Leonard Brody is a Canadian serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist, mentor, international speaker, President of Clarity Digital Group, and – as per BC Business Magazine – “a controversial leader of the new world order.” The Globe & Mail recognized him as one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40, a well-deserved title for a two-time Emmy-nominated media founder who led citizen journalism website NowPublic as CEO before it was acquired by Anschutz Corporation in 2009.
He has advised the Associated Press, Alliance Atlantis, and MTV Enterprises, and has lectured at Stanford University, the G8 and the United Nations. He is also a co-author of Everything I Needed to Know About Business…I Learned from a Canadian and Innovation Nation: Canadian Leadership from Java to Jurassic Park, and is a proud owner of Coventry City Football Club in England. Leonard was a co-founder of GrowLab before the accelerator merged with Extreme Startups to become HIGHLINE. He now sits on HIGHLINE’s Board of Directors where he shares his insights collected in roles like CEO at Ipreo, and VP Corporate Development at Onvia.com where he was part of its $240M IPO on NASDAQ in 2000, one of the largest Internet IPOs in Canadian history.
We recently met up to the discuss trends he has his eye on, traits he looks for in founders, and keeping talent in Canada.
Q&A With Leonard Brody
What’s the best part of advising and funding startups?
“The ability to work with entrepreneurs who are pushing the boundaries of major change on the planet, and working with people focused on re-writing the world we live in. And… not wearing a suit!”
What trends have your eye these days?
There are a lot. I believe that in 2008, we witnessed a significant cut – or end – to the Internet era, and we began an era I call “The Great Rewrite” where four massive forces happened at once — a sort of perfect storm that put us in a position to rewrite everything from the ground up:
1) The dramatic drop in cost of technology,
2) Massive human behavioural change,
3) The rise of the entrepreneurial class, and
4) A mass redeployment of the capital market to back the disruptors rather than the incumbents.
Those four things happening together have put us in a position where nothing is sacred any longer, and a lot of the promises made in the early Internet days of the late 90s are all coming true. These last 20 years have been about building the foundations for that to happen.
Ironically, the financial meltdown in 2008 helped create this perfect storm. Since then, everything has been re-written, from how we get information, to how we marry, to how we buy, to how we speak.
You’ve been in this industry for a while and met a diverse range of entrepreneurs. What traits do you look for in high-potential founders?
“Shit-disturbing hackers. I look for people who are defiant and determined, because 90% of the time the company you’re investing in, isn’t the company it will evolve into anyway.
“I also look at their experience and whether they’re a serial entrepreneurial who has had failures versus someone who has been nothing but successful, because statistically, they will fail at some point, and I’d rather they already have that out of the way than fail on my dime.”
How do we keep talent in Canada?
“Stop trying to keep it in Canada. You wouldn’t tell your kids not to go on a trip to Europe because you want them to stay close to home. We should absolutely be encouraging people to see the world, and instead, give them a reason to come back. Don’t double tax entrepreneurs at the border, and focus on building a good environment that they’ll be excited to come home to.
“I liken it to a family: A healthy home and a happy environment will keep the children coming back because they want to be there.”