Investor – Coach
Cam Crowder | Investor – Coach

"You have to be okay with failing and get comfortable with it and I think that's probably the biggest thing."

- Cam Crowder

Cam Crowder on using metrics for success.

Talk Takeaways

For this episode, Jeffery will be taking on the hockey coach from Canada who is set to make amazing things happen in the VC World. Cam Crowder will walk us through how he translated lessons from hockey into his success as an Business Coach and Angel Investor.

More than his expertise in the sport and team handling, Cam shared how the principles and strategies in handling teams can also be applied in business. Aside from that, he talks about how he discovered Angel Investing after leaving Tim Horton’s, and how his competitive nature led him to his success in the Venture Capital world, and eventually in Silicon Valley at Venture University.

Topics Discussed:

  • Cam’s employment history
  • Cam as a Hockey Player
  • Cam as a Hockey Coach
  • Life Lessons from Hockey
  • How Cam manages employees: Hiring, KPIs, Statistics
  • Lessons learned from the Franchise Industry at Tim Horton’s: Licensing
  • Working in Venture University
  • Cam as an Angel Investor
  • Success story of a company that Cam had worked with

About

Cam Crowder is a member of the Equation Angels selection committee, a partner in a family business that operates six Tim Hortons in Essex, and part-owner of the Leamington Flyers. Recently, he joined the Frontier Tech Team – U.S. & Europe at Vu Venture Partners.

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery: Welcome to the Supporters Fund Ask An Investor. I’m your host Jeffery Potvin. today let’s please welcome Cam Crowder. How are you, sir?
Cam: I’m doing great JP, thanks.
Jeffery: awesome. Well, we’re super excited to have you here today. There’s a million reasons why I’m excited to have this conversation. From working in franchises to owning and operating businesses, to selling properties, there’s so many great things that you’re up to and that you’re doing. But more importantly now, the stuff that you’re working on in the VC world, which to me is super exciting too. So, I think we’ll take a step back and the way we kick off our show is we want to learn a little bit about yourself, your background. the things that you’ve been doing that got you where you are today and then one thing about you that nobody would know.
Cam: Okay. For me, I spent 12 years in the Tim Hortons franchise world the last seven years. in the last franchise world, as a franchisee, I really enjoyed that. And when I saw that the industry was going, the turnover was getting crazy. We had a 100 turnover year and I was looking at different avenues to help that in the business and which led me to a company that was a Silicon Valley company that actually moved to Windsor that was doing industrial time studies and got involved in the tech side with that and led to an investment there. And all of a sudden, I’m an Angel Investor and I just fell in love with it. So, fast forward, two years now, I’m at Venture University here in Silicon Valley.
Jeffery: amazing. And one thing about you that no one would know?
Cam: one thing about me that no one knows, I do Pilates in the morning.
Jeffery: awesome. Yeah. That’s pretty good.
Cam: a good way to get the body moving.
Jeffery: Yeah, absolutely. And what got you started in Pilates?
Cam: Well, I just started working out pretty heavy. And then, I push myself. So, what’s the hardest thing I could do? And I looked at Pilates as a six foot three 225 pound guy. I figured it would be probably the hardest thing for me to do and just started doing it. And it’s been great. It’s good for my back and keeps me in shape. And it’s a good sweat.
Jeffery: Well, you mentioned that it’s good for your back. So, I’m going for the audience. I’m going to share that you were also and have been, and I believe you’re still active today as a hockey coach. And you were a player as well. Is that correct to say?
Cam: Yeah. I played junior hockey and then got involved in coaching and did that while I was doing Tim Horton’s for 10 to 12 years. not coaching anymore, I’m still an owner with the two flyers junior b team there and we do a lot of good things just trying to help develop players. Man, we’ve had a couple players move on to division one scholarship. So, it’s a good way to give back to a sport that gave a lot to me growing up.
Jeffery: amazing. I also played hockey, junior hockey. way back in the day so I’m a big fan of the space and area. And there was one thing and I was interesting enough I kept saying your last name. And I’m like, I think that’s an NHL hockey name. This is big and it always steered in my mind but I think what I liked about all of the things that I read and learned about yourself is that, as an athlete, you also became a coach. And now you coach businesses and you help people. So, you took a lot of your learning going through hockey. And we’ll call it being the driver to a lot of learnings that you had working in a sport you loved, finding a way to go in front of everybody by being the coach. And now, you’re on the opposite side of that. all these learning that you’re getting, how much do you translate that into this entrepreneurial side of things?
