“CIOs, you are in the right place, at the right time.” Bruce Croxon at CIO Peer Forum 2017

By: Li-Ling Chang, Guest Contributor 

It’s not everyday that you get to introduce a speaker with a video reel. But it happened on day two of the CIO Peer Forum 2017.. The video clip started rolling and it was “The Disruptors”.

Bruce Croxon, former Dragon, Entrepreneur and co-host of the Disruptors, walked on the stage after the video was done and told us to watch the show. What an exciting way to start the day. 

Bruce Croxon is the co-founder of dating website Lavalife and a former dragon on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, who left the show to focus on his latest business venture: Round 13 Capital, a growth-stage venture capital firm that seeks to invest in Canadian companies in the technology and digital sector. 

Bruce said he was surprised that many of his CIO friends told him that people don’t know what CIOs do. He thought CIOs are some of the smartest people out there. “I’ve been fooled by people like you on how technology actually works,” he said.

The Most Profound Change

When thinking about change and disruption prior to the event, Bruce went to his dad, now in his 70s, and asked “what’s the most profound change in your life?” His dad then began to describe how he would never forget the sound of the propeller pushing the water in breaking the waves. For him, the world shrunk when the motor engine was invented.

Inspired by his dad’s answer, Bruce looked at the changes that technology had brought.

First he thought about the invention of the Internet. The Internet’s capability of connecting people has shrunk the world even more.

Second came from the sheer amount of data generated from all the connected devices that we now have. “We generated more data last year alone than all the data accumulated in the history of mankind,” he quoted from a study.

But how can we make effective use of this Big Data? This is what the disruptors are good at.

What does this disruptive age mean to us? It means different things to different perspectives.

As a consumer – there’s never been a better time to be a consumer. “I don’t need to drive anymore in downtown Toronto as long as Uber is around,” he said. The vast majority of disruptors like AirBnB and Uber don’t actually make anything new, they simply focus on finding new ways to connect people.

As a tech entrepreneur – this is the best and worst time to be a tech entrepreneur he said. The cost of development is much lower because cloud services are so widely available, so technology is not a barrier to entry anymore.

For a small and medium business – there are tools to help you become very traceable. You just need a good CIO.

For a large enterprises – this is a big problem, noting that IBM has just posted the 29th consecutive revenue decline.

The Secret to Lavalife’s Success

Looking back to Lavalife, Bruce came up with the following that he believes contributed to its success:
●    Technology acted as a barrier to entry – the Internet.
●    Passion. This is the one piece of advice that he’d give to young entrepreneurs. Make sure you really want this because you may have to work a lot including evenings and weekends.
●    Agility. They had a dating SME who had 2 dates a day and used the feedback from his dates to improve the product..
●    At the right place, at the right time.
●    Discipline of having a vision. The difference in performance in companies that have this versus those that don’t is night and day.
●    Core values. This can be part of your mission statement or vision.
●    Open mindedness. This was critical to online dating. If the person did not believe in premarital sex, this person was not a fit for Lavalife.

Technology changes so fast now. “If you’re not comfortable with change, you need to find a way, or companies won’t be able to find something for you.” he said.

CIOs are in the right place, at the right time. These is a perfect storm coming. It’s our time to grab talents around the world and help us grow. This is a great time to be in Canada.

A few hightlights from the Q&A session following Croxon’s keynote:

Q. How to be more entrepreneurial internally in a large organization, or essentially, ‘intrepreneurial’?

A:It’s the difference in the sayings “if it ain’t broke, don’t break it” versus “if it ain’t broke, break it and try something new.” At the end of the day, it really comes down to people. Look to 3 years from now and see how that environment is different than now. Then look around you and see if you have the right people to get there.

Q. How to balance cultural fitness (people who think like me) with embracing diversity?

A: It’s important to have both hard and soft skills in your team. People who have answers to everything are rare and are becoming extinct. So while it’s good to find people who ‘think like me’, you also need to find people who are good at things that you’re not good at.

Q. How to manage quick growth?
A: Focus. Focus. Focus. You need to figure out what the priorities are and have a culture that let you say – “good idea, but not a priority right now.’

Li-Ling Chang volunteered at the CIO Peer Forum 2017 and is a versatile front end software developer with Online Business Systems. In addition to actively researching new technologies, Li-Ling is currently building her expertise in User Experience design to help clients create seamless digital experiences throughout their internal and external services and products.