Success by the Numbers

Dr. Scott Vanstone Looks Back on a Lifetime of Academic and Business Achievement

Scott Scott

It is rare for someone who has chosen the academic path to reach the pinnacle of success in an academic career, and succeed in the business world as well. Yet Scott Vanstone, Distinguished Professor Emeritus; 35-year professor of mathematics and cryptography at the University of Waterloo, and a fellow of the Royal Academy of Sciences has accomplished exactly this. For in addition to an illustrious career in academia, Dr. Vanstone has achieved enviable business success as the co-founder of one of UW's greatest commercialization success stories, Certicom.

Certicom (originally called Cryptech renamed to Certicom in 1995), was co-founded in 1985 by Vanstone with fellow professor Dr. Ron Mullin and Dr. Gordon Agnew, a UW Electrical Engineering Professor, with technology built around elliptic curve cryptography (ECC), a public key cryptography scheme based on the algebraic structure of elliptic curves over finite fields, rather than through the traditional method of generation as the product of large prime numbers.

From 1999 through to its sale to BlackBerry (then Research In Motion) in 2009, Certicom became a focal point for ECC technology — not only through the patents it held, but the products it built to enable ECC's implementation in a myriad of technologies.

BlackBerry was one of Certicom's earliest customers. The addition of security on a mobile device was a novel concept at the time, but security was top of mind for BlackBerry users. Certicom was a top technology provider and right there on their doorstep," says Vanstone. To this day, BlackBerry's best in class security, made possible by ECC, is widely regarded as one of the company's most unique and valuable assets.

Certicom's ECC is also found in every major standard in the world today, every smart energy reader, flatscreen television, BluRay player and BluRay DVD.

After achieving the heights of academic and business success, one would assume Scott Vanstone would settle into retirement and enjoy the fruits of his professional success. Think again. Vanstone is back in the thick of the start-up world once again, with TrustPoint, a technology start-up housed at the Waterloo Accelerator Centre, focused on yet another commercial application of ECC.

"Base ECC technology is now widely accepted as the direction to go, but you need more than that," Scott explains. "You need a public key infrastructure to support this technology. TrustPoint is focused on providing a vital piece of information to you, to me, and to everyone in the system that says to each party that they can have the assurance and trust to communicate. In each and every system, in the Internet of Things, you need that assurance. And we want to create that point of trust."

March 2014:
It is with a saddened heart to inform you that Scott Vanstone passed away peacefully at home with family by his side on Sunday, March 2, 2014. The TrustPoint team as well as his family and friends, will remember Scott for his boundless creativity and his incredible enthusiasm for the success of others. TrustPoint is Scott's legacy, which will carry forward and honour him by making it the success he envisioned. To leave a supportive note for his wife Sherry or the family, visit: