Brett Wilson | Winner of the 2018 National Startup Canada Lifetime Achievement Award
“Entrepreneurs believe in themselves and the rights and dignity of others – which is critical to me in building great businesses.”
An active investor for more than thirty years, Brett is best known as a fan-favourite on CBCs hit show, Dragons’ Den. But his successes earn him recognition far beyond the screen.
Since 1993, the investment firm he co-founded has participated in thousands of financing, merger and acquisition projects totaling over two hundred billion dollars.
Today he is the Chairman of Canoe Financial, which manages nearly five billion dollars across diverse investment portfolios.
Also a celebrated philanthropist, Brett has given his voice to and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for many causes including mental health advocacy and cancer and alzheimer’s research.
Brett Wilson is a Canadian icon who continues to lead Canada toward a prosperous future.
SN: What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
BW: Chasing entrepreneurial dreams was a middle burner for me (some small projects) until 1991 when I co-founded Wilson Mackie & Co as my first startup – focused on investment banking advisory services. This group because the Corporate Finance team at FirstEnergy when we launched that firm in 1993.
SN: What is the biggest lesson you have learned to date?
BW: Work/life balance is challenging. Unfortunately this was a challenging lesson for me to learn. I felt that if I was successful in business that I could provide a great life for my family, but I later learnt that it was the opposite of what my family cared about. I missed out on enjoying my amazing family for many years because I was so set on what I then felt was the right definition of success. It took many years and lots of work to gain a family back and I am lucky that I was one of the ones that was able to do so – I have now redefined success and know that life is the most important element of having a work/life balance.
SN: What advice do you have to those starting up today?
BW: Study as much as you can about marketing, entrepreneurship and philanthropy before starting any business because the integration of these areas are far more applicable than we might think when starting out. You have nothing if you cannot market your business or product at a profit, it is important to have the mindset and know what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Philanthropy is the best opportunity to give back all a while creating brand recognition in the community.
SN: What is the one thing you think we need to do as a nation, today, to position Canada as a global innovation and entrepreneurial leader?
BW: Teach marketing, entrepreneurship and philanthropy to our youth of all ages – the combined courses result in empowerment – it’s that simple.
SN: What is your message to the world?
BW: Entrepreneurs are NOT risk takers – but rather people – who with experience – view risk differently. They believe in themselves and the rights and dignity of others – which is critical to me in building great businesses.