Michael Hyatt co-built two incredibly successful tech firms, sold them, and became a self-made millionaire in the process.
Up until recently, Hyatt was founder and Executive Chairman of BlueCat, one of the largest private software companies in Canada, until its sale for $400 million to US private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners LLC.
About a thousand large corporate and government customers use the company’s server technology to connect their users and devices securely to Internet-based applications and services.
It was his second company sale, the last being the risk-assessment software firm Dyadem International Ltd., sold in 2011 for almost $100-million to IHS Inc.
He is on the CEO Board of Advisors at the venture capital firm Georgian Partners, was a finalist for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and is a founding partner at the Rotman School of Management’s Creative Destruction Lab.
Hyatt, now 43, continues to be a backer and adviser to Canadian startup entrepreneurs, and appears as a “Dragon” on CBC’s online reality investor show, Next Gen Den.
How has technology affected the way we live, and the way that you live?
Michael Hyatt: What I find fascinating now, is that we are moving as fast, or even faster, and we’ve stopped realizing it. When the iPhone 8 comes out, it’s ridiculously more powerful than the 7, but we’ll just treat it like another thing. Maybe it has a really interesting version of Siri.
I think people don’t know how to delay gratification at all. They just have this ‘I want it now, and I have to have it now, and if I don’t my world’s coming to an end.’
I don’t respond to emails right away because I want to think about them. I’ll actually think about them for one or two days. I’ll respond, and I like to give thoughtful responses to emails.
I think often one of the problems with responding quickly in this world is that your first response is actually, probably wrong. I think that’s a big problem. We are tending to want to respond by our gut right away, but I think we used to digest material, think about it, and come up with an answer. And I think that, sometimes, it helps – certainly, when you are trying to invest money or make big life decisions.
There’s probably a rule that, any question you answer right away, you’re probably wrong.
Now that BlueCat is sold, what’s next for you?
Michael Hyatt: That’s the most frequently asked question I get after selling the companies. Everybody believes that you have to have something next.
Because, why wouldn’t you? We have to achieve more now because you’ve achieved something.
Climb higher. Achieve more. Right? And it’s kind of this really strange thing. Because we live in a world of more. You have to do more. You have to have more money. You have to be more. You have to climb a higher mountain. Why wouldn’t you?
People can put you in a box. And then when you’re out of that, they think you lose identity. Who am I? Part of your identity is what you do.
But I’ll tell you something. I had a lot of success early. My brother Richard and I have done terrifically well. We’re very fortunate. But there’s something hollow about thinking that a financial victory is success. Success is like multi-dimensional dice, and it has like twelve sides. One or two of them are financial. The rest of them, not. So, it can be a very unfulfilling thing if you get too connected to that.
My father is in hospital right now. He’s quite ill. He has a cardiac issue. Money doesn’t have anything to do with anything. Nothing. I can’t buy him a special pill.
All that means anything, with my father in his very difficult time right now, is the relationship I’ve had with him for over forty years. That’s it. Nothing else matters.
Have you thought about writing a book?
Michael Hyatt: I don’t really want to write a book because I haven’t felt like that was the right thing to do.
I haven’t felt good about it because I didn’t want it to be a vanity project. In fact, I’d like to do a book, and not put my name on it, and just tell them what I think, and someone picks it up and goes, ‘I really liked that. That was great information for me.’
I don’t think it matters that I wrote it. I don’t want to make it about me, or me with crossed arms, or one with my hand on my chin, or something on the photo on the front.
Hey, my message is pretty simple. Doesn’t matter what you are hearing, every graph, every chart – the world is getting dramatically better in just about every chart.
What’s unique about today’s business world?
Michael Hyatt: Fifty years ago it was hard to raise capital. You can raise money anywhere now. Online, anywhere. Even if there is another crash – people will just dive into the crash and you’ll just be able to pull money out again. Even if interest rates spike to five per cent, it’s still the norm since World War II. So, money’s cheap.
Where do you think computing or tech’s going to go in the next few years?
Michael Hyatt: I believe computing is about to take another massive jump.
We publish eight-thousand medical research papers in a day in the world. So, let’s say you get sick. Well, how is any doctor going to know if there were five papers in there that they can use on you in your case? People might not be getting the medical treatment simply because you didn’t know the paper existed for you. I think the first thing that comes in is this tremendous push on data crunching and usefulness.
Just imagine the power of that knowledge. People talk about ‘big data’, but it’s what you do with that data. It’s the analytics.
A computer can find patterns in things, using all the data available on the planet Earth, on you.
One thing people should know about science: it has no friends or enemies. It just is. So, once something is invented, if we say no to it, maybe they’ll do it in China, or somewhere else. For example, what if we could edit people to have higher IQs, or muscle masses, or run the hundred meters faster? We say that’s unethical.
Medical technology is absolutely incredible, and it hasn’t even started.