Startup Hustler to Shark Tank, and now Venture Investor
I am excited to announce that I have joined the Luge Capital investment team, based in Toronto. After a whirlwind of almost a dozen interviews, I had met the team, ran through a gauntlet of fintech specialists, and pitched a deal to a mock investment committee. The team is tenacious, driven, and respected as fintech experts. I’m looking forward to working alongside them and getting even more entrenched in the fintech ecosystem and venture community across North America. My road to Luge zigged and zagged through startups, Dragons, Sharks, and the Big Apple. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be here today.
I got my first taste of the startup grind in high school. As a summer gig, I joined a Silicon Valley/Ottawa-based startup called GestureTek. We created interactive displays with computer vision, including some of the first ever touch screens that were as big as picnic tables! We had an open culture, a small driven team, and the unmatched feeling of accomplishment that came from completing a challenging project with finite resources. We moved in melody.
I followed my technical drive and went off to study Chemical Engineering at Queen’s University. In an effort to save money on long-distance calls back home, I set up a VoIP server in my apartment. My friends (and then their friends) heard about it and wanted the same set-up. Almost overnight, I had created my own lemonade stand. I pitched it to a local entrepreneurship program, which offered me funding to develop the business. Although the business fizzled as the VoIP industry saturated, it set the foundation for my next startup, which I started a few months later while in my last year at Queen’s.
I married my zeal for YouTube videos with my inner Ari Gold and created an online media agency with a friend. We connected YouTube celebrities with large consumer brands that were hungry to reach millennials. With an explosive start, I quickly developed the grit that entrepreneurs need in order to succeed. Endless calls and meetings for customer acquisition, late nights for product development, and many interviews to find people as passionate as us to work with.
Like many entrepreneurs, I was juggling school with my entrepreneurial nightlife. While growing the media agency, I spent my summers in the university’s chemistry labs and ended up with a patent to my name. Through the filing process, I quickly saw the immense value of combining my knowledge of engineering with the law, and applying the combination to business. After receiving my engineering degree, I joined the dual law/business program at the University of Toronto. I was off to the races.
I put these skills to work when I joined Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec to work on their Shark Tank and Dragon’s Den deals. That was an awakening for me. From a thorough review of nearly one hundred businesses, I learned the ins and outs of angel and venture investing, especially the basis of how investors can provide real value to entrepreneurs beyond just capital. I saw firsthand how deals were made through the lens of each Shark and how the true value-add of a good investor is their ability to help the business grow through guidance in operations, marketing, finance, as well as being a good sounding board.
After university, I became a practising lawyer at Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, often regarded as the leading provider of legal services to entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Based out of New York, I worked on everything from six-figure angel financings to ten-figure exits. Having worked on both sides of the border, I can say that entrepreneurs should be ready for a subtle, yet strong culture shock when expanding in either direction. Negotiations, hiring, and customer expectations are all different. Among my favorite activities was helping Canadian entrepreneurs expand their operations to the United States, which is a natural progression for many growing startups. From my vantage point, I saw fintech as one of the most interesting and promising sectors for hockey stick growth for years to come.
Taking a step back, I realized that my biggest thrill was helping extraordinary visions become a reality. I wanted to leverage the knowledge I had gathered as an entrepreneur, investor, and lawyer to help startups succeed. Hence my decision to join Luge Capital. Luge stood out to me because it is built on the pillars of helping fintech entrepreneurs reach their full potential through our network, experience, and trust. Each member brings a wealth of experience in technology, financial services, investing, strategy, sales, marketing, and of course entrepreneurship. My legal experience now complements that list, which is a must to consider in any fintech startup given the evolving regulatory landscape. On top of all of this, a laser focus and deep experience in fintech separated Luge from other funds that I considered.
The best investors provide more than just money. They are passionate about helping the teams they partner with, have knowledge and connections in the industry, and are enthusiastic about helping with the hurdles that every entrepreneur faces as they scale. I am proud to be a part of Luge’s mission of building fintech champions.