BNN Bloomberg is exploring the formative summer jobs that helped shape the careers of Canadian business titans. A former “Dragon” on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, Bruce Croxon attributes his summers spent planting trees in BC as the foundation to his success.
Bruce co-founded Lavalife in 1987, where he helped lead the company’s growth from four to 600 employees, achieving revenue of just under $100 million. In 2004, he led its sale for a stunning $180 million. Since then, Bruce has been active as both an investor and advisor in early stage companies in the technology and hospitality sectors, continuing to expand the reach of his entrepreneurial successes.
He now sits at the helm of Round 13, a company dedicated to investment in growth stage digital Canadian companies, and co-hosts The Disruptors on BNN and CTV, a weekly show spotlighting Canadian business.
BNN Bloomberg got the scoop on how Bruce went from planting trees to becoming a cutting-edge tech leader:
Q: What about the tree planting?
A: We worked 14-hour days, three weeks on and then a day off to get supplies and then go back into the bush. But we got paid by how many trees you could put in the ground. So we’d plant upwards of 3,000 trees a day at say 10, 12 cents a tree on average. So you could make $300 to $400 a day. It was a very physically-demanding job, but it was extremely lucrative.
I genuinely did enjoy that work. You’re out in beautiful nature. It was very, very hard but it was instantly rewarding and you could control your own destiny. In my career, I’ve been drawn most to occupations where you can control your own destiny, and I think that that’s a big part of being an entrepreneur.
Q: How did these jobs inform what came next for you?
The good thing about tree planting was that you could make enough in one summer to basically do whatever you wanted the rest of the year. So I ended up spending a year-and-a-half on the road just exploring the world, which opened my eyes to how different people did things and lived their lives. It was very formative in terms of my character.
Then I came back and started different startups, just trying to take different runs at starting businesses, and they were all hard. I needed to remember how hard it was to put in 3,000 trees in a day and just get up and do it again the next morning.
Q: What was your first entrepreneurial success?
A: The first one that I had a chance to really scale turned out to be Lavalife, which we built over 15 years — 600 people employed, $100-million-plus in revenue — that we were able to exit in 2004.
Q: What’s your advice for young people who want to start something of their own?
A: Pick what you love because you’re going to have to work even harder. Unlike when I started, the technology doesn’t keep other people out of the business. The cost has come out of it — there are no secrets, and that means you have to move quickly and work hard. And it’s a lot easier to be putting in time on your business on a Sunday if you are genuinely interested in the subject matter you’re working on.
Watch the video to learn more:
Bruce Croxon shares informed insights into what it takes to succeed in today’s demanding entrepreneurial environment. He speaks on the importance of collaboration, innovation, an open mind, and the need to stay on the cusp of technology when going after your business dreams.
Interested in learning more about Bruce and what he can bring to your next event? Email us at [email protected].