Q & A | The Story of a Prairie Legend
Randy Yatscoff, the Prairies Region Winner of the 2016 Adam Chowaniec Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Wolf Blass Wines, is an entrepreneur, community builder, and a mentor, who has truly impacted the lives of those around him. As the CEO of a drug development company, Randy led the company to raise $200 million in equity financing and took the company public. Read our conversation below.
Q: What’s the driving force behind all your achievements?
I like to see a project finish. (I like) seeing innovation from a concept and as it moves forward to become reality.
Q: Is that also your greatest legacy? If not, what is?
[My greatest legacy is] seeing people who I mentored move forward and be successful in their careers.
Q: Randy, what has been your single biggest lifelong lesson?
To listen and be patient. That’s the biggest one; when you’re young, you’re more impulsive. Listen and be patient. Things will come if you have your vision.
(Also,) take a risk. Take big risks. I gave up a guaranteed position until I’m 65 while I was in my early 40’s. I changed my whole career path.
Q: Was it worth it?
Absolutely. People would say “you’re crazy,” and I got a lot of flak from colleagues, but I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing here at TEC Edmonton without that experience. I would tell people right now your security is not in the job you have, it’s in your skill set. That’s where your security is. If you’ve got a great skill set and you can market yourself, you’ll get a job any place.
Q: How can we ensure Canadians have the right skills to contribute to an innovative, creative, and entrepreneurial Canada?
(By) having good support programs. This is really important – such as the startup groups across the country and incubators/accelerators like TEC Edmonton, MaRS Innovation, Communitech, and Innovate Calgary. We have to train them on having the right training for entrepreneurs. If we don’t, some will learn by the seat of their pants, and some won’t.
Q: What about universities? What’s their role?
Our university system has to adapt to foster entrepreneurship. Some faculties do and some faculties don’t, but at all levels of schooling, entrepreneurship needs to be more front and center.
Q: How can we make innovation and entrepreneurship more inclusive to all Canadians?
People may have ideas and think “How am I going to get a patent? How am I going do this? How am I going do that?” We don’t market ourselves. We don’t market innovation to the general public.
It’s the risk thing, too… to be able to take [risks] and no one’s going to crap on you if you make a mistake and don’t move forward.
Q: Let’s finish with your personal mantra. What keeps you going?
Carpe diem, and never look back. Seize the day: that’s my motto.