Larry Keating is an Ontario-based serial tech entrepreneur who started his first company, Keating Technologies, in 1987 at 27-years old in his home with $11,300. He grew it to more than $140m annual revenue before successfully selling most of the business, and is rebuilding the company. A three-time national winner of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies award, he has earned a Top Ten Industry Newsmaker of the Year (2008) for his work partnering with Intel, HP and Autonomy to introduce the industry’s first Notebook-as-a-Service (NaaS) solution.
As with other great entrepreneurs, Keating also gives back to his community by mentoring and advising early-stage startups, supporting the commercialization of innovations out of York University, engaging in the York Region tech ecosystem, and helping to make Ontario and Canada a better place for entrepreneurs through his public service, including his role as founding chairman of the Minsters’ Technology Advisory Group in Ontario for eight years, for which he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for public service.
With an entrepreneurial passion, experience in growing a startup into a successful firm, Keating established NPC DataGuard to empower small businesses and startups by providing a complete, secure, IT solution. He is one of Ontario’s great technology innovators.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Keating to gain his perspective and glean his advice on Canadian entrepreneurship, startups and security.
In your view, what do we need to do to bring Canadian entrepreneurship to the next level?
LK: Funding for commercialization. Although we are producing world-class innovation in our universities, we need to do a better job at commercializing the innovation coming out of our universities. Also, while the support infrastructure does a good job of supporting early-stage companies in growing to 25-30 people, we have a serious issue at the next funding stage. If we do not address this, how are we to produce the next RIM? That is where we get beat on the global stage. I am also passionate about improving productivity for smaller enterprises. Productivity is the backbone of GDP growth in Canada and we need to equip our entrepreneurs with the conditions and the tools that they need to compete in the global economy.
Why do you think that so many entrepreneurs and startups have difficulty with IT?
We are in a new era where information has become the business. Your success depends on how you manage information, and the information flow, in your business. This is a big change from even 10 – 15 years ago. We are now innovating at a level that is far more nebulous in that the value is now in a piece of code, a technique, or information.
As a startup founder, you need to be hyper-focused on your goal. Often times that means that everything else is forgotten until you get big enough to resource a dedicated IT team. However, as most startups have IT at their foundation, this is an area that can really trip them up. The impact of a computer failure, a computer breach or information loss is exponentially larger on a startup than a larger company. Startups move so quickly, so a computer failure can mean that you lose everything that you didn’t back up for the last 4 months.
An investment in security protects your intellectual property, capital and ideas.
We also need to look into the future of work and what that means for how we build and operate our businesses. Good IT practices can be empowering. If you have a high-powered device that you give to a Team member that is well configured and automated – you have created empowerment in your organization. Employees no longer want to be tethered to their desks. As an entrepreneur you need to ensure that you empower mobile employees with safe and manageable technology. Properly secured technology is empowering and really improves productivity.
What advice do you have for startup entrepreneurs who are looking to get their IT right from day one?
The biggest security issues for startup entrepreneurs are in controlling information, data security, and always having a current backup. It’s often the little things that will trip you up, so you need to ensure that you have good, reliable equipment and an approach to mobility and security that works for your startup. Some tips:
- Equipment – Make sure that you are using equipment that is up to the task. Consumer grade products are not made for work-grade functions.
- Security – Don’t expect that just because you are small doesn’t mean that you won’t be targeted. Secure your technology and information.
- Backup – Ensure that you have deep versions of your backups and note that cloud is not synonymous with backup.
- Get Help – You do not need to do this on your own – there are services and organizations there to help you. An investment in security protects your intellectual property, any capital investments, and ideas.
This is why we launched NPC DataGuard, to provide robust IT security and support solutions to innovators – providing a complete out-of-the-box security solution for startups while they focus on growing their venture.
As a successful entrepreneur, what advice do you have to those who are starting up?
Firstly, as hard as you think starting up is going to be – it will be harder, but it is well worth it! Entrepreneurs are fortunate to have a feeling of having created something. Not everyone in a regular job gets to see this so clearly. I have been fortunate to be able to look back on my journey and to see something that I have created. It will be harder than you think – but it is well worth it in the end!
Secondly, don’t feel that you have to do it alone. Lots of people have experience in starting and growing companies. Get their help and ask them hard questions like – where have you succeeded like this before? Surround yourself with great, smart advice.
And of course, get your IT right, right out of the gate.
NPC DataGuard wants to help you to get your IT right from the onset. That’s why they created the Work(Any)Place Summer Contest to provide one startup entrepreneur the IT essentials – like an NPC DataGuard Pro system, Rogers 4G Wireless for one year, a Genius Pack Carry-on and mobile charger, a luggage tracking device, a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and a SCOTTeVEST travel vest. Click here to learn more and enter now.