‘Learn­ing to be a CEO of a pub­lic com­pany’

Vet­eran en­tre­pre­neur shifts mind­set ahead of mile­stone for on­line ed­u­ca­tion firm

Ottawa Business Journal - - SPONSORED CONTENT -

Brad Loiselle has a bold am­bi­tion: Ed­u­cate an en­tire coun­try. The se­rial en­tre­pre­neur is the pres­i­dent and CEO of bet­ter U, an Ot­tawa head­quar­tered ed­u­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy com­pany that’s tak­ing a sim­ple ap­proach to its am­bi­tious goal. By es­tab­lish­ing a dig­i­tal mar­ket­place for on­line ed­u­ca­tion, bet­terU con­nects global ed­u­ca­tors and con­tent providers with stu­dents in In­dia, a coun­try of more than one bil­lion res­i­dents who have tra­di­tion­ally had lim­ited ac­cess to high-qual­ity for­eign ed­u­ca­tion.

Get­ting the busi­ness off the ground re­quired pa­tience; Mr. Loiselle said it took a year to open a bank ac­count and ob­tain the nec­es­sary In­dian busi­ness li­censes.

How­ever, those ef­forts are now pay­ing off. With 22 trips to In­dia un­der Mr. Loiselle’s belt, bet­terU now of­fers 6,500 cour­ses in tech­nol­ogy train­ing, exam prepa­ra­tion as well as kinder­garten to grade 12 cour­ses.

Armed with these suc­cesses, Mr. Loiselle turned his at­ten­tion to se­cur­ing ad­di­tional fund­ing that would help his firm con­tinue to grow.

How­ever, he quickly ran into road­blocks.

“We’ve now shown that what we’re do­ing makes sense and is re­al­is­tic,” he said. “But in­vestors had a hard time un­der­stand­ing that what we are build­ing is even pos­si­ble. Ed­u­cat­ing an en­tire coun­try is some­thing that some peo­ple just roll their eyes at.”

Pub­lic of­fer­ing prepa­ra­tion

The chal­lenges se­cur­ing pri­vate in­vest­ments prompted Mr. Loiselle to shift his fo­cus to the pos­si­bil­ity of rais­ing cap­i­tal on the pub­lic mar­kets.

How­ever, that pre­sented a fresh prob­lem. De­spite hav­ing started sev­eral firms and even writ­ing a book on en­trepreneur­ship, Mr. Loiselle had never been through an ini­tial pub­lic of­fer­ing.

He said he needed some­one who un­der­stood the le­gal re­quire­ments, au­dit­ing ex­er­cises and how to pro­tect the com­pany’s in­ter­ests.

To help him with the process, he met with Michael Ger­rior, a part­ner at Ot­tawa law firm Per­ley-Robert­son, Hill & McDougall, who helped bet­terU with its due dili­gence process and pre­pared the com­pany for the scru­tiny it would soon face.

“You have to be able to show in­vestors that you have a real op­por­tu­nity and real growth that is sus­tain­able,” Mr. Ger­rior said.

One of the first sur­prises Mr. Loiselle faced was iden­ti­fy­ing risks fac­ing the firm - even those in­cred­i­bly un­likely events that are com­pletely out of his con­trol.

While Mr. Loiselle said he un­der­stood the need to be trans­par­ent with prospec­tive in­vestors, he said he didn’t ex­pect to have to list ev­ery sin­gle threat imag­in­able.

He ex­pressed his doubts to Mr. Ger­rior, who ex­plained that defin­ing all the risks would help pro­tect the com­pany.

The process changed Mr. Loiselle’s think­ing as he re­al­ized his pre­sen­ta­tion to in­vestors needed to be dif­fer­ent than his sales pitch.

“I’m al­ways op­ti­mistic. But this made me more care­ful about how I say things,” he said.

As bet­terU con­tin­ued to pre­pare its IPO pa­per­work, Per­ley-Robert­son, Hill & McDougall con­tin­ued to of­fer as­sis­tance. For ex­am­ple, the law firm con­nected the com­pany with a chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer who had ex­pe­ri­ence in pub­lic mar­kets and knew what reg­u­la­tors would be look­ing for in bet­terU’s ap­pli­ca­tion.

The big­gest value, how­ever, was Per­leyRobert­son, Hill & McDougall’s guid­ance that shifted Mr. Loiselle’s mind­set.

“It’s made me think about how to be a CEO of a pub­lic com­pany,” he said. “They el­e­vated us from a pri­vate­think­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion to a pub­lic-sec­tor think­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

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