This is my place to share my journey and thoughts on technology, social media and life. I didn’t take the usual path, and doubt that I will going forward either.
I was raised on the edge of a very small town in rural Alberta. And by small, I don’t mean 20,000, or even 2,000 people, but more around 200. Growing up in a class of 12 students was a unique experience. As was growing up in a rural area.
My dad and uncle worked with bees since they were kids and I was around them since I can remember. I grew up working with them whenever I had a chance and by the time I was 10 years old I was devoting my entire summers to working in the extracting plant. Upon graduating from high school, I was able to get further involved in the apiary and it became a big part of who I was, and my full-time job.
With beekeeping, as is the case with a lot of agriculture, it is seasonal. Meaning that I had half the year free to pursue other things. I always enjoyed math and science so I decided to pursue an engineering degree while still spending my springs and summers with the bees. I graduated from the University of Alberta with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and it left me wanting more. I had no interest in diving into a job with a big company – I wanted a challenge.
I figured that if I wanted to be really challenged, I needed to surround myself in an environment with the best in the world. So I headed down to Stanford to pursue my Masters in Engineering. It was in the heart of the Silicon Valley that I was encapsulated with innovation, entrepreneurship, start-ups and never thinking that something wasn’t achievable. I spent two years studying and teaching dynamics, control systems, mechatronics and robotics. More importantly, I met people that inspired and challenged me to go after things that I would never have deemed possible. From fellow classmates, to professors and local Valley start-ups, I was constantly encouraged to pursue the path less traveled.
After graduating from Stanford, and turning down an amazing PhD opportunity, we headed back to Canada. With a young son, and twins on the way, it was time to settle down and raise a family. Although I loved the Silicon Valley and found it hard to leave, I knew that home was where we would always raise our family. I also knew that I would be back often. My wife knew that I was giving up a lot leaving Stanford and the Silicon Valley, so we came to a consensus – we would move back to Alberta, but I was not going to take a comfy engineering job, but rather pursue building tech start-ups.
That summer was my last on the bees, hence the name of this blog. I have never known anything else, but after many years of school and a passion to pursue, it was time to move on. I hope that I will eventually move back to the country and have bees. I want my kids to learn about them, and more importantly, learn about hard work and the beauty in the complexity of nature.
Many can’t make a connection between beekeeping and tech start-ups. However, I have seen many. In a hive, every bee has a purpose, a talent to give and a job to do. More importantly, every bee will do anything necessary for the success of the hive. When a bee stings a potential threat to the hive, that bee dies. During a honey flow, when flowers are blooming, forager bees will work themselves to death in order to bring back every drop of nectar to the hive.
Start-ups are no different. Obviously no one expects someone to give their live for it, but the principles remain. Every member has to completely devote their talents and efforts to the success of the company. There is no room for ego, politics, pride or apathy. It is a mission and everyone has to do whatever they can to contribute to the overall success of the team. Create this environment with a bunch of incredibly smart people who want to change the world and you have built something amazing.
I have been fortunate to work with some great people as joined Nexopia.com in 2007 and began working in product management. It was there that I built some great relationships, both inside and outside of the company. I was fortunate to have some great mentors and people that believed in my passion and abilities. This led me to eventually taking on a leadership role and experienced navigating a startup through some rough waters. After Nexopia the plan was to head back to California to get involved in another startup. However, things took a turn when I was given an opportunity to join iNovia Capital, what was in my mind, the top venture capital fund in Canada. I always saw myself ending up in venture capital, but not this early in my career. The opportunity to work with such an amazing team, expand horizons beyond just Canada and be part of a number of exciting startups was too good to pass up. The experience so far has been phenomenal and I have not stopped learning and being challenged by those around me. Something I deem is necessary in anything you do.
At iNovia, my partners and I had a vision to be a top venture capital firm in North America. As part of that vision, I relocated with my (much larger) family back to the Silicon Valley to open our office there. The transition was tough for a young family, but there is no better place to be in the technology world. We pride ourselves in being geographically agnostic with our investing, but believe that connections to the Silicon Valley are imperative to success.
On a personal level, I feel truly blessed. I always tell everyone that I am just excited heading to work every morning as I am heading home every night. Even though there will be countless failures – you can’t be in start-ups without expecting a bunch – and sleepless nights at home with 4 young children, I love my roles in both and wouldn’t trade either for anything.