#MyBusinessTip Profile: Marcus Daniels, Founder & CEO of HIGHLINE

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Marcus Daniels, Founder & CEO of HIGHLINE

TELUS is a proud supporter of entrepreneurs and so they’ve partnered with Vancity Buzz to share a series of tips for business success. They’re also inviting Canadian business leaders to pay it forward by sharing their own #MyBusinessTip with eager entrepreneurs across Canada. With every tip shared, TELUS will donate $25 to Futurpreneur Canada.


Behind every successful new business, you’ll find one thing in a common: A network of advisors, investors and resources who together help bring new business ideas to life. HIGHLINE, a startup accelerator, is one such company. And behind HIGHLINE is—you guessed it—a successful entrepreneur: Marcus Daniels, Founder & CEO of HIGHLINE.

HIGHLINE invests in early-stage tech companies and has the best track record in Canada for helping pre-seed startups achieve institutional funding. We sat down with Marcus to learn more about his background asked him to share his own #MyBusinessTip.

If you could start your career over again knowing what you know now, what would you tell your younger self?

If I could go back, I would be both more focused and bolder with my entrepreneurial ventures. There were times in the past when I hedged to reduce risks, which in turned also limited the upside. Worst case scenario, if you fail, you may have to work for someone else for a few years gaining valuable experience before trying out your next venture.

What life hacks help you excel as a founder, both personally and professionally?

My #1 life hack is that I don’t buy into the idea of work-life balance, especially if you want to create something has global impact. I’m passionate about the problems I’m solving and the opportunities I’m trying to harvest that intersect my so-called professional and personal life. I’m a big believer in work-life integration, and that only works if you love what you do and have alignment with your family.

On a personal hack perspective, I’m very focused on what I say “yes” to, and removing most distractions in my life without compromising family life. I feel very fortunate to be able to spend meaningful time with my favourite startups: my son and daughter.

Where did your philosophy of focusing heavily on what’s “core” originate?

I like to think of myself as being a visionary executor. Constantly pushing and creating bigger vision for the business isn’t effective unless you’re able to execute on the essentials. There are a lot of people who have bigger ideas, but they don’t actually execute them, and something I’ve always prided myself on is that ability to get things done while not compromising substance, which then leads to executing big visions.

Why is embracing failure important in the startup world?

I’ve always believed in the philosophy of failing fast and embracing failure every day. If you’re not embracing small failures, you’re not challenging the status quo or trying to push your own limits.

In turn, what this really means is that speed matters and is usually one of your greatest advantages as an entrepreneur given your limited resources. If you fear failure, you can’t move fast and get things done each day. This is probably one of the things that holds more entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs back. It took me years to move as fast as I do now without compromising quality, and it’s why I believe embracing failure is so critical. The scars will make you tougher, you will learn faster and be more be effective as an entrepreneurial leader.

What are the key traits you look for when investing in companies?

Because HIGHLINE focuses on early stage investing, we look heavily at the founding team, not a specific founder. We don’t typically invest in single founders, so breaking that down, we usually look at small teams – there has to be at least a technologist/tech founder, some sort of business driver, and ideally a designer. It’s the kind of threesome I like.

As for personality traits, I want to see pure passion for the problem they’re solving, not pursuing the venture for pure money, huge ambition to go after opportunities that are at a global scale, and lastly, having enough economic incentives to be hungry enough to go the distance.

We’ve evolved our focus away from ventures at ideation-stage, and focused instead on companies that have products in market, and that recognize HIGHLINE as smart money. These more mature founders are not coming to us for education and to learn how to run a business – they’re coming to us to gain strong advisory and connectivity in other markets so they can become a scalable, global business.

Why is having global connectivity critical for startup founders?

Global connectivity is critical if you want to take in venture capital – and if that’s the case, you’re aiming to be the #1 player in your category, which means you’re going to have to expand into other markets. Given the nature of how competitive your space is, having increased connectivity can be a key element in the difference of your success or not.

What should founders who are raising funds look for in an investor?

The quality of who funds you is very important. The most important thing in taking external money isn’t about the amount, but about the quality of the actual investors, and their ability to help your business going forward.

There’s been a huge shift in recent years due to the fact that there are more options to choose from; the best founders have a lot of choices. It’s clear that the so-called smart money coming from successful entrepreneurs-turned-angels and institutional funds that bring additional value outside of money is paramount in helping you grow.

Who you take money from is one of the most critical decisions you make as a founder. Once you take somebody else’s money, as little as it might be, it’s technically not your company any more – you have other fiduciary duties and expectations, regardless of what percentage of shares you own.

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