Wisdom rewarded: The WISE 50 over 50 Awards
Like many Canadian Gen X'ers, I came of age reading the works of Douglas Coupland. One of Coupland's recurring themes is the entrepreneurship experience. Even today, when someone says they know an entrepreneur I should meet, or a new start-up I should look into, I immediately (and briefly) flash to Coupland's romantic, mid 90's fictional version of business development, wherein disenfranchised, barely post-pubescent technology geniuses stick it to "the man" (the man being either Microsoft, or Apple, or IBM, or EA Games) by striking off on their own, into the heart of Silicon Valley to start an unorthodox, creatively disruptive hi-tech company that builds Lego-structure holograms (...or something to that effect. Another recurring theme in Coupland's work, for whatever reason, is Lego).
I often have to remind myself that most of the entrepreneurs I know are in their fifties and sixties. In fact, arguably, the greatest entrepreneur I've ever known was a man in his late sixties who had a seemingly magical ability to match start-up companies to projects and investment (that man of course, being my dad, John Swan, and his project and investment matching ability, obviously, being the inspiration for Liftoff Capital).
The fact is, the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs in the world, are men and women over fifty years old.
Certainly in my time with Liftoff Capital, I've been blown away by some of the young ladies and gentlemen who have a natural mind for business. They can hustle. They can play their strengths perfectly. And many of them, as it so happens, can turn a profit. But it's just as exciting to see an experienced veteran at work. Experience teaches us where the pitfalls lie. Experience tells us how to predict where the moving parts are going to stop. Experience hones our intuition, sharpens our focus, and keeps us from panicking when things go wrong. And when a gifted and experienced entrepreneur takes the reins, it is something to behold!
When Wendy Mayhew contacted me to tell me about the WISE 50 over 50 Awards for Canadian Entrepreneurs, I felt it was our duty at Liftoff Capital to help spread the word. Building an awards event is no easy task, but a quick reference to Wendy's website www.50over50awards.ca is a testimonial to how quickly the event is gaining nationwide momentum and support.
I would encourage everyone to spread the word about this year's 50 over 50 Awards. Nominate a friend! Heck - nominate yourself! The deadline for the 2019 event is June 30th.
When I was researching the 50 over 50 Awards, I remembered how revitalizing it can be to be recognized for your accomplishments at any age. When we finished the beta-build of Liftoff Capital, for fun, I had a local trophy company make Acrylic "Version 1.0" awards for Maksym (our CTO), Peter, and Dad. Even though there had been no competition, dad was so proud of what we'd accomplished, and so touched by the gesture of recognizing his part in the project, that he kept the award on his mantelpiece, and often insisted that it come to the hospital with him whenever he was admitted. Seeing how much it meant to him, I would certainly like to see more of the experienced members of our entrepreneur community recognized for their achievements. The WISE 50 over 50 Awards is a great concept, and I can say on a personal note, that I would be awfully proud to win such an award when my time comes.
As a closing thought, I'd like to share one of the last conversations I had with my father. Dad had just learned that his chemotherapy had stopped working, and we knew we were on borrowed time. I drove to my parents' house so we could watch Jeopardy together (as had become our routine), and he asked me how my meeting that afternoon with the head of a venture capital firm had gone. I didn't want to disappoint him, but I also couldn't bring myself to lie, so I just came out with it. "He hated it," I said. "He said nobody would want to list with us unless we only catered to million-dollar-plus technology." I had been hoping he'd forgotten about the meeting, but of course, he never forgot about those things.
To my surprise, though, dad was grinning ear to ear. "I knew he'd say that!" he said, waggling his eyebrows.
"Well, why do you seem so pleased?" I asked.
"It's better for us if those guys don't get it," he said. "It means we have some time to get it right, so when the other, better funded people catch on, we'll already be way ahead of the pack."
“Right,” I nodded. It made sense. Just a few days previously he’d explained that time was more important than money in getting Liftoff Capital to where it needed to be.
"I love this stuff," dad said. "It keeps me young."
Perhaps Douglas Coupland isn't so far off the mark when he portrays entrepreneurship as a young person's game. Age, after all, is just a number when you're young at heart.
You can access the 50 over 50 Award application form directly or you can click through on the home page of the website. While on the website you may also want to read testimonials from previous winners who share how being an award winner has made a difference to their business, as well as a short story about each of the 100 winners.