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We All Lose A Little
A bi-weekly column with timely, relevant and possibly irreverent insight into the BC technology industry.

Something Ventured:
April 18th, 2003

By Brent Holliday
Greenstone Venture Partners

"It's these little things that can pull you under
Live your life full of joy and thunder" - REM, Sweetness Follows

Sometimes your world just gets rocked.  Out of nowhere, tragedy strikes.  Other times, you deal with a long, slow very painful ride of emotions until the day arrives.  Wouldn’t it be a lot less painful if we could all live to be 102 and die peacefully in our sleep? 

Within 24 hours of each other, two men that were important to our local technology industry died.  Cecil Green was a legend in all of technology having been a founder of Texas Instruments.  He was 102.  Peter Standeven was a low-key, incredibly hard worker who gave us the IT Financing Forum and CanadaIT.com. No single person in Canada knew the early stage technology landscape, both companies and venture capitalists, better than him. He was 48. He was also a friend.

I was always inspired by the incredible life story of Cecil Green.  You have read it here before when he turned 100 (http://www.bctechnology.com/statics/bh-nov1700.html) in late 2000.  The Vancouver Sun did a great obituary on Cecil today, using lots of material from Haig Farris, an old friend of Cecil’s and the first to tell me about him 10 years ago.  His death comes as a passing, almost with whimsy.  He was 102, after all.  We all can reflect on a great life and smile.

It’s a very different feeling for a man that leaves behind a wife and three daughters.  I grieve for Peter and his family.  Reflection comes later.

Peter’s death comes with the dreaded adjective, “untimely”.  His 2 ½ year battle with cancer was fought extremely bravely, which is what we all say when we have never been through it and the stricken person continues to act as normal as possible.  Despite being kicked around by the disease, he was emotionally strong and he continued to work.  He had incredible tenacity, which his long time Financing Forum partner Mary MacDonald sometimes would refer to as “stubborn”.  The last time we all saw him in public was at the Rocket Builders breakfast in late January.  He was his usual self, a somewhat thinner guy but otherwise normal.  Same wry smile.  Same incredible dry wit.  According to his very good friend, Dave Thomas at Rocket Builders, Peter worked right up until last Friday on the upcoming IT Financing Forum in Toronto.  He finished his job in helping pick the companies.  He was supposed to have died last summer when doctors told him his cancer was back.  Every week that he could work to help his family and, more importantly, continue to BE with his family, was just another week to Peter.  He didn’t dwell on his timeline too much.  

Over the past two years, Peter and I had worked on projects together and spent lots of time talking about our passion, the Canadian technology industry.  We discovered that his wife was from my hometown and that her aunt and uncle lived three doors from my parents.  Since my Dad is a surgeon, we talked a lot about the disease and I relayed some critical health questions back and forth.  I was living this role in stereo. My best friend in high school was fighting the exact same battle, only 6 months ahead of Peter and they shared stories via e-mail.  Like Peter, my friend Larry had the disease come back after a period of remission.  Larry died last June.  By that time Peter had dealt with his fate.  He just wanted to provide for and comfort his family.  That’s where he drew his strength.

Peter was a Western MBA who started his career back in Ontario in the finance business.  He started working with Mary MacDonald in 1988, quitting his job in Toronto to work with the fledgling Canadian Venture Capital Association on its professional development initiatives. Mary continued to establish herself as the venture capital information source in Canada.  Peter, working on contracts with the federal government to improve investment in Canadian technology, established himself as the human encyclopedia of early stage IT companies.  In 1994, they dreamt up the IT Financing Forum (www.financingforum.com) and launched it in Toronto.  The first year they cancelled it because they couldn’t find 12 good IT companies looking for money.  But the next year, in 1995, it was so successful, that they quickly split into two versions, one in Vancouver in November and one in Toronto in late May (This year’s is May 21st and 22nd).  I might be biased, but for my money, it is far and away the best place for information technology and communications companies to find money and for VCs to find the best presenting companies in Canada.

Peter moved back to Vancouver (White Rock) in 1997 to be closer to where he grew up in Campbell River and to live the active lifestyle with his kids.  He lived his life the way he did to be with them as much as he could.  I met him shortly after that and used his vast knowledge often as a VC looking across the landscape for opportunities. I will miss our chats and his pragmatic view.  Mary said she will just start to realize what we are all missing now because of what he knew and how he did his work in preparing for the Forum.  She will probably need three people to cover his unique capabilities. 

If it hasn’t already, cancer will come close to any of you in your lifetime.  It is never easy to deal with because it usually drags people you love through a slow and painful death.  For those that live, it brings moments of clarity about your life, your role in it and your focus on what’s important.  Hopefully, it inspires you to do something really good for you, your family or for the community.  Other than our memories of a wonderful person like Peter, the legacy of an untimely death should be motivation to make life a little better.

In this public forum in which I have the privilege to write, I didn’t intend to get this personal.  But, the week has brought the loss of two very important people in the technology industry in BC and in Canada.  This is my way of celebrating those lives.

What Do You Think? Talk Back To Brent Holliday


Something Ventured
is a bi-weekly column designed to supplement the T-Net British Columbia web site with some timely, relevant and possibly irreverent insight into the industry. I hope to share some of the perspective and trends that I see in my role as a VC. The column is always followed by feedback (if its positive or constructive. I'll keep the flames to myself, thanks).

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