I’ve had the benefit of exposure to real life entrepreneurship through the two businesses I founded, built and sold. I’ve also been exposed to entrepreneurship in an academic environment through my role in helping form entrepreneurship@UBC.

This Wall Street Journal piece asking whether entrepreneurship can be taught is an interesting one and is worth a read: http://tinyurl.com/7rh63om. Thanks to the C100 for tweeting it.

I think both points of view are correct.

There is no better way to learn how to be an entrepreneur than to just go out and do it. But I believe that universities can teach people how to be better entrepreneurs. They can also serve a very important function by weeding out those people who are romanced by the excitement of entrepreneurship but really crave the security of a regular paycheck.

The best investor pitches I’ve seen are the ones that are straight forward, concise and, most importantly, answer the questions that matter to a prospective investor.


In my experience the questions that matter include:

(1) What is the market problem that needs solving?

(2) What is your company’s solution?

(3) Who are you and why are you the best team to execute?

(4) How much money do you need and how is the company going to make money?

Business Insider recently posted Airbnb’s first investor pitch. You can find it here:http://www.businessinsider.com/airbnb-a-13-billion-dollar-startups-first-ever-pitch-deck-2011-9#-1

It’s ten slides long, is short on words (you want the audience focused on you and not reading the slides), long on facts and gets to the point quickly. This would have been a ten or fifteen minute presentation allowing for a good discussion (wanted) afterward.

If you’re an entrepreneur looking for that first tranche of cash then take a look through this pitch.

UBC Student Entrepreneurs

October 25, 2011

As many of you know I was part of the team that formed entrepreneurship@UBC, an incubator, accelerator and start up venture fund owned and operated by the University of British Columbia.

I am very pleased to see that the entrepreneurship@UBC Fund has announced its first investment: Aeos Biomedical.

Colin O’Neill and Nick Seto co-founded Aeos to commercialize their “Target Tape” invention. Target tape is a disposable, adhesive sticker that assists surgeons to better target their incisions. This idea is something that surgeons immediately understand and appreciate. I think this company has great potential.

Colin and Nick are terrific examples of what can happen when engineering students are partnered with commerce students. They play to their strengths, complement one another and are already on a successful track.

I am very happy for them and for entrepreneurship@UBC for helping foster some great student entrepreneurs.

Elected office

October 18, 2011

Over time politicians have come to be poorly respected alongside less ethical used car salesman (I know an impeccably ethical used car salesman). So when I consider who I’m voting for one of the key considerations is whether I think they are straight shooters.

Jack Layton, Ronald Reagan, Tommy Douglas, Ralph Klein and George W. Bush were all straight shooting politicians. Whether you liked them or hated them, you knew where they stood.

The other criterion I use is whether I think they can execute. Being a successful elected politician requires a lot of different skill sets, but chief amongst them is the ability to get things done. Barack Obama and Gregor Robertson would be two examples of leaders that can’t execute.

My friend Christopher Gorman is running for elected office in Kelowna, British Columbia. I have served with Chris on the UBC Alumni Association board and have seen him in action. I have also been a colleague of his at UBC when I was forming UBC’s entrepreneurship@UBC initiative.

Chris is a professional, honest and capable executive. He is a community minded person and does a great job at whatever I have seen him do. If I lived in Kelowna I would vote for him in a second.

If you will be voting in the forthcoming Kelowna civic elections I highly recommend Chris for School Board.


Path to success

September 25, 2011

Ideas, ideas, ideas

February 14, 2011

I’ve heard various forms of this, but fundamentally ideas aren’t really worth anything unless they can be executed on.  Most entrepreneurs understand this.  In fact, as much as an entrepreneur may think their idea is unique, it’s almost assured that many (perhaps thousands) of other people are thinking of a near identical idea.  The difference between success and ill-success is execution.

Notwithstanding this, if you’re an entrepreneur looking for an idea to pursue, visit this link: http://angel.co/markets/list

Venturehacks describes it as the closest thing to an index of what investors are looking to support.  Good luck!