Cam: It sounds like it’s going to be pretty incredible to drive that JP. 100%. I would say I might have learned more coaching than I did in Tim Horton’s. And a lot of that was just when you’re coaching your business in the paper every week, your pants are completely down and they know how well you’re doing it. There’s the one part for me that I really understood or learned through the process of coaching. just how to get a group together. And coming from sport as a head coach, that’s probably the most important thing – that everybody’s on the same page. You need to be organized every day. And if you’re not organized, players read into that immediately. And I think for me and my journey coach, it was to get organized. make sure you have a plan. a lot of those things led into my business career getting better because I was doing those things. And what’s more fun to do than be a hockey coach and be involved in junior hockey and play a playoff round, go get in a playoff run and stuff that. So, I learned a ton. And it’s still nice to be able to be involved in it as an owner, not that I admit a lot of games recently, I’m out here in San Francisco, but you always check the stats. And it’s always good to see a young coach. We have their Dale Mitchell excel. So, sports is everything to me. To be honest, when it gets down to it, there are so many life lessons in it.
Jeffery: Well, I love that. And in being a young individual playing hockey, and looking up to your coach, to me, they were the god. The players were great, yeah. That guy’s the superstar, etc. It never really impressed me. It was about the strategy and how the coach would approach every game. And to me it looked man, that’s got to be a stressful job because he is the focal point or at least it was for me looking up to that person. I’m 15 to 14 years old looking up to my junior or a coach or whatever and I’m thinking man, this person’s got to be so knowledgeable and they’re really directing and they’re that conductor in the room. How did you find that? You were able to take that learning from being the young guy in the room and trying to learn from them and now flipping the stage around and saying I got to teach these young people to get together with my plan so that we can execute and win this in the end. That’s got to be pretty tough to get 30 people to align to your initiatives because it really comes down to the teams there to win. But I’m sure they’re too young to really understand how that comes together and your job is to really drive that home. And it’s to me that’s got to be quite the amazing effort to be able to pull that off year after year.
Cam: Yeah, I think first of all, when I first started coaching, I wasn’t a very good coach. And that it was a learned ability that I over time, just kept getting better, iterating and getting better. But I think the biggest thing I learned was every single person on the team has to have a role. And you need to celebrate those roles. So, even if you had your first line left winger, the guy scores 50. Yeah, that’s great. But you also need to get a kill penalty using block shots and you need the trainer to be on board and you need the guy that’s filling up the water bottles to have good culture. And I think that all those things are you try to really highlight when someone does something well in their role and when they’re not meeting the expectations there that you need to give them a pat on the butt and say like, hey, time to pick it up here. This is how we do things here. And I think that again for business, it’s no different. Everybody has roles. Everybody needs to execute on their job. And hockey is no different in learning. I love that every person has a role and you need to celebrate that role. I think that’s a great line because I think a lot of the times in early stage businesses, when we’re building them, we tend to overlook the people that are on the team. We overlook the fact that every piece of this hiring process is instrumental to your success. So, just it is in getting that third line left winger to up their game, even though they’re playing 10 minutes a game instead of 30, that 10 minutes is so crucial. And how do you get them to feel just as empowered to put the excel outcome that you need in order to win and get to that end goal which is winning it all. So, tying that team down. Cohesiveness is pretty important.
Jeffery: How did you go about doing that? How did you get everybody in the team to feel just as important? And maybe you didn’t do it in year one. But year five, when you were having that success. What was the driving force behind it?
Cam: I think it’s culture, Like, I think it’s everyday living and walking it. And I think maybe me, I wasn’t really a super high-end guy. I was probably in that second third line guy grinded out. So, I appreciate the people that are doing the things that are difficult to do. And in business, it’s no different. there’s blocking. They think of the old cliché, blocking and tackling. And that it’s not the fancy stuff that typically gets it done, it’s the things that are ugly and messy. And when things aren’t going well, you have to get in there and dig in. You just need to really, I said, celebrate those things. maybe, they feel they’re small, celebrate the heck out of them. And then that builds your culture up. And business hockey, it’s the same thing. Does that go to the coach to put together initiatives or goals? So this is the same thing for the founder, the CEO, the group to put together those metrics that will allow people to hit those successes and then at the end of the day, celebrate them every time with favorite drinks. do whatever it takes.
Jeffery: Yeah, you got it. KPIs?
Cam: You wouldn’t be, like, ‘hey, okay guys, these are the KPIs, okay? ours here. we go. Let’s see. But an example in hockey that we do is we want to be a physical team. So, we would track our hits. everybody would. everybody’s hits would be posted on a board. We know how many shots they blocked and we really put a focus on being hard to play against. And I think it’s the same thing in a business. You want your business to be gritty. You want people especially in the startup world. It’s all a hands-on deck. You can have the title of a CEO or CFO, but when you’re early, you’re doing everything, you’re taking the garbage out. And you need to make sure that you’re celebrating those things. And I was lucky to be able to experiment both in the business side and hockey side and make mistakes and learn from them. And that’s how you get better.
