Never Back Down

By Bruce Firestone | Uncategorized

Sep 14

What the Future may Bring?

(Business Student Association, Alberta School of Business Keynote Speech given at the Deloitte Energize Your Future conference, Saturday September 21, 2013, Shaw Centre , Edmonton Alberta by Bruce M Firestone)


What is the one thing we know is infinite? Cosmos? Time? No. Ideas.


Start counting 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… Tell me when you’re done

Ideas are ∞

What happens when something is in infinite supply? Price –> 0

If you had to start a new enterprise today, what would you choose to start with? A great idea? An investment by rich Uncle Buck of $3 million? A fantastic partner? An awesome website? Launch clients? Answer: launch clients.

Chris Rock said, “LeBron is rich but the man who signs his paycheck is wealthy.”

If you are 6’8”, weigh 250 lbs, have a 44 inch vertical, you too can earn $17.8m in the NBA and add $42m in endorsements.

But you can’t bank on being rich but you can plan to be wealthy!

Wealth is renewable. Wealth means you have control over an asset, franchise or concession that produces regular, repeatable income. Let me repeat that: wealth means you have control over an asset, franchise or concession that produces regular, repeatable income.

I ask students, “Who wants to learn how to get rich quick?” Always a few who raise their hands. Sorry, can’t help you with that.

I teach people how to get wealthy, S  L  O  W.

How do I do that? We build world-leading business models. delivers luxe boxes, thousands of them, 1/month to a mainly female audience who pay them $10 to $12 a month for the box which contains samplers from L’Oreal, Moroccan Oil, Dermalogica, etc. Pretty standard biz model so far.

Here’s where it gets cool—they get their luxe box content for FREE. Their suppliers want to get their products inside luxe box so they can get access to LooseButton’s audience.

Wait, it gets better. L’Oreal/Moroccan Oil/Dermalogica pay LooseButton a rights fee to be in the mix.

It gets even better! G+M, People Magazine etc pay LB $8 to send luxe boxes to their customers as incentives to renew their subscriptions.

Imagine a biz model where not only clients pay you but suppliers do too and even your marketing is a negative cost! They get paid on three sides of their model!

Ray Cayen and Aditya Shah, 2 engineers from Waterloo, started LooseButton. What do they know about cosmetics? 0 What do they know about collecting metrics and analytics? A lot. Solved a pain point for the industry—giving out samplers in Holt Renfrew or Neiman Marcus yields 0, zip info on potential customers/product acceptance.

Every user creates a profile—age, gender, education, address, occupation and provides huge amount of feedback.

One thing missing from their biz Model? A social layer.

Arthur C Clark who was both an engineer and a sci-fi writer wrote a book (Childhood’s End) in 1953 that predicted the end of long distance charges by the beginning of the 21st century. The Internet, the browser, email, Instant Messaging and shortly thereafter Skype, Facebook and Twitter came just on time to make Arthur’s prediction come true.

We live in Marshal McLuhan’s global village thanks to marvelous young developers like Swede Niklas Zennström, who developed Kazaa and Skype, Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter and, of course, Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook.

I love what these kids have done. What a world they have created!

I have a twitter account, Goog+, Facebook, pinterest, 500px (image sharing site), tumblr blog, two wordpress blogs, a linkedin profile, youtube channels, Facebook pages, stupeflix movie maker channel, Instagram, Dropbox account.

I must be the only guy on the planet to have a We Heart It account.

Who said? “We live in a cynical world, a cynical, cynical world, and we work in a business of tough competitors.” Jerry Maguire played by Tom Cruise in Cameron Crowe’s 1996 film of the same name.

When I was in the 20s, the world’s population was around 3bn. And approximately 20% worked in a recognizably modern economy. So it was me competing with around 600m people.

Today, it’s a world of 7bn and around 60% work in a modern economy. So it’s you against 4.2bn.

But here’s the good news—thanks to Gen Y, you can also sell to 4.2bn so while it’s more competitive, your opportunities are HUMONGOUS.

And you can communicate with all those people for FREE. WOWZA!

