Tell us about your role.
I’m the Managing Director of Extreme Startups, which blends leading a venture backed operating company focused on changing the startup accelerator/incubator market and investing in amazing founders, where I accelerate their venture’s growth over an intense four month cycle.
How did you get to where you are today?
A mix of applying entrepreneurial experiences and focused academic studies. I have been a digital entrepreneur for 24 years and have thrived in the starting-failing-learning-succeeding cycle.
I purposely studied Psychology & Economics at McGill as I knew I would eventually pursue an MBA, and felt a deep dive in human dynamics and economic market theory would best prepare me to become an entrepreneurial leader. While at McGill I invested a lot of time in the entrepreneurial community, including running the McGill Entrepreneurs Club, organizing new venture conferences and being mentored by some amazing entrepreneurs. While doing some grad studies there I co-founded an eBusiness consulting and software company that took in some external money. We lived the highs and lows: winning an award from the mayor of Montreal for one of the best new startups in the city on the same day that we had to lay off half the team because we grew too quickly. I evolved that business over several years to focus on both eMarketing & eLearning engagements, exposing me to both small and medium businesses and their customers.
I exited that business because it wasn’t going to attain my ambitious vision. I decided to do the Queen’s MBA program focused on Strategy & Implementation to learn how to grow businesses globally. I formalized my mentoring work at Extreme Startups, started to invest in startups and did the Berkeley Venture Capital Program to strengthen my VC skillset.
How are startup incubators changing?
The startup accelerator/incubator market is increasing in popularity. The key reason is that it has never been so easy to startup a company, access new ventures deals to fund, and create a basic accelerator program using mentors in a co-working space. Accelerator/incubator models are at a tipping point since most have failed to meet core stakeholders’ needs, be it investor return on investment, founding programmers’ abilities, access to corporate partners or economic sustainability. This failure is driving a new set of expectations among founders, investors and corporate partners. It’s a call for innovative programming, or risk failing.
What are the key traits you look for in startup founders?
We don’t fund sole founders. We prefer founding teams to have at least one technical lead and one business rock star. Given that we fund companies that need to have institutional funding potential, we look at ambition, track record for excellence, ability to execute, digital savvy, industry experience, and coachability to ensure we can add value.
What industries are you excited about?
We focus on digital businesses that are typically web and mobile ventures. For most sectors, digital innovation that’s disruptive is still in its early days. In the next decade, we will see a faster evolution from incremental innovation to disruptive ones. The Internet of Things (the movement of pairing the Internet with everyday objects) arena excites me since it will drive the reality that practically every company will essentially operate like a software company over the next few decades. Combining the trends of mobile phone ubiquity, open hardware, crowd-funding and big data opportunities will fuel this third major evolution of computing innovation.
What do you love about your job?
I love both my work with amazing founders and innovating the accelerator model. Specifically, hunting and helping ambitious entrepreneurs drive innovation in their markets. Also, working on new programs and tests to evolve the accelerator model.
The most important advice I could give is to start something today to build both your entrepreneurial mindset and skillset. Embrace the initiate-fail-learn-succeed cycle. Persevere and try new approaches every day to fuel future innovation. Your vision will evolve if you are interacting with your market everyday, so it is more important to do first and later perfect. Never start a business on your own. Find a co-founder and work with mentors.