Jeffery: I that and totally agree. And you you’ve talked about putting KPIs together to help you enhance the ability for your team to come together. should this start from day one? then as an early entrepreneur, you should start looking for this type of coaching experience from somebody that can guide this. because maybe a young founder might not look at the world the same way and think we need structure and process now. well we’re only with us boss. It’s just the two of us. So, how do you get people to really say, ‘what, yeah, we’re only two but this is the best time to do this if we start to build in this process and show our KPIs and have these wins.’ We’ll carry this through our culture and in five years, when there are 500 people, we’ll build in such a nice cleaning data process that the numbers are going to speak for themselves.
Cam: Yeah, I think when we grew up, especially sports, it was the coach who told you what you were. your boss told you what to do and he just accepted it. I think that we’re in a different world now. So, you need to show not only what you can do for your team or your company. But you also have to show the individual how they’re going to succeed and what it’s going to be for them and what they’re going to get out of that. And whether you’re in a company and you’re looking at Tim Horton’s world, we really tried to develop young people into different higher positions. We had a lot of people that became doctors and psychologists and engineers and things like that. That’s a win. they’re moving on to something bigger. But at the same time, they’re adding value to our company and making drive-through times faster. The hockey side is the same thing. You wanted to make sure that they’re playing within the team structure. But you also want to make sure that they’re putting their points up so they can get a scholarship. or they can move on to wherever their dreams are. That’s the two-headed monster. I think in the world we’re in, that we need to have the team or the business side and we also need to make sure we’re highlighting the individual. You mentioned where the dreams are, so even to the young professional that you’re working with in hockey or in the startup world, they have somewhere that they want to be.
Jeffery: So, they wanted to be a doctor or whatever, that might be, and you mentioned that the world has changed. So, are people looking at themselves now when they’re going to play on a hockey team? that they’ve got stats. They want to hit you, mention counting body checks. So, are there players on the team that have body checks and pass corners? maybe how many times when the corner or whatever those stats are that really emphasize them because they want to get a scholarship to this university and they need these numbers. So, your goal is to say your job is just this. And now you can put a reel together that says what in the last 45 games I have been in the corner 682 times. I’ve got the puck out 60 those times etc. is that where the world’s going when it comes down to statistically utilizing data to prove why I’m valuable. because I’m thinking when I was playing junior, it was man that guy really got in the corner hard. Yeah, oh, he’s fast. I don’t think there was so much emphasis on my statistics on how many times I dug the puck out of the corner. It was how fast I got in the corner/ so I’m wondering if it’s really shifted a lot and saying hey, man I need to build some real value here. And the only way I’m going to succeed and get that scholarship is you need to help me make my numbers. That’s what’s most important to me. And that’s how I want to drive this relationship. That’s what’s happening nowadays.
Cam: Yeah, I think there’s so much ability to grab knowledge from anything. So, these kids are smart, they know what avenue they need to take. do they probably know more about coaching than most coaches? because they can just go on and see what a good coach is. literally they can go onto a website and find out. So, I think that you need to measure things. It gets better at anything. So, if you’re putting a focus on, if you’re a third line guy, he’s going to need to be a good penalty killer to move up. You need to find metrics that are going to help him understand whether he’s doing a good job or a bad job. And maybe taking the penalty kill number, or you’re even in a business isn’t granular enough to really dive into a specific role. So, I think it’s important that your stuff, and then I think it’s important that you communicate that to the player or the employee or the founder or whatever you’re dealing with of how they get to where they need to go and what little details are going to drive those success factors.
Jeffery: I think that’s brilliant.
Cam: And really the reason why I think this really makes a lot of value for every employee is that every employee can start to now become accountable to the data or the value that they’re bringing to the business. So, I sent 300 emails this month. I have replied to this. I have done these things because I think a lot of people lose the attention span on where they fit into a company. And they become this cog in the wheel or this mouse on the mousetrap reeling around in circles. And they get bothered by the fact that they’re not producing an outcome. But I think they all are producing outcomes. They just have never found a way to actually put metrics to it to prove why they’re valuable. So, when they’re going to apply for that next role, they can say, yes, I was a customer service rep. But I took over 5000 calls last year. I helped close over 4999 of those calls.
