I run all our mobile shopping products globally, out of Waterloo, but I work in Toronto a day or so a week.
I got an undergrad degree in computer science at the University of Waterloo, and followed that with a master's in business, entrepreneurship and technology (MBET). I was looking for a business education, and I'd been involved in a start-up through university, but I wasn't really interested in the super-academic MBA framework. I was looking for something different.
The MBET was in its second year when I came across it. It sounded kind of odd, but it seemed like the right fit. The concept of teaching entrepreneurship - which is very real-world, experiential learning - within an academic environment is challenging. In a lot of MBA schools, there's a finance option and an entrepreneurship option, and I don't think that really works. Doing a start-up is so different from working at a big company, it demands changes in every aspect of your education.
For example, if you were designing a marketing strategy for Pepsi, the assumption is that you'd have a few million dollars to spend. The scale you're talking about is very different from three people in an incubator with $50,000 in their bank account.
In 2008, I founded a company called PushLife. We were a digital media platform, so we built software that we licensed to mobile carriers like Virgin Media and Bell Canada. We powered their content systems and had one of the best user experiences for purchasing and consuming content on mobile. At the time, Google was making a big investment in e-commerce. In 2011, they acquired us.
The MBET program gives you a basic education in business on simple things like how to read a financial statement, which you would get at any MBA school. Where the MBET was different was in the people it attracted. You get to be in a class with other entrepreneurial-minded folks, which makes a big difference.
I've spoken at MBA schools and assumed that people there aspire to be entrepreneurs, but it's not true. Most people I've spoken to aspire to get a job at a large company.
A venture capitalist was brought in every week during the MBET program - a successful entrepreneur, and sometimes an unsuccessful entrepreneur, with great lessons to share. At the end of the day, there's nothing like doing something to get good at it - there's only so much you can learn in the classroom. But those talks offered the stuff you couldn't read in a textbook, and ultimately that's what I was looking for.
MBAs in general give you the opportunity to secure the right first job, and from that point on it's what you make of it. It gives you a solid base, but 10 years out you are where you are because of the things you've done, not because of a program.