Kelly Graves Leaves Legacy as Entrepreneur in Residence at CTI

Kelly GravesI had a great lunch with Kelly Graves at Redwater Grill last week. For those who are following my culinary business adventures, I had an awesome seafood pasta … Redwater has shot to the top of my “best kept secret” eating spots around Calgary.

Speaking of best kept secrets (nice segue!), Kelly has been the Entrepreneur in Residence at Calgary Technologies Inc. for the last year. Kelly has been successful in a number of ventures in the oil patch, dot-coom boom and technology consulting since the 1980’s. He took a number of years off in Salt Spring Island, until the close-encounters as a cyclist on the skinny roads and itch to return to high-tech brought him back to Calgary.

The part-time role of the EIR is occupied by a successful entrepreneur who is typically taking a bit of time to re-connect with the high tech scene while figuring out their next move, while at the same time helping up to 100 different companies with business development planning and connecting entrepreneurs with angel investors and/or talent. The previous EIR was Derek Ball, now known in Calgary circles as the mastermind behind the secretive Tynt.

On a personal note, as I am also searching for my next career move, Kelly was incredibly helpful, and might I also say energetic, about connecting me to ten companies who are looking for business development / go to market help. “And, if those ten don’t work out, we’ll go to the next ten.”

What was refreshing is that Kelly could name these people and companies off the top of his head … and was excited about each of their stories.

Therein lies the legacy that Kelly (and the other EIR’s) leave behind after their year tenure. Their humble passion for entrepreneurs, combined with their business development experience and rolodex, AND with the resources of CTI at their fingertips, has kept many small high tech companies in the fight to make their business successful.

I had coffee with Alan McNaughton, COO of Aksys this morning (a topic for an upcoming blog post), and asked him about his experience with Kelly: “The great thing about the EIR is you get to bounce ideas off an experienced business person that has no agenda of their own, other than to help you. You go looking for criticism … the great thing about Kelly is that he did it in a very encouraging way.”

Kelly also formed “informal board of directors” comprised of people from several different small high tech companies who give their opinions on each other’s business … taking the 1:1 approach of the EIR and turning it into the 1:Many power of the community around him.

Derek Ball’s advice to Kelly when he started as EIR last year was to “ignore all the employment offers that will come your way on a weekly basis, spend the year as EIR, and then pick 5 to launch into your next career.” It’ll be great to see where Kelly ends up, and I know all those he’s touched along the way will be rooting for him!