Kobo Founder and CEO Mike Serbinis at AccelerateTO!

September 19, 2013 C100



The C100 is so excited to host Mike Serbinis at AccelerateTO!  Mike Serbinis, founder and CEO of Kobo, will chat with Lars Leckie, Managing Director at Hummer Windblad Partners, and our C100 Co-Chair.  Mike and Lars will discuss important lessons that Mike learned as he built several companies including Kobo, Critical Path, DocSpace and Zip2.

Mike is currently the founder and CEO at Kobo, a global leader in eReading founded in Dec 2009, spun out of Canadian bookseller Indigo.  Kobo, sold to Japanese Internet giant Rakuten for $315M, serves millions of readers in over 190 countries worldwide.  Only 3 years old today, Kobo is fast on track to becoming a billion dollar company under Mike's leadership.   

Prior to Kobo, Mike developed routing technology at Microsoft, search engine technology at Zip2 (sold to Altavista for $300M), founded and sold DocSpace for $568M in 2000 and worked tirelessly to turnaround Critical Path – a global provider of messaging services who ran one-third of the world's email.

Mike is currently a member of the Founder's Board at Round 13 Capital, Board of Trustees at the Ontario Science Centre and is a member of YPO.  He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Physics from Queens University and a Masters of Science in Financial Engineering from the University of Toronto.  And once upon a time, Mike designed a high temperature superconductor propulsion system that won Gold at the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair, and numerous other awards, sponsorships and jobs from Nasa, Rockwell Aerospace and Intel.

Some insights from Mike

What do you attribute to Kobo's success? 

At Kobo we talk a lot about “thinking bigger.”

When we founded Kobo, we thought that we were at the beginning of a 25 year transformation, a generational change in books and reading.  Books were going digital.  Access to content was going to expand, and reach more people in more places.  We believed that the global distribution model was set to change, and that a handful of global brands would emerge.  We thought we could be one of them.   That we could be a global leader in this transformation – that was our vision.  There would be no such thing as the biggest Canadian ebook service.  Global brands would dominate.  Physical brands would fade.  Thinking bigger than our hometown, our country, bigger than ourselves was key.  We believed we could be one of those global brands.  Today, 3 years 9 months from our founding, we have 16 million customers in 190 countries and we are on track to drive over a billion in sales in the near future.  

Kobo Blood.  

Culture can be a competitive weapon.  At Kobo, we've assembled a world class team, and built a culture that – in and of itself, is a competitive weapon for Kobo.  We are a David vs many Goliaths, and our culture – Lead with Speed, Compete to Win, Design with Love, OHITC, and Kobo Blood – has been key to our success.  It is infectious, and it drives us to outperform competition with armies more people than we have, and balance sheets with far more zeroes.  It's infectious, and people want to be a part of it.  

What is your favorite thing about doing business in Toronto/Canada in general?

I had the benefit of spending 10 years in the San Francisco Bay area, having moved to Palo Alto upon graduating from university, and then living in Toronto building Kobo.  I've raised money, built teams and built companies, in both countries.  They are certainly very different environments, but one thing is for sure, there is outstanding grey matter here in Toronto.   Based on my experience, talent makes all the difference and there is no shortage here.  There are great universities and colleges, a growing ecosystem in Waterloo and Toronto, and a growing base of startups.  I’ve had the benefit of working with some incredibly smart people, world class talent here, and the proof is in the pudding. We've built a world class company right here in Toronto with Kobo.

Questions for Mike during the event? Tweet KoboATO. Follow @AccelerateTO on twitter for updates! 

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