Jeffery: Wow! That’s impressive. And that’s in the one percentile of customer service reps at this time. So, maybe there is a lot to this data knowledge that you get from hockey and KPIs that you can bring through business, that people can start to focus on how do I build metrics around what I’m doing to keep proving that I bring a lot of value because I think this comes down to any business being successful is. You said, it’s every single individual. And how they really make up this whole as a business and drive that business forward. Yeah, I think it’s beginning with the end in mind. So, you have to take all the pieces you have and find out what they’re good at and then you need to find a way to measure it and then put the puzzle pieces together. And whether you’re setting your budgets and your company for your next year. you’re a coach and you’re setting up your next season. You really want to think about what players you have or employees you have on your team. And then how do you maximize it? How do you get the goals that you’re trying to attain as an organization? And how do the people inside of that, how are they going to help you get there? And then people know what they’re working towards? And I think that if you frame it in that way and then give them metrics monthly or weekly or whatever, you’re looking to attain it just gives them a sense of that, that they’re accomplishing something. And you’re not looking up at this big mountain. You have to tackle the whole thing in one piece. It breaks it up into small pieces and breaks it up into the people that are going to do those specific tasks and benchmark them. And I’ve had success doing that and I continually try to improve that with incentives and things that and that’s a great segue into what you ended up doing when you started working and building out the licensing model and franchising model. Its importance is that everything is a refined process and everything is about being really tight. I guess tight-knit to your end goal which is usually metrics and numbers. So, when you got into this space, what were the learnings that you got from being a franchise owner? What were the big learnings, one or two of them, that really emphasized that tenure that you did when you’re in that process? Was it focused? Was it a team? What really emphasized that experience? It’s definitely a team. I mean, Tim Horton’s world changed when 3g was introduced. So, we were very cowboy old school way to do it and when 3g came in it became very data centered. And I think that that was a good thing for me because it started. I’m a numbers guy so I really want to be able to put visibility on different things and when they came in, they had called it a global positioning system that essentially was a scorecard. out of a hundred of how your restaurants are operating. So, you can see your deficiencies really easily on this scorecard, that they really factored into different metrics as a franchisee. So, once you started to get the program in there, you just started to realize, if I pull this lever, this is going to go up. If I pull this lever, this is going to go down and you really understand what’s driving customer satisfaction, what’s driving your sales, how do you make that better, how do you get your drive through times down, different things. So, I think that would be the biggest thing – the visibility on different parts of your business and then different actions or corrective actions you’re using that are moving it up or down. And you just learn from it and I always use the example. I probably need to touch my hand on the stove to learn instead of someone telling me, that’s dope hot. And everybody has a different way of learning, so you’re creating muscle memory by the reaction that you got from the learning whereas others would just have this fear of going near it and never really experience it. But in their mind, they’re no, that’s bad. So, everybody has a different way of learning. I probably tend to say I would be the same way be like, ‘oh yeah it’s going to burn my hand.’ Yeah, I did burn my hand but it’s more of how much did it burn my hand? could I gloss my hand across this instead next time and still be able to do this? And then you test the limits because you’re always trying to figure out, you said, speed times. all these different things always come into your head around metrics. I love the data side. The brain works that same way but its optimization fixes changing improvements. And I think that plays a big role when you’re a franchisee because you’re always trying to reduce your overhead costs, reduce the problems that can occur before they do and focus on that end goal once again which is how do I get the most dollars out of the least amount of effort etc. throughout that process you’re building.
Jeffery: absolutely.
Cam: Yeah. And that’s a great thing about the franchise. They really teach you the systems of how you can’t have a franchise as successful as Tim Horton’s without some really solid systems in place. And it’s good to learn that. But on the other hand, you can’t. It’s more of managing the business and there’s not a lot of growth because essentially it is the demand. You can get them through a little bit quicker but it is about cost controls and labor costs and food costs and paper costs. And it’s an interesting business to get into and it’s a great way to learn how to run a solid well-oiled machine business. I do that. And anything you can get learning to learn how to better operate is going to be very important to anything you do in the future. operational people are tough to find. So, learning these types of things and the ropes are going to help you. Especially number crunching and figuring out where these little nuances are, you can correct and clean up so that you can make your business more valuable in the long run. It’s also going to be very helpful for any founder, especially if you’re going to kick off and start your own thing which moves you.
Jeffery: after leaving the franchise and moving into that space, you mentioned that you started to get into the angel investing side. Maybe you can share a little bit of what actually transpired to get you looking at angel deals? And now you’ve been in it for a couple years and you seem to be loving it and taking it to the next level. So, what was the driving force behind it?
