An Interview With Leonard Brody
Technology visionary, entrepreneur, government advisor, public speaker and author - just some of the roles on Leonard Brody’s crowded resume.
The author of two business books – Everything I Needed To Know About Business… I Learned From A Canadian and Innovation Nation: Canadian Leadership From Java to Jurassic Park, Leonard is currently co-CEO of NowPublic and leading the rapid development of citizen journalism.
“I guess I would call myself an entrepreneur and an author,” said Leonard. “I think glamour isn’t a word that should be associated with either one.”
Leonard, who describes his home as the “middle of an airplane”, has strong admiration for the pioneers leading the new wave of technology businesses – probably because he has been in their shoes when he guided Onvia Canada to success from scratch.
Onvia Canada, a firm that helps businesses secure government contracts and government agencies find suppliers online, was voted Canada’s No.1 start-up in 2000 and it successfully went public in a $240 million NASDAQ IPO. He was also behind the sale of Onvia Canada to Bell Actimedia, establishing the largest business-to-business Internet marketplace in Canada.
Leonard’s track record means that he’s in demand as a public speaker when he’s not advising Canada’s ministry of international trade on technology issues.
“I believe running a start-up is the most difficult thing in business life,” he said. “In many respects having a regular job is a luxury because, aside from some politics and BS, it’s possible to do your job, get the pay check and go home.
“There is a huge difference between the start-ups of 1996 and those in 2006. Ten years ago, it was all about the money. Now, there are companies that aren’t doing it for the money. Those businesses offering free services are probably the most exciting ones.”
However, he admits some of the most successful online businesses and genres have surprised him.
“Ten years ago, if someone had showed me the model of eBay, then I would have said it wouldn’t work,” said Leonard, who originally trained as a lawyer before working a sports agent. “Napster? No way. Online dating – who would want their personal details on the Web?
“But these are all about building an online community and that’s how online businesses are going now. Just look at social networking sites like Myspace.com, it has supplanted MTV as the main youth brand after 30 years.
“The books came about because Canadians are terrible at promoting themselves. I wanted to create some mythology because no knew about what was going on in Canada.”
Everything I Needed To Know About Business… I Learned From A Canadian showcases 15 Canadians who are leading the world in their field – whether it’s the media or gold-mining or producing The Simpsons TV series.
Innovation Nation: Canadian Leadership From Java to Jurassic Park profiles 30 of Canada’s technology visionaries from the creator of Java to an eBay co-founder and the people behind the BlackBerry, the handheld wireless email device.
So what’s the next big thing?
“People are always asking me that and I always say ‘stop asking and start building,”’ he says. “I come from a family of Holocaust survivors and our generation has never had to endure a world war. We are incredibly lucky and we have to love the freedom that the Internet gives you. It’s the biggest innovation since the printing press.”