Wealthsimple’s Mike Katchen says Canadian entrepreneurs need more “naive ambition” to find global success


At TechTO’s recent Best Of TechTO event celebrating the city’s entrepreneurs, Mike Katchen, CEO of Wealthsimple, gave tips on how businesses can think big in Canada.

In his talk, Katchen described telling Wealthsimple’s board of advisers two years ago about his vision of making their first trillion dollars in 15 years.

“They just about laughed me out of the room,” said Katchen, who says that Wealthsimple now has a billion dollars in assets and launched in the US.

“The only reason we’re doing something as crazy as that in a space like financial services, which people see as crazy hard because it’s regulated…is because from the very start we had these global aspirations about the business we wanted to build,” said Katchen. “We managed to pull together some of the other ingredients around that to make it possible.”

He shared other “ingredients” that were key to helping Canadians think globally, and shared some verticals in the Canadian market that startups should think about tackling.

“Look for ideas in AI, in quantum, in FinTech. Life sciences. These are gonna be real hot, really well-supported ideas over the next coming years. So we need really smart people working on those problems here,” said Katchen, adding that Canada has amazing talent that businesses should take advantage of.

“I think we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to actually reverse the brain drain. We lose so many of our talented engineering grads to the US historically,” said Katchen. “I would argue that it’s probably a little more attractive to stay in Canada right now.”

Katchen also argued that it’s not enough for Canadians to be content operating just in the Canadian market, and that there was a need for one missing ingredient: a naive ambition.

“[It’s] trying to build something crazy big without regard for how hard it’s going to be to get there. It’s not enough for us to build a really exciting ecosystem that gets the best talent in the world to work on some of the biggest challenges here in Toronto — here in Canada.” said Katchen.

Watch the full presentation below:

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Madonna Dennis

Madonna Dennis is a staff writer at BetaKit. She’s a fourth-year journalism student interested in healthtech. She’s passionate about tight-knit teams working together, which is why she’s so fascinated by startup culture. Madonna’s hobbies include dragon boating, singing, and hosting a YouTube show about cat news.

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