Cam: Yeah. Honestly, when I was running Timmy’s I didn’t even really even know what angel investing was probably three years ago. at all. And I got involved with that Silicon Valley company and we were working daily. the one founder was a 30 under 30 Forbes guy, a really smart technical person. And just fell in love with this idea, creating technology and made an investment in their company. And the Weekend Group in Windsor found out about it and they invited me into the equation angel group. And being around some really smart people there, I got excited about the deal flowing and I put my hand up and said. If they need anything to be done, I’m happy to help out, which led to me getting involved in the selection committee and really meeting you there and seeing really how you start to filter through these companies. And just again, I got curious and got, okay, hold on here. How do I get involved in this world? And which led to different avenues of ventures. It seems that’s the way to do it. And I’ve been lucky to have some people help me and guide me along the way there and equation angels that have steered me in the direction of venture universities here out in Silicon Valley and it’s been great. The people in this industry are outstanding and it’s a very different type of dynamic. It seems everybody’s out to help you, especially in the angel community. It’s very collaborative and I’ve engaged in it. I’ll completely agree with that and I think anybody, that is when you start to get into a small mint community, and you start to work your way around, you start to learn new things. You see how people adapt. there’re some people that have built their process and maybe they don’t want to change it but they’re still learning there. And there’s a great way to expand. But you got the bug, you got this interest to say, wait a sec. This is great here. But how do I make it here or how do I make this bigger. So, treating it just like an entrepreneur would and evaluating what this opportunity in this space is and for me it was looking at 1 in ten only to succeed. This is terrible. Why is this? I got to change this. I need to be. nine out of ten are successful. This is where the numbers should be. This gap is so big. How do we work our way to get a better win? And I think that’s going to take years. It’s going to take a lot of learning, a lot of understanding. But it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I had one investor tell me the power rule and beat me up on it and you can’t do this and you can’t do that. And this is how. It’s this and I just looked at it and thought I loved it. if you need to explain to me why there’s no way and chance in our health that we can ever be better than one in 10. there’s a chance that we can change this and I’m going to work my ass off to make it happen. And your brain just goes to that. There is a problem and this is solvable even if we nudge it. But to two out of ten or three out of ten and every year, you get a little bit better. I think that’s where the excitement goes. And I think that’s where I think where we’ve connected is that I see that in your eyes. you’re yes, there’s a big opportunity here. And it’s not just one out of ten. Yeah, and we’re talking. It’s sort of a cross-section of coaching and business. I’m with you, it’s very baseball, you pass 300. you’re in the hall of fame and it reminds me a lot the startup community is the same thing. You have to be okay with failing and get comfortable with it and I think that’s probably the biggest thing. Maybe sometimes investors or entrepreneurs think that it’s one out of 10 because I think that there is so much risk and maybe it weighs on people. And I think that there’s a way you said there’s a way to solve this problem. You see a lot of stuff and different data on startups and you see some of these startups that are actually starting to put metrics towards startups and for me I think it’s hey, listen let’s find the markets and invest in the people that are hungry, and they’re going to climb over those hurdles and I think that that’s really what it comes down to is hungry people that aren’t going to stop until they get to where they need to go and finding how do you find those people where are they where they developed and how can you help them overcome those things. That’s a cool thing about angel investing in VCs. You get to be a part of that. go through and I would look at it as Michael Jordan. he had the sixth gear just this extra gear and it wasn’t just him it was every elite athlete, every elite investor, every elite person, always has this one extra gear that you just didn’t see it coming and then boom they threw it into that drive and you were man that, wow thank you. just yeah, it’s yours. take it, go and you just know. That’s where that’s going and those are the types of founders you’re looking for. they’re the ones that are going to see through it, work through it and make it happen, and then there’s the investor side which is the same way. They have to be able to envision that exact same process happening to that founder before that founder even knows what’s happening to them. That’s for me as an investor, I’m new to this, but I really tried to add value as much as I can even if I’m in a startup pitch and it’s not going anywhere for me. I’m not getting curious. I always ask at the end, hey, how can I add value to you. And I think that that’s the thing is that you have to put the reps in and do the work to be able to have that second gear that you talk about. that stories about Michael Jordan and work workouts at his house and things like that. if you put the work in, you just have a different level of confidence that you can go to other people. if they’ve only done 75 of it, it can’t get to that level. And you got to immerse yourself in it and you got to be all in and I think that that’s a good case of successful founders. they’re all in. if they’re not looking to squirm out of it and turn a different avenue. They are all in on their business and their opportunity that they found and it’s just cool to see someone that does those things and be a part of that if you can lend a little help towards. don’t make this mistake. I made this one. or don’t do this. It’s neat to be able to see them succeed.
Jeffery: Agreed. And when looking at the success that you’ve had over time and the things that you’ve worked along in this entrepreneurial experience and the hockey side of things; how much do you feel that hockey and your sports mentality has helped you steer through a lot of this stuff the drive that you have that extra gear? maybe it is only in sports people. I’m not sure. I would assume a lot of people have it. But do you think that that gear comes from that competitive angle and that that’s really a strong value that you can look for in a founder.
Cam: I probably haven’t gone to the extent of asking someone a startup founder and saying hey, you play sports. What sports team did you play for? Okay, yeah you’re investible because of how to play college balls but I did hear this a long time ago when I was first starting off in my career someone had said, I only hire sports people. And I was really wondering why is that? because they have a competitive edge. They know what it takes to win. And I was okay, fair enough now. fast forward. The world’s different today. Are people still looking for that competitive engine? Is that competitive edge coming from the grind or does it come from knowledge and data?
