Thursday, September 08, 2016

On its 50th birthday, Star Trek still matters to entrepreneurs -- and the world

So it’s the 50th anniversary of Star Trek.

As the baby boomers grew up and embraced entrepreneurship, I was surprised to learn how many successful business-builders were rabid Trek fans. One entrepreneur even named his company “Star” to honour the show. He, like many others I met, was inspired by Star Trek’s hopeful vision of the future, its embrace of diversity and inclusiveness, and its core values of science, peace and discovery. Entrepreneurs embrace its lessons in leadership, diplomacy, and solving problems using your imagination at least as often as your phaser.

It was easy to be negative in the 1960s and ’70s, as issues such as crime, racism, unjust wars, and the atom bomb hung like black bunting over the world. But Star Trek rejected those petty divisions, and foresaw a universe based on equality, collaboration and optimism – the same values espoused by so many of today’s ambitious tech startups.

It seems to me that today’s geopolitical struggles – right vs left, democracies vs radical fundamentalists – reflect the same division now: between people who see things getting better, and those who see the world falling into decay and despair. A gulf lies between people who embrace and advance societal change, and those who fear the future.

Star Trek was one of the first TV shows to regularly address important issues of race, society and politics. In its message of hope, it echoed that of Franklin D. Roosevelt: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Roosevelt went on to describe fear as the “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

If a society does not advance it decays.

What a good word Roosevelt chose: “Advance.” It’s pretty much synonymous with “Boldly Go.”

Trek On, captains and crew, for another 50 years.

In a lighter vein, below is a poster reprising a column I wrote in PROFIT magazine 20 years ago: “Everything I know about business I could have learned from Star Trek .”

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Razor Suleman's Big Ambitions

Toronto entrepreneur Razor Suleman first got in my sights through Snap Promotions, a promotional-products company that started in his dorm room at Wilfrid Laurier University as a supplier of student t-shirts. That company evolved into Achievers, an employee-engagement platform for organizations wanting to boost motivation and corporate culture.

Razor has always been humble, curious, passionate, and driven - the best kind of entrepreneur. Last year, he successfully sold Achievers, and started a new career: as a champion and a catalyst for Canadian entrepreneurship.

My Financial Post column this week looks at how Razor is trying to strengthen Canada's entrepreneurial ecosystem, through his own efforts and through the Next 36, where he today takes up the mantle of CEO. If you've been following my work, you know the Next 36 is an ambitious program to jump-start the creation of high-impact entrepreneurs, and now its mandate is expanding in exciting new directions. 

You'll also learn why Razor didn't mean to sell his company.
You can read the story here: 

Entrepreneur incubator Next 36 hires its first CEO in tech millionaire Razor Suleman

And take 2 minutes to watch the accompanying video, which includes Razor's tips on how to improve your own team's culture and motivation!