Collaboration among Startups: Brendan Dunn, Holt Fintech Accelerator

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Based in the Bahamas, Brendan Holt Dunn is the CEO of Holdun, Founder and Managing Partner of Holt Accelerator. Mr. Dunn comes from a long line of entrepreneurs. His great, great grandfather Sir Herbert Holt, was known as a pioneer in the development of the energy business in Quebec, now known as Hydro-Quebec (previously Montreal Light, Heat & Power) and he was the longest standing President and Chairman of the Royal Bank of Canada to ever have served. The legacy of Sir Herbert and his lifetime of achievements led him to acquire an empire worth over $3 billion by the 1940s.

1.     When you reflect upon your career path, is there a defining moment that influenced where you are today? 

While I’ve always been engaged in the family office, in a past life I played tennis semi-professionally. While the hard-work and focus of achieving milestones was incredibly rewarding, I found it to be a lonely profession. I realized I received the same intrinsic reward when focusing on the family office, and ultimately, I was happiest when surrounded by family, and friends considered family, in pursuit of collective goals.


2.     Canada’s tech ecosystem is vibrant and rapidly expanding. Looking back, which factors in your view have driven this expansion? What do you think can be done to accelerate this further? 


A highly trained workforce, a growing investment community, and some early tech successes reinvigorated the entrepreneurial community in Canada, leading to more Startups and more support systems. Ways to accelerate include:

·      Double down on the best investments, so that we get more Canadian Unicorns.

·      More pre-seed and seed investment, to increase the pipeline of sound teams.

·      Increased government support, either providing investment funds with economic development goals, or supporting entities that help Startups, including for-profits that are sometimes overlooked versus the non-profit counterparts.


3.     Canadian Dream Summit aspires to a Canada where everyone is able to pursue and achieve their greatest ambitions. Three principles guide us: #VisionToReality, #CollaborateLocal, #DreamGlobal. Which one of these resonates the most with your work? 


I would say #VisiontoReality, as the others are sounds as subcomponents to me. For instance, “reality” requires collaboration locally (i.e. takes a village to raise a Startup), while “vision” can be characterized by dream global, with all venture based entrepreneurs either publicly or secretly wanting to have a global impact.


4.     If you had three wishes for Canada’s tech ecosystem in 2019, what would they be and who would they impact? 


1.     More corporate adoption: This includes more executive levels leading by example and “sponsoring” Startups that they wish to adopt internally.

2.     Improved regulatory environment: We must advance more quickly around subjects like Open Banking (or Open Data), harmonized regulation nationally and internationally, and increased “sandboxing” efforts with the aim of adapting legislation quickly thereafter.

3.     More government support: Improved models to support ecosystem development players, including the sometimes overlooked for-profit players.


5.    What do you see as a significant area of untapped opportunity for Canadian tech? 


While collaboration between big corporate and Startups is all the rage today, I do think that the future will yield more collaboration among Startups. We are seeing that certain partnerships between Startups creates immediate financial sustainability for both players, while also providing new growth levers to accelerate into new markets.

Brendan Dunn is an advisor to Canadian Dream Summit, taking place on February 19th in Toronto. To reserve a ticket, click here.