People That Inspire…

Posted Friday, April 28th, 2017. Filed Under Voices of wisdom | Leave a Comment

“Great things never come from comfort zones.”

I saw this incredible speaker a few weeks back and I wish I could clone him and what he stands for. He is the CEO of VarageSale, Andrew Sider. He really inspired me for the journey he has taken and more importantly the role of CEO he currently fulfills.

He is a true entrepreneur.

I attended a speaking engagement hosted by Brainstation (check them out) who invited Andrew Sider to speak on the topic of ‘being an entrepreneur’. He spoke for about 1 hour and in that time I scribbled many notes. He took us on a journey of his life, from his younger years when he ran a small business, to leaving a secure job abroad and begin a start-up in California, his successes and failures and how he ultimately ended up as CEO of VarageSale.

He talked about how he went to university with a group of friends and they all vowed that within four years they would hold each other accountable to quit their jobs and begin their own businesses rather than taking the safe road in the working world. Andrew said that he thought that he would just take on a consultancy & investment banking role for a few years and make good money to pay off his debt and then go on his own. This, however, is not what happened. Andrew worked for a few more years and then finally he did leave his secure job to begin a start-up with a family member. In fact, Andrew shared that all but one of the friends took the entrepreneurial route. I was really impressed.

Andrew shared his rollercoaster ride- the failures and successes and how as an entrepreneur you must be careful not to fall in love with your idea/product, rather have checks and balances in place – mentors and guides – who will challenge you to make sure you are making sound business decisions and not throwing good money after bad. He calls this “Is my baby ugly?” I know that every mother thinks their baby is cute when in fact some babies are just not cute. It’s hard to hear but it is the truth. You want to check in and see if your vision is working, if it needs tweaking, abandoning or pivoting.

Getting feedback is critical. Andrew shared the idea of pivoting. I have heard this term before. Awareness, guidance, mentoring, feedback … all of these things help discover if you need to tweak your idea/vision/business to make it more relevant to the needs of your customers and/or market.

One of the most impactful stories he shared was how in one of his ventures he went from very few users to millions. In the same token, when Facebook changed their policy on one of their platform that Andrew’s business was using, they went from 30 million users to 1 million overnight. He shared his experience and the response of the Venture Capitalist world.

He did express that he is not sure that business school offered any more than theoretical knowledge vs hands-on experience, especially for the entrepreneurship stream. I feel education has its place however being an entrepreneur is something that is hard to create. I believe you can foster skills and learn and grow but the innate entrepreneurial “flavour” comes from within. One of the biggest distinctions between a business person and entrepreneur in my opinion is those who work in businesses often tend to focus on problems while the entrepreneur focuses on solutions. I choose the latter.

I want to fast-forward to today where Andrew Sider is CEO of VarageSale. He took a few key people from his former business, BUNK (I believe) and merged with the founder and his team from VarageSale. Like at “marriage” or “partnership” you hope that the two merge well. In this case he said it did and that their core values for corporate culture were similar. When I think of creating corporations for the “new economy” two companies come to mind: Hootsuite and VarageSale. In both cases the companies incorporate a thinking which really does not exist or not for many companies in Corporate Canada. One of the missing components to innovation in Corporate Canada is allowing risk and failure. What I mean by this is companies want a sure thing and are less likely to encourage their people or teams to “take a hypothesis, run with it for a month and come back and see where the challenges, successes, failures or need to tweak come from”. Andrew explained that they do encourage this behaviour. People/teams have one month to check out an idea/hypothesis and then come back and share how this will succeed or not.

When you think about some of the greatest inventions that have come to market, some of these come about by “mistake”.

The other company and CEO that really inspires me is Ryan Holmes from Hootsuite. Ryan is truly an innovator and disruptor. I read his articles and are constantly encouraged that there are CEOs out there that truly understand where we need to take our companies. I love that he stretches his people and their skills sets, understands cross-functioning skill sets and encouraging “coffee dates” and more. This allows for lateral and diagonal movement to different teams & different exposures.

My intention is to work with like-minded people as I create my own online global mobile youth entrepreneur platform; building companies for the new economy based on multiple projects not just in Canada or USA but around the world. The new economy takes into consideration the “we/sharing economy” whereby ideas and projects bring peoples’ skills sets together, mentoring and transference of knowledge, skills and leadership development and most important bridging between the new entrepreneur and Angel and investing world; the investors of today need to understand this new economy and how the entrepreneur of today is not just creating their brand, they are their brand and their passion – the two are intertwined.

It is exciting times. It is not something you can control however the change will come. We can be part of it or stand by the sidelines. I choose to be part of it. I hope you do too.

I want to wish everyone a wonderful weekend. I want to thank the Andrew Sider and Ryan Holmes of the world who are disrupting the status quo.

Enjoy this wonderful time.

All my love,

Sandra

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