and confident that his experience and the unique approach he’ll bring to it, will usher in the next phase of growth for Bonfire.

It has been quite the journey for Salaymeh, who was recently awarded the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal (civil division) in recognition of his work co-founding Jumpstart Refugee Talent, a non-profit that helps refugees find meaningful employment in Canada.

In an interview, he said that his own experience as a refugee has shaped his work ethic and his belief in supporting others, especially those in need.

Born in Syria, Salaymeh and his family were stateless Palestinian refugees. His parents managed to bring the family to Canada in 1996, when he was 12. The family settled in Kitchener and Salaymeh went on to study mechanical engineering at the University of Waterloo, graduating with distinction in 2008.

“It definitely colours the way you see the world, the way you think,” Salaymeh says of his refugee experience. “There's a continuous sense of being thankful for what you have, and having that drive day-in and day-out. There’s also a recognition that the day-to-day problems we're facing here today, they're big and they're important, but they still pale in comparison to what other people have to go through. That's just a nice reset to have.”

In 2019, thanks to Salaymeh’s work with Jumpstart, Bonfire became one of the first companies to tap into a global program called Talent Beyond Boundaries – which connects skilled refugees to high-quality jobs around the world – when it hired Mohammed Hakmi, a software developer who had also fled Syria.

Salaymeh’s goals as CEO include growing the company through investment in R&D. In particular, he plans to continue Bonfire’s efforts to enhance its procurement platform and make it both an indispensable tool and a means for helping procurement professionals become more strategic in their day-to-day work.

His other focus is to continue to nurture Bonfire’s positive work environment as the company scales and prepares for the post-pandemic future.

“The cultural piece is important because you can't build a high-growth company without great culture that continues to attract people,” he said.

Flatt, a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University’s business program who founded Bonfire in 2012, has moved to the role of Executive Vice President of Strategy at GTY Technology, where he has been tasked with leveraging his experience to scale growth across all GTY business units.