“Before I take your questions, I will answer the question I get asked most often about Dragons Den and get that out of the way. The answer is yes, he’s an asshole in real life, too.”
Dragon and Lavalife co-founder Bruce Croxon was in Vancouver Tuesday as the guest of U.K business software giant Sage Software for the Vancouver portion of their 18-stop tour of North America. Croxon talked about how the various paths some of the Dragons took to their place on the panel of the wildly popular CBC show and how he has found that the life of an entrepreneur is not for everyone. The Toronto entrepreneur cites the influential “Up Series” of documentaries as proof that the seeds of a person’s fate might be sown earlier than many would care to consider.
“I knew before I was ten,” he says. “I saw my father come from England with forty pounds in his pocket and work his way up. I knew I had to be an entrepreneur then because I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied in a family business where I was starting from something more than zero, because I saw my father start from there.”
Instead, Croxon went on to found what would become Lavalife, and a small investment in the company meant his father retired a multi-millionaire when the popular dating site was sold for $150-million a decade ago.
Today, Croxon spends much of his time spotting opportunities for his investment firm Round 13 Capital. A boxing fan, he says the company is named after the thirteenth round of a fight, which is reputed to be the most difficult. “Muhammad Ali won the “Thrilla in Manilla” after going through a near death experience against Frazier in the thirteenth round. I want to meet that founder who will answer the bell after they are knocked down, because they will be knocked down.”
Croxon says subscribes to what he calls the “51/49 Rule”. “Being an entrepreneur is about how you recover from setbacks,” he says. “Any long successful career is probably going to be 51% victories and 49% defeats. If you can consistently deliver that 2%, month over month, year over year, you will be successful.”
So what about the next generation of entrepreneurs? With the advent of a new tech boom I float my own theory that the combination of it being cheaper to start a company and having social media’s instant feedback is responsible for the thousands of startups founded in the country of late.
“I agree with the first part completely,” says Croxon. “As for the second part, I think we did have tools to measure whether something was working pretty early, we just ignored them,” he laughs.
Croxon says he doesn’t think much about the dot-com days anymore because the recent wave of techs are so amazing and transformative. He mentions the publicly listed Points International, of which he is a board member, and Vancouver’s Hootsuite. Croxon says Hootsuite’s Ryan Holmes is an example of someone who does fit the entrepreneurial mold.
“I sometimes have more corporate types ask me about work/life balance. It’s hard to explain to them that the actual work/life balance of an entrepreneur is to work 24/7 on something for several years and maybe take a year off before you start something else,” he says. “I’m sure because it seems to have come around so quickly that some may regard Hootsuite as an overnight success. I’ve never met Ryan, but I’m not sure he would take too kindly to that notion because he clearly has worked incredibly hard to make Hootsuite successful.