Bruce Croxon: Investing In Canadian Start-ups
Insight Internet mogul and Dragon’s Den venture capitalist, Bruce Croxon, shares his best insights into fueling Canadian innovation.
Mediaplanet: What was one of your biggest challenges as an entrepreneur starting out?
Bruce Croxon: Being an entrepreneur is a seven days a week, 24 hours a day commitment. There were many times early in my carreer when I questioned my choice to go at it alone. I spent a number of years earning a lot less than my peers and leaning on my friends a lot more. Throughout, I maintained a belief that this was what I was meant to do, and I found a way to hang in.
MP: Why is there an absence of capital in Canada?
BC: Some people believe that Canada is more risk averse, but I don’t believe this is true. It’s important to understand that Canada is the most efficient risk capital market in the world for energy and mineral companies. The TSX has proven it can attract huge sums of risk capital. As a result of all of the above, today is the exact right time to be investing in venture in Canada.
Bruce Croxon talks on Canadian Entrepreneurship. Video Credit: Tom Henheffer
MP: What is the impact of capital deficiency on Canadian entrepreneurs?
BC: Canada needs more global success stories. Young entrepreneurs need to see examples and believe it is possible. In a global market, it’s tough to compete when underfinanced. When you hear about companies in Canada getting financed, what you unfortunately may not hear is that the amounts of funding are consistently only about 40 percent of what comparable companies raise in the US.
MP: What does this mean for Canadians?
BC This means it is tougher to go the distance and we are sometimes forced to sell early, just before a company is about to hit the big time, or the Canadian investors who backed the company originally get diluted by the deeper-pocketed investors in the U.S.
What’s important though is that Canadian entrepreneurs are every bit as great as those from the U.S; they deserve a lot more capital support than we are giving them.
"There were many times early in my career when I questioned my choice to go at it alone...Throughout, I maintained a belief that this was what I was meant to do, and I found a way to hang in."
MP: What does it take for a Dragon to invest in a startup’s idea?
BC: More and more, it’s not just about the idea, but the ability to demonstrate that there is a team behind the idea that can execute. As investors, we don’t have the cycles to drop down and run the business. We want to add value to a well functioning team.
MP: What role do mentors play in startup success?
BC: Today, speed is critical and an entrepreneur needs to do everything possible to move forward as fast as they can, including making major changes along the way – sometimes painful changes. If someone has made mistakes, he can see them coming and help you avoid them. Mentors are connected, have strategic relationships, sources of funding and help make lonely, frightening nights more bearable.They are critical in HR matters, not only in finding good people, but recognizing early on when changes are required.
"Canada needs more global success stories. Young entrepreneurs need to see examples and believe it is possible."
MP: How can startups and small businesses attract top talent and build great teams?
BC: The best way is to have an exciting environment; complete with a mission that is about more than just money. The best people want the chance to prove themselves, work with other dynamic people, and do something that has real meaning.
Founders should focus on creating a dynamic culture, where reaching for the stars is encouraged. Short term money is not always possible but long term rewards should be encourage and shared.
Live your dreams. Video Credit: CYBF
MP: What advice do you have for startups and small businesses looking for capital?
→ Be prepared to work harder than you ever dreamed possible.
→ Choose your partners very carefully.
→ Find your initial capital from friends, family and those close to you.
→ Dont waste time and energy with Canadian banks.
→ Choose your business based on real customer needs instead of on what you believe to be necessary.
→ Take the company as far as you can, but don’t be afraid to seek advice.
→ Find mentors to help you.
"What’s important is that Canadian entrepreneurs are every bit as great as those from the U.S. — they deserve a lot more capital support than we are giving them."
MP: What is the most important skill that has helped you achieve success as an entrepreneur?
MP: How can we create more Canadian entrepreneurial success stories?
BC: Get our funding support in order and don’t sell short.