Stephen Toope

June 27, 2011

The University of British Columbia has had great leadership over the years. This is one reason why it is consistently moving up the world wide rankings of post secondary institutions.

Martha Piper was widely recognized as having done a great job for UBC and many were of the view that her successor Stephen Toope had very big shoes to fill. I’ve long been of the view that he’s not only filled them, but he’s taken this great university to a whole new level. His commitment to the student experience ($25 million investment in a new Alma Mater Society building for them), his commitment to alumni through UBC’s investment in our new Alumni Centre (www.alumnicentre.ubc.ca), his ability to recruit top talent like Pierre Ouillet, Stephen Owen and Barbara Miles and keep great talent such as Brian Sullivan and others are are testament to his leadership.

Now, with this little diddy below he shows a “softer” side of leadership. Here is the president of one of BC’s biggest employers up on stage entertaining the crowd.

Terrific stuff, Professor Toope!

The UBC Community

December 12, 2010

Those local to Vancouver probably know that UBC has been undergoing a transformation over the past fifteen years.  It’s gone from an “ivory tower” on the point with huge volumes of car traffic, congestion and largely commuter students to a bucolic community with most (and eventually all) the amenities one needs.

It’s a terrific story of formation and growth of what I think will become one of Vancouver’s most desirable neighbourhoods.  It has a side benefit of contributing significantly to UBC’s endowment which supports new professors, new students research and myriad other programs.

Click on the link below to see a video outlining more of my thoughts on this development:


Community service and volunteering is something that has always been a very keen interest of mine.

Of course, there is the philanthropic benefit that comes with offering up one’s expertise or time.  But I’ve also found that there are many personal benefits from volunteering:

  • the feel good aspect of doing something good
  • establishing new friendships (some of which have lasted me more than fifteen years)
  • learning new skills
  • exposure to new opportunities

While one shouldn’t go into a volunteer project for the purpose of “getting something out of it” – it is a natural byproduct and shouldn’t be discouraged.

My current project involves working with a team in the design and construction of a new Alumni Centre on the University of British Columbia’s Point Grey campus.  This centre will be located in the heart of UBC’s campus, will be 40,000 square feet and include many things geared toward making alumni feel welcome at their alma mater.

At the end of this project I will walk away with a far stronger understanding of how one goes about building a building.  I’m learning from our professional staff and my co-volunteers.  It’s great stuff!

This is a particularly exciting time because our project is now on track to apply for a development permit.

The new Alumni Centre will be located right next to a tremendous student led project to build a new 255,000 square foot student centre.   I’m excited for the students – I think they’re going to end up with one of North America’s most impressive student centres.  Visit http://mynewsub.com/site/ to keep up to speed on this project.

Here’s a flyby down University Boulevard to the new University Square:

If you’re a UBC alumn or even a current student (or future alumn!) then be sure to check out http://www.alumnicentre.ubc.ca to keep posted on the Alumni Centre project.

Student entrepreneurship

January 5, 2010

The University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria and other BC based post-secondary institutions are hotbeds for entrepreneurship.

Dating back more than fifty years, some of BC’s local entrepreneur success stories originated from the university environment.

Jimmy Pattison started curbing cars while at UBC.  Brian Scudamore started hauling junk while at UBC.  Peter Armstrong started giving sightseeing tours while at UBC.  Anthony and Andrew Sukow started Advanced Economic Research Systems while at UVic.  There are many more examples.

Useful capital is one thing companies need, but there are two key things entrepreneurs must seek out.

(1) Mentorship – someone with domain expertise and a verifiable track record.  I was 23 when I started my first company and grew it to 40 employees and y second company grew to 12 employees.  I was surrounded by staff, but I struggled to make big decisions and made myriad mistakes.  Had I had effective mentoring I would have made good decisions great and bad decisions better.

(2) Effective relationships – entrepreneurs can’t do it alone and you never know when a relationship is going to pay dividends.  Had I not made a great effort to establish connections while building my second company, I wouldn’t have made two very key hires and, undoubtedly, would have had trouble selling it.

The free market thinker in me thinks that if a student entrepreneur is going to be successful they will figure these things out on their own.  They’ll find a commercially viable opportunity, build the right relationships, find effective mentors and raise appropriate capital.

But the entrepreneur in me who has been beat up (particularly in my second company) likes the idea of giving a helping hand, particularly in the early days.  So, I’ve been helping out a team which is establishing a program in entrepreneurship for my alma mater – UBC.  It will include mentorship, opportunities for relationship building and very early stage pre/pre seed capital.

I will write more on this another time.

In the interim check out this Financial Post article (http://www.financialpost.com/small-business/business-solutions/story.html?id=2403106) on Canada’s current venture capital market.  It features a take on this climate by Danny Robinson, co-founder of Bootup Labs and a successful entrepreneur in his own right.

Bootup is doing some very interesting things in Vancouver and it’s worth checking them out.

It’s all about me

March 28, 2009

I attended the University of British Columbia’s Commerce Undergraduate Society’s 2009 “Me Inc.” conference as a speaker this past Friday and, wow, what an impressive group of students and what a well run program.

The Me Inc. conference is organized by UBC’s commerce students for UBC’s commerce students (www.sauder.ubc.ca) and helps them to think about and research various career options available to them. Over the course of one day students can participate in various tracks including banking, finance, non-profit, entrepreneurship (my topic), real estate and others. Visit www.meinc2009.com to learn more.

They also organized a neat “power networking” session where speakers like me move from table to table over the course of lunch. It gave me an opportunity to meet and talk to far more students that I would have had otherwise. Hopefully the students found some value in it too!

By this post I send a hearty “congratulations” out to the organizers. They put together a topical, well run and effective conference. I only wish they were around when I was doing my degree at UBC!

Enterprize 2009

January 21, 2009

Enterprize 2009

As some of you know, I am consulting to the University of British Columbia in the formation of a campus wide program in entrepreneurship.  It’s been eight years since I owned my own business, so while I can’t consider myself a current entrepreneur, I certainly have the bruises to prove that I am entrepreneurial (stay tuned for the results of my current business pursuit).

I’ll post on our program as it evolves over the course of the next several months, but in the interim let me plug a terrific group of UBC students who are putting together Canada’s premier student run business plan competition.

Enterprize Canada (www.enterprizecanada.org) is a Canadian national business plan competition that provides students from across this country an opportunity to have their business concepts and plans vetted, critiqued and submitted for all sorts of prizes and accolades.  I know one of the organizers (Boris Remes) and if his method of operating is any indication of the quality of this event it will be a incredible buffet of entrepreneurial excitement!

As I go through the process of forming UBC’s entrepreneurship program, I’m constantly invigorated by this university’s entrepreneurial talent.   Whether it’s the 2nd year Applied Science student who has a growing business and is struggling to decide whether to finish his degree, or the young alumna who is building the next great web 2.0 business – these young entrepreneurs are incredible.

If you’re a business person who wants a look at the next generation of business leaders, an investor looking for the next great thing, a mentor give something back to today’s young entrepreneurs or even an entrepreneur looking for mentorship, skills development, money or profile then check out this event.