Jake Swan started Liftoff Capital to help entrepreneurs link up with investors, peers and mentors, but now he sees it as part of the legacy of his late father, the Saint John tech entrepreneur John Swan.
Jake Swan grew up hearing his father, a serial entrepreneur who was Executive Chairman of the tech consultancy Encore Interactive, say entrepreneurs’ greatest challenges are finding investors and mentors. So in 2014, Jake began working on a dating-site concept that would help entrepreneurs expand their networks.
The younger Swan heads a team that launched Liftoff Capital in the autumn and is now at work developing entrepreneur networks, its tentacles extending beyond Atlantic Canada. By the time of the launch, the Swan family had learned that John Swan was suffering from cancer, and the disease claimed him in December.
“Dad was an all-round outstanding guy,” said Jake Swan in an interview last week. “I couldn’t have been luckier than to have him as a father. Dad was a very pragmatic guy. He never got over-excited, but he really liked this idea. He put a lot of himself into it as well, in terms of customer service.”
The Liftoff Capital team is now populating the liftoffcapital.com website, and has about 110 entrepreneurs signed up. Swan said the first 1,000 entrepreneurs who register will enjoy the Liftoff services free for their lifetime. So far most of the registrants are from New Brunswick and the other Maritime provinces, though some founders from Ontario have registered recently.
Investors can also register for free as the team wants to attract investors – who can remain anonymous on the site so they’re not pestered by startups that need capital.
Swan could not say how much money has been raised through the site, as that is a matter known only to the investors and entrepreneurs. But he did say companies are arranging meetings with potential investors and making sales to people they meet on the site.
“We’ve had a few smaller success stories,” said Swan last week. “I know there’s a meeting scheduled for tomorrow . . . . We’ve made some good introductions and got some good feedback.”
Swan, who makes his living as a physician, heads a four-member team that now oversees the project. Peter Oxley is in charge of operations while the two IT experts are Sergey Labsov and Maksym Bezorudko.
For now they are all working on Liftoff Capital on the side, and trying to get to that milestone of 1,000 users. Eventually, they hope it will become an essential forum for fundraising and contribute to a growing entrepreneurial community. As a doctor, Swan really hopes it helps grow the medical technology segment and bring new healthcare products to the market. And he wants the company to help memorialize his father, who is still listed among the founders on the website.
“Liftoff Capital was such a positive thing in his life that I think it gave him some inner peace when he was going through his battle with cancer,” said Swan. “We want to honour his legacy and help the business community this way.”