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Pop Quiz

with Anthony Lacavera

By Laura Bickle
Photo: Kathryn Hollinrake

Anthony Lacavera.

Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Anthony Lacavera doesn’t mince words about his concern for Canada’s future. “I love Canada and what we stand for but we are not set up for long-term prosperity. We’ve become complacent when the rest of the world has become more competitive.” The founder of Globalive, a global investment firm, elaborates on this passionate message in his book How We Can Win, co-written with former Maclean’s contributor and editor-at-large Kate Fillion. Lacavera — who is best known as the founder and CEO of WIND Mobile (now Freedom Mobile), which he sold for $1.6 billion after it grew to become Canada’s fourth-largest wireless carrier — sees education as playing a vital role in sustaining the country’s prosperity. “We have a strong education system today but we have to encourage competition, risk-taking, innovation, entrepreneurship and trailblazing.” Lacavera, who has been recognized by Junior Achievement of Central Ontario for his innovative spirit and successful approach to risk-taking, shares his views on how to encourage young entrepreneurial minds.

What prompted you to write your book, How We Can Win?

We’re at a make-or-break moment. If we don’t succeed, we’re toast. Our social safety net, democracy, immigration and health care all have to be curtailed if we don’t accelerate growth. Innovation is the only way.

What priorities would you like to see the education system adopt?

We have to invest more in education, STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] in particular, to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution — artificial intelligence.

Also, financial literacy is critical. Students need to be taught that starting and building businesses is a viable option. Children in the U.S., Britain and China learn that early but we don’t tell ours that.

How can we encourage healthy competition?

Canadian culture discourages risktaking. Every child gets a participant ribbon. That doesn’t send a message of competition. However, in hockey, we are fiercely competitive — we need to bring our hockey mentality to our business culture.

It’s healthy to be competitive and it’s OK to lose. The sun will come up tomorrow. We can’t worry about losing a single game; focus on the entire season. If you doubt yourself, you will always come second.

What specific curriculum changes do you advocate?

To send the message that entrepreneurship is a viable option. We have had gamechanging innovations that we need to celebrate. Students should learn about Research in Motion (RIM) and Nortel, and how they were built. I would like to see the theme of business stories woven throughout the curriculum.

How can teachers reinforce your message in the classroom?

You have the golden moment when kids are trying to find their way. Stories are motivators.

What would your message be to students today?

We have the ability to compete and beat but it’s up to you to make it happen. You have to know you have the ability to do it. Figure out what you are passionate about at your core. Don’t pay attention to the naysayers.