So LB’s customers are creating their own YT videos that get as many as 10,000 views. LB has to integrate fans/follows/followers into their biz model. Why?

Because competitors can reverse engineer your product/service but not so easily duplicate your biz model.

What made Apple the biggest (by capitalization) tech co on the planet? Macs? iPod? iPad? No, it was the iPhone.

Not really the iPhone either. It was the iPhone biz model. Instead of selling a cell phone like the old Motorola Razr for 200 bucks, a one time event, Apple sells iPhones for $500 and CMRR (Committed Monthly Recurring Revenue) streams made up of a share of carrier monthly subscriber fees, app sales, ad revenues, iBooks, iTunes, rights fees, search fees, etc.

Steve Jobs, former Apple boss, and Sam Palmisano, former IBM CEO, spent 40% (!) of their time on biz models.

Former student, Daniel Beauchamp, sums it up best, “People can copy what you are doing but not what you are thinking about doing next.”

What’s next for LB? How about a pharma/health box or a man packs box or a nutrition/foodie box? That’s why they called it LooseButton not Luxe Box so they could enter new verticals… Buttons connect things. LB connects customers with suppliers and marketers.

So if you create a highly differentiated value proposition and a terrific biz model with amazing integration of the Internet allowing you to reverse out a lot of the work to clients and suppliers, if you can self capitalize the biz so you end up owning it not some VCs or Angel investors, if you can use guerrilla marketing/social media to connect with customers cost effectively and if you can create a vibrant community around your new enterprise, product or service, you are well on your way to creating sustainable wealth for your enterprise, yourself, your family and your other stakeholders.

Former student Jennifer Schweers worked in banking cuz her parents wanted her to…She got laid off in the financial meltdown of 2008/09. Told her parents she wanted to become an entrepreneur/a wedding photographer. They laughed. They said she didn’t even have enough money for the equipment. Hurt her feelings.

Scweersey, the new entrepreneur  

But wait. She’d taken a course with Prof Bruce. She knew all about bootstrapping.

Jen spent $500 on FB ads—girls who changed their status from single to engaged and live in Vancity or Victoria saw an ad for urban lens photography.

She took deposits—50% upfront and bought all the equipment she needed. So successful she was able to buy a new downtown Vancouver condo less than 2 years later. Thanks Mark!

If you have cashflow today, you will get financing not the other way round. So start with launch clients!

If you are going to be an intrapreneur, learn the skill set of an entrepreneur—great biz model, lotsa launch clients, cheap/effective guerrilla marketing, self-capitalize, do everything in parallel, passionate, creative, focused, ready to adapt…it’ll get you prompted faster.

Tariq comes forward to his boss with a proposal for a new product. It’ll take 2 years of R&D and $10m to develop. Hailey comes forward with competing product—also requires 2 years of development and $10m but she’s lined up 3 launch clients who’ll each contribute $2.5m upfront and take first 6 months of production. Whose product or service gets green lighted and who gets the next promotion? Tariq or Hailey?

“To live through an impossible situation, you don’t need the reflexes of a Grand Prix driver, the muscles of a Hercules, the mind of an Einstein. You simply need to know what to do,” Anthony Greenbank, The Book of Survival.

If you have a mental map of the way the world works, you can do thought experiments like Einstein. Canucks think that Brits or Yanks are better than us. Inferiority holds us back. Confidence, that’s what we all need more of…

People need People

Did anyone see the film Into the Wild? It was directed by Sean Penn and starred Emile Hirsch playing true life Christopher McCandless who went into the hinterlands of Alaska to live life close to nature. He died there—cut off from a return to civilization by raging floodwaters. He starved to death not realizing that just a few klicks in the other direction was a wire rope bridge hunters used to get out during floods. Without skill sharing and a mentor/a partner to verbalize good (and bad) ideas to, we are all dead.

Give People a Reason to Believe

People are most alive when they feel they are part of something bigger than themselves. It’s a shame that for most people they hark back to high school days or their college days when last they felt like this.

Buying a Business

How I got my start. Out of the $350k I needed, I put $10k down and like Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne (played by Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in the 1994 film Dumb and Dumber) I would owe them the rest. Where’d I get the $10k? Borrowed that from CIBC.

