I had a wonderful lunch with Austin Hill today. Austin is a Canadian entrepreneur & angel investor based in Montreal. Here is a very detailed “about me” section where he shares with us his background and accomplishments. (a good read) I will just highlight a few things here,
- Austin created his first company Cyberspace Data Security when he was seventeen. He did computer security testing and awareness training for customers like the Calgary Board of Education and TransAlta Corporation.
- In 1997, Austin co-founded a company called Zero-Knowledge Systems, with his brother and father. He was the companies President from 1997-2001 where he helped the company in raising $75 million in venture capital.
- He was selected as a technology pioneer of the World Economic Forum in 2001 and presented at the meeting in Davos.
- He designed the concept and copy behind a series of popular advertisements that Zero-Knowledge produced. [K: Really neat and creative ad.]
- He is now working on a new project involving social entrepreneurship, philanthropy and online communities to be launched in early 2007.
My impression of Austin is that he is an incredibly entrepreneurial, smart, creative and friendly guy. In the 2.5 hours we spent together over an extended lunch, we had a wide and engaging discussion over many topics of interest to both of us.
We ended up chatting about the following things (and this is *not* a complete list): The Band of Angels (a Silicon Valley’s organization that funds and advises seed stage startups), the film Gandhi, The Gandhi Project (Austin’s uncle is one of the film Gandhi’s producer and has 60 Oscars under his name), Whitfield Diffie, Bruce Schneier, freedom.net (shutdown in Sept 2006), the concept of community production vs crowd sourcing, Tara Hunt of Citizen Agency, Social entrepreneurship, Larry Brilliant of Google.org, and Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn. Austin considers both “The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations” and “How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas” insightful books and I have put them on my to-read list now.
We also talked a lot about Project Ojibwe. Austin and project co-founder Alex Eberts are on a grand quest of creating online communities that will help people to make the world a better place one small step at a time — in short, saving the world Wikipedia-style. As the project is still in stealth mode, I will blog more about it as more information become public.
I don’t get impressed by people easily. And I am impressed by what Austin has achieved and his determination and wish to help to create a better world. Of course, I am pragmatic enough that I will still have to see the details and the execution of Project Ojibwe first before I can make any objective and rational assessment.
Will keep you posted of the new adventures of Austin.
P.S. We also talked about Dean Kamen briefly. Without going to lengthy details, I think Dean Kamen is a super smart inventor and his over-hyped Segway project is truly a technological wonder but also
a massive business failure “not as successful as it could have been” at the same time.