I have been helping UBC with the formation and launch of an exciting new program called entrepreneurship@UBC.

Along with the Sauder School of Business, the Faculty of Applied Science and the Faculty of Science, UBC’s UILO has been an integral part of the thinking behind what student entrepreneurs might need.

Enter a new and innovative program launching out of the UILO called “Start-up Services Voucher”.  If you’re a student, faculty, staff or a recent alumn (three years or less) you can receive up to $5000 worth of in-kind services including:

  • market assessments
  • IP assessments
  • business planning
  • grant writing, and;
  • company in a box resources.

Visit http://www.entrepreneurship.ubc.ca/2011/uilo-start-up-services-voucher to learn more!

OpenTable for Dentists

October 9, 2010

Robin and the Clinicbook team are going to do great, great things.  Read all about what Clinicbook is up to by reading this Vancouver Sun article.  Visit their website here (www.clinicbook.ca) to book your dental appointment!


Recently I attended a UBC alumni event in Silicon Valley wherein six UBC entrepreneurial ventures were pitched by their founders.

It was impressive.

These entrepreneurs are undoubtedly on their way toward building great business ventures.  If they don’t have great success with their first (and I’m certain that some of them will) then they will down the line.

Take a look at this brief vignette – it tells the story of this trip and even features some of the entrepreneurs themselves!

I’ve been consulting privately for about four years now.  I’ve benefited from some very interesting assignments.

These assignments have ranged from working for very small entrepreneurial start-ups through to managing complex corporate development assignments for large private and public sector corporations.

The common theme amongst all of my work is entrepreneurship:  Helping grow a business from seven people to more than twenty.  Participating both strategically and operationally as senior management for an entrepreneurial $30 million tourism business wanting growth.  Co-developing a plan for spinning out a start-up from a federal crown corporation.  Helping a raw start-up with its growth.

One of my most fulfilling assignments has been working with a team establishing entrepreneurship@UBC.  This is an alumni led initiative for UBC students and recent alumni.  It includes mentorship, coursework and equity capital for promising student led ventures.  It’s very exciting and I think it’s one of the first (if not the first) in Canada.

Our group is putting together a trip to Silicon Valley so that six UBC student and alumni entrepreneurs can pitch their business opportunities at the Plug and Play Technology Center.

The selection process beat all of our expectations.  More than fifty companies applied (we would have been happy with fifteen) and many of those were very viable opportunities.  A committee comprised of three UBC alumni, all very successful entrepreneurs in their own rights, selected six to join the trip.

As an alumnus I’m proud of all 54 applicants.  They’re out there taking risks and executing on their visions.  It’s wonderful to see.  I’m even more excited for the six that were selected.

Here’s a brief descriptor of who they are and what they’re trying to do:


Based on a business idea generated as students in Applied Science and Commerce, Colin O’Neill, Wylie Spencer and Nicolas Seto founded Aeos Biomedical to develop “Target Tape”, a product aiming to increase accuracy in applications ranging from thoracic to plastic surgeries.

Clinical Media Ltd. – www.clinicbook.ca

Founded by Winnie Lai and Robin McFee as students in the Faculty of Applied Science, Clinicbook was created to help people find health care, allowing them to book appointments online and view real-time wait times for walk-in clinics


A company created by Applied Sciences students Lin Watt and Tagg Jefferson, Dragonfly has created an innovative on-site water testing device providing environmental field technicians with lab quality results in minutes rather than weeks.


Optemo is a company founded by Faculty of Science graduates Maryam Mahdaviani, and Jan Ulrich, who have created an intelligent shopping platform for browsing product catalogs. The platform incorporates three ways of search and has already been validated by Best Buy Canada.


A consumer internet company founded by Chris Coldewey, a Sauder School of Businss gradate, that enables demand drive events by generating collaborative interaction between audiences, performers and event organizers.


Founded by Dr. Bradley Quinton, a PhD graduate of UBC’s Faculty of Applied Science, Veridae’s technology vastly reduces the time it takes engineers to get their microchip designs to full production.