1025 Merivale Road

Part of the asset mix. Big problem? 1 tenant ending 25 year lease at $1.67 per sf per yr. Turn problem into opportunity. Sub-divide space into Macs Milk/Active Components/Douvris Martial Arts at $12, $6.50 and $5.50 per sf per yr. Sell plaza for $1.1m, pay off sellers 3 years early.

Get a Mentor

According to a 2011 SV report, tech startups that have a mentor, set goals and are held accountable, grow 7x (!) faster than those that don’t*. Murray Thompson mentored me in my 20s.

(* Startup Genome Report 01, Max Marmer, Bjoern Lasse Herrmann, Ron Berman, 2011. Full report: Excerpt:

Get a Life Coach

Former NFL superstar wide receiver Terrell Owens has had a life coach for the last two years. He says it has made a huge difference in his life and, if he had had a life coach during his playing days, it would probably have made him a better player too. Everyone needs a co-active life coach to help them find their way through an increasingly complex professional world and personal life.

What does the future promise?

  • The Internet is just a baby
  • It’s where electrification was at the end of its 2nd decade
  • It will eat EVERYTHING—tv, film, newspapers, banking, telecom, insurance, publishing, music, healthcare, government services, all services, all products, all innovation, every niche, every biz model
  • Jack Welch said that in all his years at GE, nothing, not jet engines, rockets, credit cards, CDs, DVDs, LEDs, calculators, sonar, bar codes,  ATMs, LCDs, video games, post-it notes, personal computers, cell phones, personal printers, laser printers, faxes, liposuction, MRIs, spreadsheets, walkman, windows, HDTV, Viagra, Segways, hybrids, YouTube, nothing compares to the advent of the Internet
  • Everything old is new again—look to the Encyclopedia Britannica circa 1930s for inspiration
  • DodoCase won Shopify’s first contest—they brought San Fran’s bookbinding traditions back to life
  • They fabricate American-made iPad and iPhone cases, laptop sleeves, wallets and folios  
  • They manufacture things locally and keep the art of bookbinding alive and well by adapting it to a world of e-readers and iPads
  • Each DODOcase cover has its own unique character and is handmade in San Francisco using techniques developed many years ago
  • Plus they wrap a modern (Internet-integrated) biz model around it
  • They mass customize their products by reversing out the design of each one to their customers as in BUILD YOUR OWN DODO
  • New industries are being born right now—e.g., 3-D printing
  • Need a new dress for prom or your company’s Xmas party?
  • Your personal 3-D printer will print one out for you in a couple of hours
  • Quantum computing will finally arrive
  • Infinite speed/bandwidth
  • Artificially intelligent agents will arrive… soon!
  • They’ll help you with your school work, your taxes, managing your social networks, research, writing, taking notes, answering your phone, screening your calls, paying your bills, babysitting your kids (when you have them), diagnosing illnesses, writing your shopping list, solving problems, reminding you of your appointments, writing emails, posting to social media, translating in real time as you speak or are spoken to in a language not your own…


Pet3r, the first Quantum Entity

  • They’ll never dump you like your last boyfriend just did (or girlfriend)
  • The internal time clock of the Internet speeds up as AI beings do more work inside what Neal Stephenson called the Metaverse (Snow Crash, 1992)
  • Personal productivity soars
  • Privacy is a joke—you have none
  • Creatives will get wealthier
  • Income disparity becomes even more pronounced
  • SCOTUS will have to decide at what point these artificial entities acquire human rights
  • World’s no. 1 economy will be China
  • First people on Mars will be… Chinese
  • Arthur C Clark’s elevators to space will be built on the moon and Mars not Earth
  • Alzheimer’s will be a forgotten disease
  • Weather forecasts will still suck
  • Digitally recorded film/video/books/blogs/photos/images will vanish into the void as websites/apps evolve and disappear or are replaced
  • Entertainers/starchitects/elite artists/writers etc will make more money after they die
  • Homes will be smaller
  • You will design your own home/plant a seed and nanoscale engines will custom build it for you
  • The skin of every building will produce power
  • Every wall will be a full-on, 2-way digital media wall


