Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Brennan McEachran, who recognized a glaring problem in the workflow of businesses and worked on a solution while he was still a student at Ryerson University. Today, some of the world’s biggest brands use his service, including Coca-Cola Canada, Parmalat and Bank of Montreal…
Describe what you do in less than 140 characters. Go.
I’m the CEO of SoapBox. We create software that flattens large organizations by connecting leaders with the best ideas from their employees.
What was the inspiration for your career route?
I was an undergrad at Ryerson University and became frustrated with my student experience. Registering for classes was a broken process. Buying textbooks was a struggle and wasted a lot of people’s time. My friends felt the same way and we would often think of solutions on how to fix these problems.
One night, while my head was swimming with ideas on how to fix these experiences at school, I decided to do something about it. I emailed the (then) president of Ryerson, Sheldon Levy. Two weeks later I received an email back from him inviting me into his office to discuss my ideas.
At the meeting, he seemed really excited to hear what I had to say. While I was telling him my ideas, he was shooting off emails and calling people to get the ideas implemented as quickly as possible. He said he rarely received first-hand, unfiltered information from students. He really appreciated the feedback. I took the opportunity to show him a software system I wanted to build that would connect him to even more ideas from his students. He was really excited and connected me with the DMZ.
The DMZ was Canada’s first University incubator for startup ventures. SoapBox was one of the first startups there. Now we have 35 full-time employees and service some of the largest brands in North America, including BMO, Metrolinx, Coca-Cola Canada, and Indigo.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
It’s too hard to pick just one! Getting our first client was a big milestone, so was hiring our first employee. Fundraising. Hanging out with Justin Trudeau when he launched his SoapBox for his 2012 leadership campaign. Getting married, moving into our first office. Meeting awesome people.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
Still at SoapBox. We have so many great ideas that I’d like to see come to life. In five years, I’d like to see SoapBox being used by every “people” manager in North America. In 10 years, we hope to become a core way that organizations of all sizes enable high-performance cultures. In 20 years, we’ll still be at it – we’ll probably just have new office space on Mars.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Don’t quit. The number one thing that got me this far was not quitting. If you’re passionate about building something, do it. Figure it out. Learn from your peers. Join a successful startup, find a great mentor. Make sure you’re ready before you go out on your own so you don’t have to learn the hard way.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is it (or they) important to you?
I’m a big fan of supporting local community initiatives and knowledge-building programs. I started a program called Mockup to Launch, a free, BYO-laptop workshop series providing technical, skill building opportunities, and creating something new each class. I’m very passionate about kids learning code. I see huge opportunities there.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I faced in my career was my changing role. When I first got started, I was doing everything by myself. Then the company started to grow, fast, and my role evolved with it. When we went from three people to 10 people, I had to take a crash course in management and reimagine my role within the company. Now that I manage the managers, I’m very separated from the actual work, and that was a challenge to get used to.
What does the word notable mean to you?
Someone who possess an immense amount of passion. Some people have it, some people don’t. Some people are just so incredibly passionate about what they’re doing that it’s inspiring. These people get a ton of respect from me. They are who I consider notable.
Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
I’m not a foodie. Like, at all. To be honest, I usually just drink Soylent for lunch. Thankfully, my senior leadership team and wife are good at picking out good places to eat. I really like Thai food. And breakfast. So any place that serves good Thai food and breakfast (not together, obviously) is good by me.
What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser? The most played song on your phone?
Since SoapBox runs on Google Apps, I always have gmail and my calendar open. I’ve also been spending more and more time on Twitter (follow me?), so that’s a site I always have opened as well. I don’t really have a song I listen to all the time, but I listen to Apple Music Radio a ton. Generally exploring and staying up-to-date with the youth (man, that makes me sound old).
Who’s one person you think everyone should be following on social media?
The founder of Netscape, Marc Andreessen (@pmarca). He’s now a VC at A16z. I find him very witty and insightful, and he curates really interesting content through his Twitter page.
What’s your favourite country to visit and why? And what’s the next one you plan on travelling to?
Mmmm… no favourite because I haven’t seen enough yet to make that decision! My next trip will involve a warm beach somewhere. My wife and I try to alternate between go-go-go adventure trips and total relaxation. Though, to be honest, I’m always happy to come home and see friendly, flannel wearing, maple syrup poutine-eating Canadian folk.
What gives you the greatest FOMO?
Dying? Everything awesome comes in the future. I’d hate to miss the coolest thing by a year or two by dying. What happens when I’m 82 and people leave on the first trip to Mars… and I die right before they get there? That would suck! I’d love make it long enough to see the world of tomorrow.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Sour Patch Kids.
What’s something you wish you didn’t spend so much money on? What’s something you wish you spent more on?
I use Uber and the Ritual app for lunch all the time. It’s ridiculous how great they are and how much I can spend on both without even realizing it.
And finally, what does success look like to you? Work, play, or otherwise…
By the time I’m 40, I’d like to have enough money to be able to devote a majority of my time to family and enough experience and skills to devote the rest of my time towards solving a big problem the world is facing. That’s what success looks like to me. I just want enough money so that my family’s comfortable and free to do what we want. Anything beyond that is excess.