SEAN Wise has been an entrepreneur five times in his life thus far, the first time aged 13.
"I was a clown for kids parties. I worked every weekend for three years. I filled the niche created by wealthy yuppies who wanted to overspend on their kids, friends and family in putting on a birthday party," he says.
The most recent venture of the Toronto-based professor and partner at seed stage venture capital fund and technology accelerator Ryerson Futures was in the medical cannabis space.
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"We brought Wall Street business acumen and ag-bio experience to a formerly very grey market. So the unmet need was: trustworthy production under experienced management," he says of the business brand Canveda which he and a partner sold for $USD25 million in 2019.
On Thursday, May 9, Dr Wise will be in Newcastle to present the Hunter Innovation Festival event Wantrapreneur No More, discussing the myths around becoming an entrepreneur.
In his view, there is no better time to start a business.
"The cost to test a startup idea has fallen more than 99 per cent since the dot.com boom; and tools now allow anyone to build a digital startup no coding required," he says. "The path to startup success is now well mapped. Using the lean startup method you could be up and running before the weekend."
Dr Wise says the false beliefs around startups are that it is for the young, that is takes a lot of money and that success is "some black box".
To move from "wantrepreneur" to "entrepreneur" can take as little as attending a startup weekend: "Just try it. Entrepreneurship is neither an art nor a science. It's a practice. You learn by doing."
A former managing director at Earnst & Young's Venture Capital Group, Dr Wise has worked in corporate finance and for several venture capital funds, consulted for American TV reality show Dragons' Den and hosted The Naked Entrepreneur on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
As a Professor of Entrepreneurship, he creates a safe place for students to explore entrepreneurship. Several have founded and exited startups, becoming millionaires along the way.
As a partner at Ryerson Futures, he mentors startup founders and estimates he's seen more than 20,000 pitches and helped fund more than $US1 billion in startups.
His advice to startups facing a pitch is simple.
"Preparation. You can't always make your opportunity better but you can help investors understand the value proposition and investment opportunity."
And the worst thing a startup can do? "Exaggerate. Because you can never recover investor trust."
See hunterinnovationfestival.org for event details.