What does it take to enter the high-stakes world of telecommunications in Canada? A degree in computer engineering does not hurt. But a determined mindset and a gift for recognizing opportunity are just as important. Armed with all three, Anthony Lacavera has become one of Canada’s most successful under-40 entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship is a quality Lacavera encourages in today’s university students. In a recent address to the incoming engineering class, he urged the first-year students to value their time at U of T, build relationships and explore innovative ideas. “You need an entrepreneurial spirit to turn an idea that will change the world, into reality,” he said.
Lacavera evinced an enterprising spirit even as an undergraduate, selling the unusually lucid notes taken by Gianni Creti (BASc, Computer Engineering, 1998) to their fellow classmates. (Creti is one of several U of T grads who ended up working for Lacavera.) In 1997, he established Globalive, a supplier of teleconferencing and other services to phone companies competing with the majors. Business was good. In 2006, Lacavera acquired YAK, a long-distance discounter, and his prospects started to broaden. That year, Canadian Business named Globalive one of Canada’s 30 Best Places to Work.
Few however, could have foreseen Globalive’s startling entry into the wireless market in 2008 with a successful $442-million bid for frequency licences and the launch of WIND Mobile. This national wireless service competes directly with some of the most storied names in Canadian business for new (and especially young) cell phone customers.
The bold move turned Lacavera into the Globe and Mail’s CEO of the Year in 2010. Not that the Welland, Ont. native is all business. In 2007, he started the Shamba Foundation, which provides charitable groups with the free use of the dramatic terrace space on top of Globalive’s headquarters. “We’re building ‘giving back’ into more than our mission statement,” Lacavera says. “We’re building it into our office space.”
Awarded the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity by the Italian government, Lacavera was a founding donor of the Galleria Italia, the much-admired glass-and-wood space that forms the heart of Frank Gehry’s redesigned AGO. He has also tried his hand at Broadway, investing in an all-black production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 2008.
Among Lacavera’s pastimes is flying his own plane, sometimes to business meetings. It is a fitting pursuit for an entrepreneur who sees no way but up.
Published November 2013