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N36 Alumni Blog | In life, there's no right path

Dec 03, 2016

Written by: David Bureau

People often ask me how I became successful and well connected so early in my career. I would like to share my story hoping that it will inspire young entrepreneurs to believe in themselves and have the confidence to take risks in order to achieve a positive impact on the world.

I was raised in Sherbrooke, a small francophone town in Quebec. I had always been a top student in class, and my friends and family always thought I would be very successful in a traditional career such as a doctor, an engineer or a lawyer. In their minds, these “real” jobs were the only right path to success. 

After college, I decided to study finance at the Université de Sherbrooke. Some people wonder why I chose to stay in Sherbrooke, my hometown. At that point in my life, it didn’t make sense to move to Montreal or Toronto to attend business school. I had already started my first startup, “Daretheweb”, a social network for millennials to dare their friends online, and I had a good feeling about it. After a few weeks of school, I met my first mentor, Roger Noël, who taught me not only business skills, but also life skills. A piece of advice I would give any young entrepreneur that doesn’t know where to start is the following: try to find a close mentor at a young age. Finding a mentor will help you gain confidence, build a network much faster, and learn very quickly.

My mentor introduced me to his massive and valuable network in Quebec: lawyers, accountants, very successful entrepreneurs and even ministers. He instilled a great deal of confidence in me and what I could achieve. He gave me a much wider perspective on life and emphasized that giving back to your community as well as having a positive impact on the world would make me feel even more accomplished as an entrepreneur. It turned out staying in Sherbrooke was the right decision for me despite its small size and limited opportunities. It was in my hometown that I met my mentor, and he forever shaped my perspective on life and business.

When I graduated with a BBA in finance, I had already co-founded 3 startups and was engaged in my hometown startup community. It was at this point that I was ready to undertake the next big challenge - applying to The Next 36. I later learned in The Next 36 program that trying to continually push yourself out of your comfort zone is crucial, as it helps you grow faster and keeps you motivated. 

The Next 36 program was the most challenging, life-changing and rewarding experience of my life. Learning my strengths and weaknesses, digging in and understanding why I succeeded and failed in previous endeavours, experiencing the power of a network, and living/working with intelligent people for four months are only a few examples of how valuable the program was to me. I strongly recommend The Next 36 to anyone looking for a significant challenge, an incredible learning experience, and a large network of talented professionals and industry leaders. Because of my experience, I now feel I owe a debt towards Canada and the world. I will continue to pay it back by helping people achieve their entrepreneurial dreams through mentorship and finding new ways to give back to the community. After the summer program, I decided not to continue with my venture because I wanted to learn more by working for a mentor. 

It was at a Next 36 event that I met my next and most important mentor, Daniel Robichaud. A mentor like Daniel can convey the proper way of approaching certain problems, encourages the exchange of business ideas, and helps one to figure out what mistakes were made and why. After understanding what someone like Daniel had to offer, I told him he should hire me. I knew he liked me based on our ability to communicate and exchange ideas. It worked! We started working together for a few months on various projects, and we both saw it was a great fit. I have learned so much being around a mentor like Daniel. Based on this experience, I can’t overemphasize the importance of having mentors early in your career. After a few months, Dan introduced me to his friends, which is how I became the investment director for 3 Montreal-based successful entrepreneurs. Afterward, I’ve taken many different mandates including becoming CFO of AmpMe (where we raised a $10M Series A round), and part-time CFO positions with other portfolio companies. Most recently, I was invited to become an Associate with 500 Startups Canada.

Now, I’m already thinking about the next challenge I want to tackle. I’m brainstorming ideas, meeting smart people and learning by going to conferences all related to the FinTech industry. 

Here are the few takeaways I hope the entrepreneurs reading this article will remember: 

-    Find a mentor early in your career that will take a personal interest in your success.

-    As the title of this article says, there is no “right path” to success. Determine what your guiding principles and life goals are early on, and decision-making will become much easier.

-    Take actions that will have a positive impact on your organisation, community, and the world.

-     Always love what you are doing and you’ll be more successful and happy, making your dream a reality.

David Bureau is an entrepreneur and an alumni of The Next 36. He is currently an Associate at 500 Startups Canada and the CFO at AmpMe.