Ellen Interacting with her Media Wall

  • Cities will be taller and denser
  • The US follows Canada’s model and bans gated communities as being too elitist and divisive
  • Neo-urbanists will win/NIMBY’ites will lose in the struggle to build better, more sustainable urban centres
  • Elon Musk’s Hyperloop will take people from NYC to LA in 45 minutes at an average speed of 4,000 mph
  • Goog turns into Skynet
  • Wearable computers will be everywhere
  • Farm-in-a-box replaces industrial farms
  • Humanity creates vast, connected zones where humans are forbidden to enter
  • Human population begins a long decline
  • Buildings turn transparent as the Internet is overlaid on RL (Real Life)
  • Mega cities will dominate innovation and creativity
  • Everyone will have at least five or six careers


Nina—motocross racing/guitar-playing/rave attending/mediatronic programming/quantum data strategist/church-going/coffee house owning/half Hopi princess/rock n roll girl from Cal living in Texas w/ fluent French and some Swedish living in a time (2089) when all seems lost except hope (Quantum Entity | The Successors)

  • More and more people will develop and own PB4Ls (Personal Businesses for Life)
  • More people will become entrepreneurs and self-employed
  • The minimum wage will become a truly living wage as personal productivity increases even in service industries and retail
  • Workers become curators and teachers
  • Entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs turn to more self-capitalization techniques looking to future customers and suppliers as well as strategic partners for resources to start new enterprises or introduce new products and services 
  • People will crave authenticity and locally grown food and locally developed products
  • Quality and brand will matter even more
  • Community—online and RL will matter more too
  • Strangely, people who are all about the money will have none and people who are all about building insanely great products and services as well as giving back to their communities will have it all
  • Organizations will develop biz models that have both a for-profit component (e.g., Tony Greco Lean and Fit) and NFP (Tony Greco Foundation to Fight Childhood Obesity)
  • Organizations will discover that what they’ve been doing in terms of customer service has made that term an oxymoron
  • Banks and lenders that use credit scores and scoring machines to make all their decisions will be replaced by human-scale lenders
  • Companies like credit card processor Square that enable individuals and SMEEs (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises) to start processing payments in minutes instead of months and with fees that are a fraction of large banks will end bank dominance in many parts of the industry
  • Ditto pensions funds and insurance companies
  • People will search for more kindness and tolerate bullying, cronyism and dictatorship less
  • English will prove to be unstoppable
  • There will be more people in ESL (English as a Second Language) that any other single course
  • People will feel even more alienated from their governments than they already do
  • Relationships will become more critical in a self-help world
  • Customers service will become a profit centre instead of a cost centre
  • People will never retire
  • People will work effectively into their 80s and 90s
  • People will live into their 90s and 100s
  • Get ready for a 70 year career
  • Lifetime learning will be essential
  • It’s a growth industry
  • I retrained myself (took 8 courses and 8 exams in my 50s so I could get my real estate broker license)
  • Marks were 82 to 96 so I could prove to my 5 kids, you are never too old!
  • Exercise your brain like the rest of your body
  • Financial planning becomes more vital—another growth industry
  • Yoga, physiotherapy, holistic medicine—more growth ahead
  • It’s not autos, tech, communications, entertainment that are biggest, it’s the real estate biz that is world’s largest industry
  • Other industries that are crucial?
  • Energy, agriculture, cloud computing, marijuana, software, food processing, event planning, wineries, clothing and fashion, video and film, television arts, construction, renovation, maintenance, trades, veterinarian, restaurants, engineering, design, coder, photography, genetics, specialty foods, food trucks, mentoring, life coaching…
  • Child rearing will be much more accepted and heavily promoted/supported by societies desperate for kids
  • Age of majority, voting age, drinking age, legal age, military service age and driving age will be 16 and society will stop treating teenagers as incompetent nincompoops and recognize as well as value the energy/passion/speed/sweat equity and luck they bring to EVERYTHING
  • Elders will be rediscovered to find that they have exceptional wisdom to share/pass on  and that there are better uses for them than shuffling them off to and stacking them in vertical warehouses to await death
  • There has never been a better time to start a business!
  • Make sure you are in an industry where all boats are rising!
  • The future will surprise us!