Jeffery: Yeah, I think sports is funny especially hockey because you play so many games. So, you’re not going to go if you play 50 games in the junior hockey season. you’re not going 50 like. So, I think it allows you to learn quickly how to fail and then how do you pick yourself up and not lose two in a row. That was a big thing for me when I coached. Hey, if we lose one that’s okay not okay but it, we’ll deal with it but we don’t lose two in a row not now. now you need to really dial in to make sure that you aren’t losing two in a row and I think that they’re you said, there’s a, whether your backs against the wall and how do you come out of that or you’re down four goals going into the third period, you’re not going to get it all. There are no four pointers in hockey. You got to chip away at it. And that mentality of hey, I’m just going to chip away at this thing until it gets to a point Shawshank redemption. I went here in San Francisco. I went to Alcatraz and they have that that story. I don’t know. I’ve never been there. It’s pretty much the Shawshank Redemption cell. if you have heard about this the guy with the spoon, carved it out, and they asked him, how long to take and he’s as long as it took. That’s the thing. once you set your mark on something. I think that it’s just like, hey, I’m going to chip away at this thing and I think sports people have that because at some point you’ve had your back against the wall. you’ve lost or you’ve been in a tough situation and you’ve seen a group come together and at the end look at the ramps in the playoffs this year. They were known as a team that just always found a way to make it work. And sports is a good avenue. a lot of times in high level academics I think you may get the same type of thing. But in sports is just you’re involved in team and it’s just a great way to learn and fail and understand how you overcome things.
Jeffery: I love that chipping away and the analogy one of the top movie questions and watched movies is actually Shawshank Redemption. It’s probably sitting at a 34 favorite movie for all investors. So, well sure. on the outside, yes.
Cam: It’s one of those ones. Hey, when it’s on tv, you just can’t shut it off. It’s a tough one. It pops up and it’s all four. What is four hours long? when it’s on tv with commercials and everything, you’re up till three in the morning watching Shawshank.
Jeffery: But I completely agree with that. But what I think comes out of that, is it’s the chipping away. It’s reorganizing. It’s understanding the pressure. It’s understanding what you need to do and just get it done and move it forward and move the dial and everything about that chipping away mentality. And you learn that and the story Andy. he didn’t do it. He didn’t do it. The circumstances he was dealt weren’t his fault. really at the end of the day, maybe a little bit but he took full accountability and he dug himself out of it. And I think that that’s a big thing in business is to take accountability no matter what even if you feel it wasn’t your fault, take accountability for it and find a way to get out of it.
Jeffery: I love it. I love it. So, now you’re working at Venture University and you’re getting this whole new angle from angels to now the venture capital side and just before we transition into the story, a quick story. maybe share a little bit about what your experience is on the VC side versus the angel side. What types of things are more interesting to you now from coming in as an individual working as a team as a larger group to coming in and investing in a company? Now looking at it from a VC side, what are some of the things that stand out the most to give the audience a good understanding of the difference between venture capital and angel?
Cam: I think the biggest thing is just it’s a business. It’s professionalism. And I think for me when one of the reasons I came here was I really wanted my buddies to start to see that I was investing in companies and they were like hey I’m going to throw you some money to do this and I was listening perfectly. I love it. I know it’s great you guys trust me but I need to get a little more professionalized in the way I go about this if I’m going to take other people’s money. And I think in venture the biggest thing I’ve learned here is that coming from a sports background we talked about culture and people and overcoming things. I think I have a good grasp on that but I think on this side of how you get returns. And what are you looking for? That’s what venture university’s been great for. we don’t invest in any market less than 10 billion dollars because their mindset is sort of okay if I invest in a market a small market that’s only 10-million-dollar market, you’re looking at a thousand times difference between 10 to 10 billion or whatever, it is 10 000 times different, a thousand 10 times 10 000 times better than another human being probably. That’s sort of where their footings are. Let’s look at the market size first. really take a bottoms-up approach to it and then we can go through the founder and the operation of the team and things like that. So, that was probably the biggest thing that I’ve taken so far from this is the market size that then starts looking at the founders and things that. I love it and when you’re looking at the market size, you’re also going to find out competitors are going to get a really good understanding of where this business is going to sit today. But the key to all of this is scaling and where it’s going to sit in the next five years. And is this something unique enough that in five years they can own a good portion of this and anything when it becomes a monetary fiscal thing. The more money you throw at it, the more opportunity you can create to take more space and is this something that you can process out of this. So, probably the first time I’ve swore on my podcast but it’s that yeah. Oh, it’s coming. It’s good I guess. But is that how you create that process and really commercialize this business by looking at that opportunity and saying here’s the market size but in five years we can blitz scale. We can scale this business and throw a lot of money at it so that in five to ten years this can be the juggernaut that needs to own this space. And I think, especially the group here being around Andrew Zaslin and Skyler Fernandez, they’ve been in the industry for a super long time. So, they’re good at understanding where it’s going. We’ve invested in a lot of space companies. Recently it’s been interesting to be able to look at some of these companies shooting rockets off the space and how they’re creating platforms and different things. We were looking at a company two days ago. It’s AWS for space and you’re, okay, how does that work. And then you said you’re looking five years down the road. how many people are going to be out there, what’s going to be the industries. They got the new space station out there, how many satellites are going to be out there. You really need to take that bottoms up approach to it and dig in and it’s been great to learn that from them and bring things to investment committees and different structures. It’s been cool to see my portfolio companies. Now we have this company that’s doing contact lenses that I didn’t even know existed before I got here. But they’re saying in five years, it’s going to be huge. So, it’s interesting to see those types of companies.
