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Monthly Archives: August 2014

Among many of his fellow dragons, Bruce Croxon may not be as well-known as his contemporaries but he is just as fierce. He is, after all, a fierce competitor in the digital world where he is recognized as an early pioneer.

With a degree from the University of Western Ontario, he is a strong supporter of youth education with his Twitter account rife with reminders for kids to stay in school. But he is best known for his then-revolutionary idea for online dating, which he started in 1988.

It comes as no surprise then that he was at the forefront of digital dating with Lavalife, a dating website he co-founded. With over 2 million members, Lavalife is considered a smashing success considering its membership model; members are required to pay for membership fees, among other charges.

Croxon has diversified his investments starting with selling Lavalife for $180 million. He then worked on his new ventures, such as Vita, a chain of high-end spas, and Round 13 Capital, a capital venture company. He has also expanded his portfolio via the Dragons’ Den Canada show.

Bobby Kerr, an Irish entrepreneur and businessman, came up in the world through sheer grit and guts, hard work, and perhaps the luck of the Irish. His first job involved working on the North Sea oil rigs, a challenging work indeed, before he went on to a series of jobs in the food services industry.

Kerr worked for the likes of Versa Food Services, CNE Stadium, and Crystal Beach Amusement Park, among others, while in Canada. When he returned to the Emerald Isles, he worked in various capacities inclduing catering manager for Campbell Catering, marketing manager for Contract Catering Company, and managing director for Bewleys Oriental Café, Bewleys Franchising and Bewleys Bakery, and then and then director of development for the Campbell Bewley Group.

Every single job obviously demanded more than just a positive attitude even amidst a negative situation, as is the case with the luck of the Irish, but the right knowledge and skills. Like all successful men, nonetheless, Kerr was soon itching to be his own man.

And thus in 1999, Kerr established PERK Coffee Shops that became a success in its own right. In 2003, he acquired Fitzers’ 50% share in the company before selling PERK to Insomnia.

He then reinvested all the proceeds from the PERK sale in Insomnia, thus, making him a majority shareholder. He later became its chief executive officer and, in the process, led its fast growth.

Insomnia has expanded from 17 to 50 shops with an increased turnover from €5 million to €13 Million since 2004. But Kerr then made another smart move by selling 51% of the coffee company to the Icelandic Penninn group.

Kerr has also had his share of television and radio appearances. He was part of the Dragons’ Den, which was produced by Raidió Teilifís Éireann in Ireland, as a founding dragon aside from hosting Down to Business, a radio show.

Few other multi-billionaires can lay claim to the fame of being a bra billionaire than Leslie Wexner. The American businessman and philanthropist is the chairman and chief executive officer of the L Brands, the owners of famous brands including Victoria’s Secret, Henri Bendel, Pink, Bath & Body Works, and La Senza. Now that’s what we call making sexy profitable!

But like many ultra-wealthy individuals, Wexner has a strong philanthropic bent that he has applied for the benefit of others. Examples of his philanthropic activities include his $100 million contribution to Ohio State, his alma mater, thus strengthening one of Ohio’s most important institutions for education, culture and the arts as well as his establishment of the Columbus Partnership. The latter is composed of the chief executive officers of virtually all players in the city’s economy with the purpose of building a better city.

Now, if we only have more Wexners in the world, then sexy can be “in” in a good way!

David Geffen has guts and, hence, he enjoys glory in the entertainment industry and even beyond. Think about it: He dropped out of the University of Texas and Brooklyn College but then faked a degree from UCLA, thus, landing him his first job as a mail sorter at the William Morris talent agency.

Note: He made up for his duplicity by becoming the most generous donor to the School of Medicine at UCLA, which has been renamed in his honor as the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

His guts and gumption did not stop there either. He established Asylum Records in 1970 upon the encouragement of his friends in the industry; the name was chosen because the owners, Geffen and Elliot Roberts, signed on artists that other record labels will not even touch with a ten-foot pole.

Geffen then went on to establish two other record labels, namely, Geffen Records (1980) and DGC Records (1990). All three of the companies grew into the most influential labels in the music industry with the biggest music superstars on board including Eagles, Bob Dylan, Aerosmith and Guns N’ Roses, among others. Just imagine modern music without these superstars and you get a sense of the importance of Geffen with his guts and gumption.

Furthermore, Geffen’s influence extends beyond the music industry into cinema. Along with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, he established DreamWorks SKG, which has released blockbuster films including Saving Private Ryan, American Beauty, and The Haunting. He also owns a minority stake in DreamWorks Animation, which has released hits like Antz.

And if his significant stake in Apple, one of the world’s largest information technology companies and mobile manufacturers, then his influence extends to other spheres of modern life. We must say not bad for a college dropout who faked his college diploma.

Add in the fact that his net worth is estimated at $6 billion, thus, making him one of the richest persons in the entertainment industry, and you have a case of a truly influential individual.

Wendy Sue Kopp is certainly taking teaching to the next level in so many ways. She has founded two organizations dedicated to teaching and teachers, namely, the Teach for America and Teach for All.

