The Importance of Entrepreneurial Education
- There needs to be more assistance in helping entrepreneurs figure out where they can find the support programs they need.
- Awareness of the benefits of entrepreneurship should start early, with educational institutions playing a key role in spreading that awareness.
- Entrepreneurs of today may need more assistance in getting their businesses up and running due to rising costs.
Young entrepreneurs should be encouraged to pursue their dreams, especially since entrepreneurship can greatly benefit Canada’s economy in the hunt for newer and better innovations. On top of that, Canada is also a great place to start a business, with many support programs in place.
Tell us about yourself and PureFacts Financial Solutions.
I am Robert Madej, the founder and CEO of PureFacts Financial Solutions. We started as a completely bootstrap firm in 2010 and grew out of a custom software development company that I had started years earlier. Today, we are lucky enough to be considered a leader in the global wealth-tech market. Our firm is recognized for solutions in revenue management, fee billing and client reporting, and our clients are a who’s who of enterprise wealth management firms and asset management firms in the financial services sector.
How would you describe Canada’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, and its strengths and weaknesses?
That is a great question, Tim. The Canadian ecosystem is quite strong in many regards. We have many great incubators in Canada as well as growth and scale-up programs. We have strong government grants in many industries including software. We have mentors and a variety of investors for whatever level a company is at to help take a business to the next stage. There are mainstream capital providers along with different lenders, banks and secondary lenders. Canadian governmental and educational institutions are all incredibly receptive and excited about growing businesses and entrepreneurship here.
There are plusses and minuses that depend on where you are in Canada. We are lucky enough at PureFacts to be in the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor, which is very well funded, with lots of startups in that area.
“The biggest challenge for PureFacts when we launched was our lack of knowledge of the amazing support programs available in Canada.”
The biggest challenge for PureFacts when we launched was our lack of knowledge of the amazing support programs available in Canada. Back then, I was a recent graduate from the University of Waterloo. The first things I did were to write a $5,000 check, set up an office, and start looking for clients and contracts to develop products. I always dreamed about owning my own business, but I had no idea about the most basic things like cash flow, profitability, how to raise capital or how to find mentors. At that point, I was not able to take advantage of the amazing programs and offerings that the Canadian ecosystem offers because I just did not know about them.
One thing we can do to help the ecosystem is we can create more ways for entrepreneurs to access support programs through different institutions getting the word out. We need to talk more about how great entrepreneurship is and the kind of value great businesses can create for a country like Canada.
How did the CBGF investment come about and how will that allow you to grow PureFacts?
This year, we were looking at how we can expand further and grow in the US market. One part of our plan to grow in the US was through organic growth and investing in sales and product development. Another part of our strategy was to raise some capital in order to do mergers and acquisitions M&A in the US.
We started looking for a capital partner early in 2021 and after a false start with a US firm, we got introduced to CBGF. Right from the beginning, CBGF seemed like our kind of partner. They thought like Canadians, shared values with PureFacts and we were able to figure out a way to close the equity financing with them this past December. So far, our relationship with CBGF and the work we have been able to do together have been fabulous.
“To be more competitive in the future economy, Canada must have more firms like CBGF available to Canadian scaleups so we can keep ownership of IPs,”
To be more competitive in the future economy, Canada must have more firms like CBGF available to Canadian scaleups so we can keep ownership of IPs and keep firms within Canada. It would have been very easy at the stage we are at now for PureFacts to consider selling some or all of the firm to US partners with very deep pockets, but my wife and I are both very proud Canadians. We feel grateful for being born in this country. We both had single moms and we benefitted greatly from being in Canada in terms of access to hospitals, education and even the ability to start PureFacts. We would love to give back and the opportunity to grow our business here on a global scale and create future employment for Canada is an incredibly humbling opportunity for us that we want to take full advantage of.
“Canadian businesses need to have partners like CBGF that can support Canadian values and allow us to be competitive against bigger US firms,”
As Canada thinks about how to keep Canadian firms and founders in Canada and excited about Canada, Canadian businesses need to have partners like CBGF that can support Canadian values and allow us to be competitive against bigger US firms that can often offer more money in an acquisition situation.