Knock, Knock. Who’s there? Dunno. Dunno who? Dunno the future

Bring Back the Senators

That was our rallying cry. This was a team that last played in the NHL in 1933 before pressure from the Great Depression forced a move to St Louis where they played for a year before folding. I was asked why use that old name? Well, after Montreal and Toronto, who has won the most Stanley Cups? It’s the Sens with 9 (last one in 1927).

A Simple Plan

Our real estate company went from getting $18 per sf per yr for our space to $6. Move up food chain. Buy 600 acres at $12k per acre. Put a NHL team and a NHL-calibre arena in the middle. Drive up values to $112k per acre. Sell extra 500 acres. Make a profit of $50m. Put that in Brinks trucks. Take to Park Avenue. Give money to NHL. Get NHL franchise. This is typical entrepreneur-style thinking—each project is, in effect, self funded.

What went Wrong?

Everything. We needed three things from Ontario—1. priority review and approval of rezoning to allow us to build the Palladium (now Canadian Tire Centre), 2. private money buys franchise/builds new arena (this is not another SKY Dome where Ontario lost $450 million) but province builds new Palladium interchange at a cost of $30 million, 3. premier to come to Palm Beach in December and tell NHL that Ontario is a great place to invest in. Chain smoking, deal making liberal premier David Peterson says, “Yes” to all three requests then calls a summer election, two and a half years early, which he loses via nearly perfect vote splitting to Bob Rae and the NDP. I said to my team, “Don’t worry, jobs are just as important to the NDP as Libs.” No word from Bob in September or October. On November 29th just seven days before NHL’s winter meeting, Mr Rae writes me a letter.


We held a news conference. We made Mr Rae’s letter public knowing that if we don’t, they would. Everyone expected we would fold but we had collected 15,000 PRNs (season ticket registrations at $25 each) from the public, we had 500 corporate sponsors at $500 each and 31 original corporate partners at $15k each as well as bought lands for $7.2 million and spent another $2 million on the bid itself—there was no going back. We told the folks in Ottawa and the news media that we would go to Palm Beach, win a franchise and then beat our own government at the OMB where all the appointees were appointed by Libs or PCs.

Turning Disadvantages into Advantages

Mr Rae and his inner cabinet were asked by the Hamilton caucus to torpedo Ottawa’s bid. NDP was very strong in Hamilton Wentworth but had only one member of the legislature in Ottawa—Evelyn Gigantes who called the Palladium “a playpen for the rich.” Then Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington later said, “I’ll be damned if we should let some socialist premier tell us where to put our teams.” Hamilton bidder Ron Joyce held forth that they already had an NHL-calibre arena in Copps Coliseum but in fact Gino Rossetti (architect for the Palace of Auburn Hills where the Detroit Pistons play and the Palladium) had revolutionized stadium design so not having yet built an arena turned into an Ottawa advantage.

Media Focus

We were competing not only against Hamilton but also St Petersburg, Tampa, Houston, Milwaukee, Seattle, Portland… The Ottawa Citizen planned to go (an in fact did) with headline… “The Winners are Milwaukee and Seattle.”

Lydia Leeder’s Call

“It’s like Canada versus Russia in 1972!” Now that’s pressure.


“Mr Firestone, there’s just one thing I want to say: you will never, ever get a team in Ottawa.”


Phil Esposito and Bruce Firestone lobbying Board of Governors next morning. Where are the other bidders?

Pressure Mounts

Bruce goes for a job. On his return, one of his staff says, “The NHL has made a decision.” “What decision?” “I don’t know.”

Basement of the Breakers Hotel

“It doesn’t look good. If we have lost, we’ll thank the NHL and then hold our own press conference.”

The NHL is Pleased and Proud to Announce

The NHL is pleased and proud to announce that conditional memberships have been awarded to the cities of Ottawa… and Tampa.”

What was the Vote?

“What was the vote, John?” “It was unanimous.