Jeffery: I completely agree with that. And I think that gives a good idea to the division between angel, early stage and what VCs are looking at. And VCs are jumping on top of that. hopefully series seed, pre-seed, no not precede, at least seed or pre-series a, and jumping in and dumping in a lot of money into some pretty amazing advanced tech companies and that’s not just in the US, Israel, all around the world. There are some pretty amazing centers that we’re really driving innovation and it’s pretty cool that you’re able to be part of that.
Cam: Yeah, it’s every once in a while, I’ll pinch myself. It’s weird. It’s weird when I go home to my wife after a day here because I tell her about this stuff because she wants to know about this stuff, where this is going. So, it’s definitely interesting having conversations with people about work, what you’re doing. But it’s cool to see it’s almost like you’re working in the future, you see a lot of cool stuff and a lot of interesting people put their whole lives on the line for something. It seems it’s the Jetsons’ but the reality is it’s here. It’s going to be here soon.
Cam: So, it’s cool. Agreed. well we’re going to transition now into a little bit of a more of a case study. But in the time that you’ve been working in this space, if you come across any startup founder, she or he that really blew your mind on you didn’t think that they were going to be able to take this company and make it successful or whatever the story might be. But the real thing that we’re looking for is what it shows to be an entrepreneur. I think what we’re really looking for is what it takes to be an entrepreneur these days. And is there any story that you can share with us that really defines that.
Cam: I’ve been in it long enough to see something that came across a startup, get pitched. It’s a billion-dollar idea yet which I’m sure you’ve seen a bunch of . What do they call the anti-portfolio or whatever stuff? But I don’t know, I’m really interested in the people that I like. I always ask the question what brought you to this idea and what made you put everything on the line. I think that that’s really the interesting thing. there’re so many different ways that people came to the idea that they’re targeting. And when I look at it, it could be a guy that was in the automotive industry and found a little crack and a way to make money or it could be a guy from the automotive industry that moved into a totally different industry and thought I can do this. And so that’s the cool part. The one company that comes to mind since I’ve been out here is this company called Versus Games that I did a bunch of due diligence on. And I was just amazed by how the founder skirted the line of the law in 50 states and it just blew me away. even to the point where I emailed the founder after. I was, ‘dude I’m amazed of how you did this.’ and he’s, ‘yeah, you put the work in to understand the law and you put the work in to make sure that it was successful.’ so to give some context that could be heard about Versus Games at all. So, it’s essentially a gambling app but it’s not a gambling app. It’s a carnival game. That’s how they skirted the law: it’s an entrance fee to be able to bet with someone else on anything, so whether it’s about Leonardo DiCaprio winning the Oscar or Matt Stafford winning the MVP, influencers can pose a question, and then two people get paired up on each side of it. So, when you first look at it, the risk here for this is huge and then you start reading the law and how they’re doing it.
Jeffery: It’s wow. that is impressive how you’ve gone about it. So, I guess that would be the most interesting thing for me. Some of these people are so smart, innovative and gritty and it’s really cool to see that in action. Their drive for success overcomes all barriers. they’re able to work their way around everything because they can see the end goal which is vision and I think that focus is incredible to have as a founder and invest in a company that is able to see where they want to be and work everything, they can to learn about all of that aspect of it to make sure they get there. So, that’s pretty powerful.
Cam: Yeah, for sure. It’s inspiring sometimes. I’m just a man, I should start my own company. But it’s cool to be involved in so many companies. It gives the best of both worlds.
Jeffery: I completely agree with that.
Cam: It’s wearing many hats. And you can have one minute a founder talking about the next round and another founder talking about oversubscribing and another founder trying to figure out how they keep their business from failing. So, it is a pretty dynamic industry and space to be in.
Jeffery: I totally agree with that. Yeah, well now we’re going to transition into our rapid fire questions. So, the way it works, I’m going to ask you. I’m going to start on the business side. So, coming in as an investor, pick one or the other. ready to roll?