Who has to do what to better support Canadian innovators, startups and scaleups?
Canada has a friendly government, a good legal system, leading educational institutions and capital providers, which all make for a strong backbone for business in Canada. We are also known for world-class research institutes like the Vector Institute, which houses world-class researchers in Canada. Our close proximity to the number one market in the world, the US market, is also a great advantage, as is the quality of life throughout Canada from the big cities to the smaller towns and countryside.
Canada is in a great position to take advantage of our innovation ecosystem and make it even stronger in the years ahead.
First, we need to get more young people excited about this opportunity. One of the things that allowed me to go on this journey is that I have always had the dream of being an entrepreneur. However, in high school, the idea of being an entrepreneur was not greeted with enthusiasm. The idea was that I should become an engineer, accountant or possibly an actuary, and I did not really understand much about those jobs. I always felt that it would be cool to run my own software business.
Things have improved a bit since that time, but education on entrepreneurship has not yet improved to the level we need to ensure Canada leads in the innovations that will transform the globe.
We need to get high schools and universities excited about teaching this. Let us spread the awareness that entrepreneurship is a viable journey for your career, and for the right people with the right make-up, entrepreneurship can become the journey of a lifetime. You get a chance to live your dream, build something that you are proud of and contribute to a growing economy in one of the best countries in the world.
“We must encourage people to understand and consider entrepreneurship as a viable career and provide them with more resources at the start.“
We must encourage people to understand and consider entrepreneurship as a viable career and provide them with more resources at the start. Part of that dovetails into the cost of certain things in Canada, which are a little bit higher and are making the entrepreneurship journey a little more difficult. When I graduated from the University of Waterloo 30 years ago, I did not have any debt. I was able to get through university, get into a co-op program and graduate without any debt, which helped me be able to start a business. Today, it is a little more challenging because tuition has gone up quite a bit. Perhaps some programs can be done around managing tuition and encouraging entrepreneurs, such as forgiving school debt when someone creates a startup and employs their fifth employee, as an example.
What can Canada do to better support its businesses in terms of commercialization?
Different skill sets and teams need to be brought to the table to make commercialization work. For example, both when I started PureFacts and my first custom software development business before PureFacts, I was a math geek and a computer engineer. I had studied pure mathematics at university and I loved programming, but I had no idea about sales, marketing and product development. These are things I had to learn along the way.
What allowed us to be successful are the various partners I met along the way. I had various business partners and employees who were skilled at things that I was not skilled at. We were able to assemble a team of people that allowed us to tackle the three main problems, the first of which was recognizing the market and the problem you are serving. This falls into business analytics. Then comes the product development challenge, which requires software programmers to develop the product that you need to sell. Finally, there is the sales team, customer support team and marketing team to develop the product. Because we were able to put that together, we were able to achieve a modest level of commercial success, which allowed us to continue to invest in the business and hire more people.
“The government can set up a marketplace or social network platform to connect people with different skill-sets looking to start a business.”
I was lucky enough to have these people in my life and to meet them on the journey along the way. The government can set up a marketplace or social network platform to connect people with different skill-sets looking to start a business.
What advice do you have for young Canadian entrepreneurs?
First, whenever I talk to a young entrepreneur, and I am lucky enough to talk to a few every year and sometimes a few in a month, my advice is always the same: if you have a passion, go for it. I know it can sometimes seem daunting and challenging but Canada is a great country to start a business. What I always tell people is that their learning will be unsurpassed. Whether or not your venture succeeds or not, what entrepreneurs learn along their journey will benefit their entire lives and careers.
I would recommend to any budding entrepreneur to build their network as early as possible because it is quite lonely being an entrepreneur. You are often the only one in your office. Some people might have one or two co-founders with them. The more people you have to bounce ideas off of and whom you can go out for dinner or drinks with for support when you are feeling down, the better it will be because you can draw on the strength of other people