Bruce Firestone and NHL President John Ziegler

A Strange Call

Three weeks later, Bruce gets a telephone call.


They don’t actually give NHL franchises to cities; they give them to people.

Florida Governor

The Florida Governor calls Phil to congratulate him. In Ontario, the Sens get a lawsuit from their provincial government.

At the OMB

2 and ½ days on the stand. The offer that Bruce makes against all advice.

Lessons Learned?

Trust is the no. 1 thing in life. That to get anywhere in life, requires passion and commitment. S/he who loses her/his temper first, loses. It’s bootstrapped entrepreneurs for the most part who are shaping a sustainable future for communities across the planet.

Questions about Hockey:

1. It’s a question that a lot of entrepreneurs are asked. Why you? And what made you think of founding an NHL team in Ottawa.

2. How can anyone really know what to do in a difficult situation especially if it’s the first time they’ve ever faced it?

3. If you were to do it again, what would you do differently?

4. What was the best hockey advice you ever got?

5. How are the Sens going to do this year and who is better—the Sens, Leafs or Habs?

6. What was the lowest point in your effort to Bring Back the Senators?

7. You were the leader of the Bring Back the Sens effort. What makes a good leader?

Questions about Business:

8. What is more risky? Being an entrepreneur or getting a job.

9. Once you become an entrepreneur, can you go back to working for someone else?

10. How important is a never-before-tried idea to starting your own business?

11. How can people become more creative?

12. Most people prefer marketing to sales. How can you take the fear out of sales?

13. Why do most banks only lend money to people who don’t need it?

14. When is the right time to go after VC or Angel funding?

15. Why shouldn’t an entrepreneur build a business to flip it? When’s the right time to cash in?

16. Can you tell us about one piece of guerrilla marketing you did that worked?

17. Why is a brand so important?

18. Would you recommend a partnership to found a new enterprise?

19. If a young person doesn’t have money what else can they bring to startups?

20. How much of any business decision is analysis, how much is based on intuition?

Courses by Professor Bruce M Firestone

  • Advanced Business Models
  • Advanced Design Economics
  • Advanced Product Management
  • Advanced Sponsorship – How to Find Sponsors for Practically Anything
  • Corporate Structure and Organization
  • Creditor Proofing
  • Entrepreneurialist Culture
  • Guerrilla Marketing and Social Media
  • Negative Cost Selling and Marketing—Turn Selling into Buying
  • Real Estate and Development
  • Self-Capitalization for the Modern Enterprise
  • Startup DNA
  • Urban Design and Urban Economics


Nell, Ellen Brooks and Damien Bell 

From Quantum Entity | we are all ONE 

In the mid-21st century, amidst a world entrenched in corporate power and greed, brilliant young physicist Damien Bell emerges to create quantum communications and the AI phenomenon of quantum entities––poised to make global scarcity a thing of the past. Here Damien’s journey begins––thrust into the reality of global business influence and national security––to prove that “we are all ONE.”

When young physicist and engineer Damien Bell and his business partner, fabulous Ellen Brooks, unleash both a revolutionary communications platform and a contemporaneous new life form called Quantum Entities on an unsuspecting world, they unwittingly change the very nature of the economic and political system of their mid-21st century world. Together, as they build a new globe-spanning, ultra-fast growing tech enterprise that begins to get away from them––they inevitably come into conflict with entrenched business and political interests.




Entrepreneurs Handbook II

Second Edition

You can think your way to wealth a lot faster than you can work your way there

Do you want to learn how to create significant value for yourself and your family in an enterprise that you own and control – value that can provide you the freedom and security to realize your lifetime goals? This handbook will teach you how to bootstrap yourself to success in the 21st century.

This handbook will take you on a voyage to create the most compelling business models for the 21st century. We are going to look deep into the past at business models from decades past, as well as show you new models that may amaze you.

You will learn how it is possible to reverse out much of your work, to create mass customization in products and services, turn products into services and vice versa, engage in negative cost selling, negative cost marketing and much more. 





Ottawa Senators and Bruce Firestone, Founder

(Seated front row, centre)




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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.