From the classroom to the boardroom: one man’s rise

From the classroom to the boardroom: one man’s rise

From the classroom to the boardroom: one man’s rise When Ilan Jacobson was studying genetics, he never imagined himself working in the business world. In fact, nothing was further from his mind; he’d wanted to be a doctor since he was a child and that’s what he was determined to do. But Jacobson did want to develop his skill-set, so he enrolled in an MBA at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University. The rest, as they say, is history.

During his MBA, Jacobson was offered a job as a portfolio manager at a venture capital firm in Toronto. He had 12 hours to decide whether to take the job or return to medical school. After a long night discussing the pros and cons with his girlfriend (now wife), Jacobson decided to abandon his lifelong dream and take the job.

“Venture capital was fun but I didn’t make a great employee,” he says. “I needed more control so that’s why I ventured out in 2009, with literally just a desk and a chair, and started FirePower Capital (he’s President and CEO). “I didn’t pay myself for a number of years; people called it an overnight success but it didn’t feel like that to me.”

After starting as a small, family operation, Firepower Capital added an investment banking division in 2012 and has completed nearly 50 deals since then. The investment bank advises owners of lower middle-market private businesses on securing debt financing, acquiring a competitor, or selling to a buyer. “There’s a rock star status that’s given to entrepreneurs these days but I don’t think people realize how challenging it is to actually build a business,” Jacobson says. “It has been tough, but I love what I do. I’m fortunate to get up every day not feel that I’m going to work; I feel like I’m building something.”
 
Jacobson has lost none of the hunger that encouraged him to believe he could make it as an entrepreneur, and 2016 has been a great year for him and Firepower Capital. “In 2011, I developed a business plan for an asset management business, which I then shelved because I was concerned about my ability to execute it,” he say. “But after five years of learning my craft I dusted off the business plan and was able to raise a significant amount of capital, especially when you consider I had no asset management experience. That wasn’t easy, but you have to find people that believe in you. It’s been an incredibly good year financially but even better strategically.”

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