Teach for America (TFA) is a national teaching corps where teachers are provided to make a real change in the education system in particular and the society in general. Its mission is to eliminate the inequality of education in the United States especially among low-income communities by enlisting the teaching services of high-achieving graduates and professionals. The recruits are on the job for at least two years with the opportunity to extend their contracts.

While Kopp is no longer the chief executive officer for TFA, she is still part of the organization as its board chairman. She has also chronicled her experiences at TFA via her two books.

Kopp being an overachiever herself, she has also founded Teach For All, a worldwide network of independent non-profit organizations. The org

Often, negative experiences can bear positive results when the right people make the right decisions in the right direction. Such is the experience of Sara Horowitz, founder and executive director of the Freelancers Union as well as a recognized innovator of the modern-day workforce.

Horowitz certainly put her educational and professional accomplishments in the service of self-employed independent workers including freelancers. She has a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, a master’s degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a law degree from the SUNY Buffalo Law School, all of which are impressive in themselves. She has also worked as a private practice labor attorney and union organizer with various organizations, such as National Health and Human Service Employees Union.

But Horowitz’s defining moment toward becoming a champion of independent workers’ welfare was not in these achievements. She was unable to acquire health insurance because of a mistake made in classifying her as a freelancer instead of a full-time employee.

After graduating from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, she established the Freelancers Union, thus, laying the foundation for her advocacy. Freelancers Union is unique in the insurance market because it provides self-employed independent workers including freelancers the opportunity to purchase reasonably-priced health insurance policies. Today, it has over 165,000 members with headquarters in New York City.

Indeed, her efforts in building and strengthening a viable support system for independent workers continue to bring in awards and recognitions. She has been cited as one of the 2011 Forbes’ Top 30 Social Entrepreneurs, one of the 2011 Businessweek Top 25 Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs, and one of the 2002 100 Global Leaders for Tomorrow at the World Economic Forum.

Horowitz’s grandfather and father, both movers and shakers in the world of unions, have reasons to be proud of the accomplished woman she has become.

Lyda Hill is an American heiress, but she was unlike many in that she pursued her own direction. She started the travel agency Hill World Travel in 1967, growing the company to become the biggest travel agency in Dallas and one of the largest in the US when it was sold in 1982. She later on ventured into investing in the Fort Worth Stockyards, a popular historic tourist attraction that highlighted western heritage.

Today, Hill is a common fixture in philanthropic events, in part due to the inheritance she received from her oil tycoon grandfather, H.L. Hunt, five years ago and in part to her naturally giving nature. In 2013 alone, Hill committed $63.2 million to various causes, mostly charities tackling social problems with the help of science, putting her at the 35th spot in the Philanthropy 50, an annual list of the most generous donors in America compiled by The Chronicle.

American businessman and investor Stephen Schwarzman is best known for heading the Blackstone Group, a private equity and financial advisory company, as chairman and CEO. He also founded the company with Pete Peterson, former US Secretary of Commerce, in 1985. As of July 2014, Schwarzman is estimated to be worth $11 billion, according to Forbes.

Schwarzman grew up in Huntington Valley in Pennsylvania to a Jewish family. His father owned a dry goods store in the state. He went to Yale University at the same time as George W. Bush and the two were both part of the Skull and Bones society. Schwarzman graduated from Yale in 1969 and finished graduate school at the Harvard Business School in 1972.

His career began in Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, an investment bank. After graduating from business school, Schwarzman moved on to working for Lehman Brothers, also an investment bank, where he became managing director by age 31 and headed the bank’s global mergers and acquisitions team. Blackstone was founded in 1985 but it wasn’t until 2007 that the company went public. When it did, it was revealed that Schwarzman had earned close to $399 million in the previous fiscal year. When he sold part of his stocks in the company, he received $684 million. His remaining stake in Blackstone back then was worth $9.1 billion already. In the same year, Schwarzman was recognized by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

As part of his philanthropic works, Schwarzman donated $100 million to the New York Public Library to support its expansion. He sits on the board as a trustee and his donation led to the library’s central reference building being renamed in his honor as “The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.” In 2013, he started the scholarship program Schwarzman Scholars in China’s Tsinghua University.

When the Internet keeps going, the entrepreneurs keep grabbing the opportunities – and that’s exactly what Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten keeps doing in life. Van Zanten, a Dutch national, is a serial Internet entrepreneur who continues to make a killing with his online businesses.

His first company, V3 Redirect Services, was established in 1997. He sold it to Fortunecity.com in 1999 when the latter was going public via the Neuer Markt.

Why stop there? Van Zanten has ventured into other Internet businesses, such as the:

  • HubHop, a Wi-Fi hotspot operator in the Netherlands; (Sold to KPN in installments)
  • The Next Web Conference, established in 2008, with several initiatives on international business, culture and technology news and with several components (i.e., TNW Labs, TNW Games)
  • Blog and Incubator

Van Zanten also has interests (i.e., stocks) in Twones, Wakoopa, and feest.je, all of which are start-ups. He is also the co-founder of PressDoc and TwitterCounter.

Indeed, when you can work from home, thanks to the Internet, you will want as many online businesses as possible!