Last evening I had the honour of attending and being a sponsor for the Impact Gala for Young Entrepreneurs. After spending the evening with a room full of ambitious, smart, curious and fun young entrepreneurs, I am certain that the future of the Canadian economy is bright.
At the beginning of the evening, Kunal Gupta (founder of Polar Mobile and Impact) spoke via video along with Governor General David Johnson. Gupta was unable to attend the gala because at the last minute he was invited to join the Governor General in a state visit to South East Asia promoting trade and youth entrepreneurs.
Gupta has an amazing story that any entrepreneur will appreciate. He and several of is friends founded Impact in 2004 when he was a first year software engineering student at University of Waterloo. Then, in 2007, while still attending university, Gupta founded Polar Mobile, a mobile application development company. Now Polar Mobile has over 40 staff here in Toronto, and has developed over 1200 apps for a client list that includes Time Magazine and Sports Illustrated. Impressive!
At my table I met five business founders that were all under the age of 25. Some of them were working on second businesses. They all had staffs of 10-20 people and were growing. The discussions were around managing growth, international expansion, new technology, venture capital and work life balance.
Harry Rosen, the first keynote speaker, told the story of how he started as a shop clerk for a men’s clothing store, where he studied men’s shopping habits. He became very successful at selling suits and ties, but he was determined to open his own store. He grew his empire by creating a company culture that focused on listening to customers, building relationships and providing excellent personal service. There was some good debate about whether people would be interested in buying quality suits online.
Jordan Banks, the founding director of Facebook Canada, and his co-leader Elmer Sotto, Head of Growth at Facebook Canada, offered a brilliant “fireside chat” for the audience. Banks passionately discussed the importance of embracing failure. “If you’re not failing, you’re not succeeding,” he said. According to Banks, Canadians do not appreciate failure enough. Anyone who succeeds is going to have a big bucket of failures that were essential step in creating their success.
The Impact Entrepeurship Group runs some exciting programs for students such as microcredit loans of $100 for high school students. These students are given a week to come up with a business plan and a week to run the business. Some of these students earned thousands of dollars in a week from that $100 initial investment. I was ready to hire some of them :)
Half way through dinner I took a breath and realized that many business leaders of the future were in the room. This was a dynamic, creative and driven group that did not see any ceiling on their ambition. This is a room that I want my own son to be part of one day.
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