The Dragon And The Bullfrog: A Talk with Bruce Croxon

Bruce Croxon talks good business and sustainability
Bruce Croxon talks good business and sustainability

Bruce Croxon is the co-founder of Lavalife, one of the first online dating sites, and Round13, an investment company with a mandate to help start-ups. Round13 is named in reference to the famous “Thrilla in Manilla” fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. He wants the businesses he puts money into to have tenacity, the fighting spirit.

Bruce, who’s most famous for being the newest dragon on the hit investment show Dragon’s Den, was driving back into Toronto on the Don Valley Parkway when AmongMen caught up to him. “What do I think about the title Dragon?” he ponders, “Well, I didn’t really get it when they asked me to be a part of the show. I wasn’t a big watcher.”

He’s right, the slightly sinister term doesn’t exactly suit the environmentalist with a passion for start-ups. The show is a good platform for an entrepreneur though, and Bruce notes that he wouldn’t be on the show if it didn’t aid his interests. He’s also surprised by its popularity. The primary interest of his that we got to talking about was clean, sustainable business venture.

Driving down the DVP he notes “there’s a long way to go,” the fight for green markets won’t be a short one. Sustainable, ethical choices add expense to public companies. The Dow Jones and TSX have created a market situation that’s all about the bottom line, and price neutrality for green choices isn’t here yet.  It’s something that has to be talked about, demanded by consumers, “companies won’t do it out of the goodness of their heart.” Corporations have to see consumers paying for the green product before they will. It has to be good business.

“You have to vote with your wallet” he notes, mentioning one of his favourite Canadian businesses, Bullfrog Power, which buys sustainable energy, but costs the consumer 30% more. Bruce has a sign in his yard that says ‘my home is powered by Bullfrog.’ It’s a sacrifice, but will become less so as more people make it. So do.

Of the lessons he’s learned on his career path, the greatest he notes is not to partner or get involved with people that don’t share your same values or commitment: “You have to be consumed by the business you’re in,” which sounds a bit more draconian. The dragon is bigger than the bullfrog, but the bullfrog can also become the dragon. Bruce has.

It makes him the atypical capitalist, and he recognizes that. He’s not, for example, putting out a business book, like many TV famous entrepreneurs. “I don’t read business books. I’m not interested enough.” He lists Cormac McCarthy, Joseph Boyden and Elmore Leonard as his idea of a good read.

You have a chance to meet and hear from the environmentalist, investor and literature-lover along with fellow dragons Saturday, at the Gentlemen’s Expo in Toronto. Say hi, he’s easy to talk to.

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