As co-founder of Lavalife and former CBC Dragon, Bruce Croxon has a long history in the Canadian tech world. However, as Managing Partner of Round 13 Capital and co-host of BNN’s The Disruptors, he’s more tapped in today than ever. Read on to see his global idea for tech and innovation.
How did you get involved in tech?
Oh my goodness, that’s going back a way!
I am a lifelong entrepreneur, fueled by the desire to build a company of my own. I ended up in tech because of that desire.
I started at an interactive voice response business in late 1980s. This was beginnings of what would morph into LavaLife. The LavaLife brand was eventually created in 2000, and I stayed on as CEO until mid-2006.
After that, I was an active angel investor. I noticed, however, that Canada had a ton of opportunity that was bigger than angel bets, so I looked to start something that goes after the opportunity in a more formal way.
Round 13 Capital was founded in 2013, initially using my own capital. We did our first close in April 2016 and we have now closed $95 million in the fund.
In the meantime, I also brought the idea of Disruptors to BNN, which launched in October 2015, with CTV picking up the show in late 2016.
You have 3 hours to make someone fall in love with Toronto – where do you take them and what do you show them?
(Laughing) – I don’t get out a lot. I have two kids, so a lot of my time is spent in hockey rinks and soccer fields.
We’d start with a bike in the Don Valley or a walk on the beaches, cooling off with a drink at the Broadview Hotel. I’ve watched this building get transformed from a strip joint to one of the most beautiful pieces of boutique architecture in the city with a killer rooftop.
Then we’d close out at the ACC for a Raptors game, if it’s basketball season. It’s one of the best sports experiences in the world.
Elevate Toronto is founded on three principles (#DiversityIsOurStrength, #DisruptTogether, #ItsOurTime). Which one resonates most with you?
The one that hits me the strongest is #ItsOurTime. We’re in an age where tech and data is so connected such that age old industries can’t help but be disrupted.
We’re starting to get second and third time entrepreneurs who are engaged in giving back – both money and mentorship.
We also have some of the best engineering talent in the world – which is the backbone of what tech entrepreneurs are trying to achieve.
And the money is starting to flow. Capital is a little slow to follow opportunities in Canada – we typically don’t move as quickly as other places, but it’s moving now. I’ve never seen anything like this perfect storm in my nearly 30 years of entrepreneurship.
What is your “global idea” for tech and innovation?
My “magic wand wave” would be to have Toronto and Canada take their place as a global epicentre of technology value and job creation.
In order to do this, we need capital in growth stage tech in Canada for those bigger cheques after a company has traction. I don’t want to rely on the US to round out our rounds. We should handle that, and keep the returns, here.
We also need to realize that we can hold our own with anyone in the world. We used to see Canadian companies selling early. With a renewed confidence comes the ability to hang on if you’ve got something that’s valuable.
What should the world know about the Toronto tech community?
That we’re open for business. That Toronto is a fabulous place to build a company because we have the best engineering talent in the world – and the rest of what you need is rapidly coming into place.
And they should know Toronto a great place to hang out, making it the best place to build a business from both a cultural and business standpoint.