Check out this great Maclean’s article “In conversation: Brett Wilson “. I’ve excerpted three questions and answers that I found very insightful. [emphasis added]
“Q: You’ve challenged the CBC to dole out what you’ve called “constructive criticism as opposed to abuse” on the show. What prompted you to make that challenge?
A: I want it to respect the intelligence of the viewing community—you know, there isn’t a business school in the country that isn’t paying attention to this show. I was the lead deal-making dragon. I don’t know how many deals the other dragons have actually done or closed, but I managed to get 60 done on the show, and we’ve papered 30, and 31 should be done in the next couple weeks. That’s where my own fan base says, “Thank you for showing us how to do deals.” It’s easy to say, “No,” it takes no courage, no brains and no wallet to criticize. Criticism comes free. Action comes at some cost, and I’ve been pretty active. Will the 30 investments I’ve made all work out? Absolutely not. I suspect I’ll write off four or five in the next year because they’re stumbling. But there’s four or five that could become iconic brands in Canada because of the power of the entrepreneur. Any one of those top-five investments will pay for all 30. So I take a portfolio approach.
Q: Listening to you outline your approach—that a handful of your investments will likely pay for those that fail—is “dragon with a heart” less about generosity or emotion than it is a sound approach to investing?
A: I invest in people. I get value from helping people, and I get value on my money. So both of those make sense. I choose partners based on the people I want to do business with because business plans evolve—we stumble, we trip, we jump, we leap, we go to different plateaus—but the people in whom we’ve invested are still the people. My partners are a core of my success. That’s been my success over the years. In the investing world I do get value for helping people, but I don’t give up financial return to get that.
Q: I also watched as you listened to 18-year-old Ben Gulak pitch his motorized unicycle, the Uno, and you were clearly enchanted.
A: Here was a kid who I looked at and thought—you know what? Even if Uno doesn’t work exactly as it’s been invented, I want to be this guy’s go-to, his brain trust, I want to be his wallet for the next idea. Because coming out of a kid who’s 18, who’s built this Uno literally out of scrap parts in his family garage, who’s been accepted to MIT, that’s a kid I wouldn’t mind investing in. You know, the evaluations that were applied to the original round of financing for Google and Yahoo and eBay and Amazon and Facebook probably made no sense either.“