Cam: Yeah.
Jeffery: Let’s go. I’ll ask a question. One, founder or co-founder?
Cam: Founder.
Jeffery: unicorn or four year 10 x exit?
Cam: unicorn.
Jeffery: tech or consumer? cpg or tech? NFTs or web 3.0?
Cam: web 3.0.
Jeffery: ai or blockchain?
Cam: oh, blockchain.
Jeffery: First time founder or second third time founder?
Cam: second third.
Jeffery: First money in or series a?
Cam: First money in.
Jeffery: angel or VCU?
Cam: VC.
Jeffery: board and seat or observer?
Cam: board.
Jeffery: safe or convertible note?
Cam: convertible.
Jeffery: lead or follow?
Cam: lead.
Jeffery: equity or interest payments?
Cam: equity.
Jeffery: favorite part of investing?
Cam: the founders.
Jeffery: number of companies invested per year?
Cam: five.
Jeffery: any preferred terms?
Cam: no.
Jeffery: verticals of focus?
Cam: probably ai.
Jeffery: two qualities a startup requires in order to stand out for you to invest?
Cam: market size and grittiness of the founder.
Jeffery: market and grittiness. It’s all we’re going to jump into the first little side. book or movie?
Cam: book.
Jeffery: Superman or Batman?
Cam: Batman.
Jeffery: restaurant or picnic?
Cam: restaurant.
Jeffery: five minutes with Bezos or Oprah?
Cam: Bezos.
Jeffery: mountain or beach?
Cam: mountain.
Jeffery: bike or run?
Cam: bike.
Jeffery: Big Mac or Chicken McNuggets?
Cam: Big Mac.
Jeffery: trophy or money?
Cam: trophy.
Jeffery: beer or wine?
Cam: old me, beer. wine now.
Jeffery: camera or mobile phone?
Cam: mobile phone.
Jeffery: king or rich? concert or amusement park?
Cam: concert.
Jeffery: fortune cookie or birthday cake?
Cam: birthday cake.
Jeffery: Ted Talk or book reading?
Cam: book reading.
Jeffery: most famous person that pops into your mind now?
Cam: Ray Bourke.
Jeffery: nice. favorite movie or character you would play.
Cam: It was Andy from Shawshank.
Jeffery: First brand that pops into your mind.
Cam: supporters fund.
Jeffery: ah. Nice. That’s the first red button we’re ringing the bell. It’s good. That’s good. favorite book?
Cam: Atomic Habits.
Jeffery: What is the meaning of success to you?
Cam: maximizing your potential.
Jeffery: And what is your superpower?
Cam: my superpower probably people reading people, culture creating culture.
Jeffery: I love it. Well Cam, I want to thank you very much for all your time today. You shared a lot of great insight with lots of great notes and I think you’re on an amazing path to being able to support investors from all levels as an angel and as a VC. It’s pretty exciting to get the opportunity to catch you now before you become a famous VC. in the meantime, I want to thank you again for all your time and the way that we end our show is that we give you the opportunity to share anything you want to say to founders or to investors. But we turn it over to you. And again thank you very much for your time today.
Cam: Yeah, not much to say honestly JP. Thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it and getting to know you better and honestly just looking forward to getting involved in early stage companies and trying to build some things especially in Canada. I think we have so much talent there that I’m excited to see some things that are coming out of Canada and hopefully I can help nurture those businesses and get involved with them and help build them.
Jeffery: I love it and how can people get a hold of you if they’re trying to get a hold of you.
Cam: You can hit me up on twitter at cam8crowder or my email cam@gbiholding.ca .
Jeffery: Okay, that was a great conversation with Cam. one when you tie sports into anything, it gets pretty exciting because they have competitiveness. They understand competitors. They also know the gears you have to turn on in order to make yourself that much stronger, harder, faster, quicker in all those aspects. So, I just love the fact that he’s got the coaching background, player, coach and then of course working through Tim Horton’s and licensing. So much great stuff there that he was able to share around the hiring process, having KPIs and statistics professionalism, being able to make sure you market first a market ready business, how big is this market, 10 billion or more. I think there’s a lot of good things that really come out of being on that angel VC side as he explained but again Cam, great insights. And thank you for diving into that and sharing all of this. So, thank you for joining us today. If you’ve enjoyed this conversation, please feel free to share with your friends or subscribe to our YouTube channel. follow us on Spotify Apple podcast and or Stitcher. Your support and comments are truly appreciated. You can also check us out at supportersfund.com or for startup events visit opn.ninja. Thank you and have a fantastic day.
Watch Other Interviews

Contact us

Are you interested in meeting Cam, we will be happy to make an introduction!

Are you an angel investor and would like to participate in an upcoming show?