Why you have to fail to have a great career: Michael Litt at TEDxUW

by Jeremy Moore on June 30, 2014
T.E.D.

Some people start their careers slowly, while others start with a bang. Michael Litt’s case is definitely the latter: the serial entrepreneur’s first venture comprising the import and re-sale of firecrackers to his fifth-grade classmates. But if the story were to be told from beginning to end, Litt would be the first to admit that his path has actually involved a number of “bangs” — including some which didn’t quite work out in his favour — a fair number of nervous moments, and lot of plain, old-fashioned hard work.

Early in his university career, Michael looked to be heading down a path familiar to many Waterloo engineers, securing co-op placements at Research in Motion — but it’s what he accomplished after his first couple of years that made him stand out as a talented entrepreneur. After a spell as a day- trader, an aborted attempt at running a biodiesel refinery (during which he once used a bathroom hand dryer to un-freeze a jar of biodiesel minutes before a sales pitch), and an anonymous stint publishing a highlytrafficked blog which featured teardowns of new phones, Litt was focused on building revenue and he knew he wanted to start a business.

Fortunately, one of Litt’s trades had put a little money in his pocket, and, with a little help from the subprime mortgage market, he was able to purchase a house and fill it with other budding entrepreneurs. This environment, now known as Batavia House, fostered the drive and motivation he needed to take the next step, and it wasn’t long before he founded his current company, Vidyard, an organization helping businesses and individuals easily and effectively host videos on their websites.

A Waterloo native, Michael believes in the region’s ability to attract and retain talent, and believes the local tech industry will only continue to grow. As it grows, Litt will continue to be an interested observer, albeit one with the experience to back up his words. “It’s really interesting to see how things are developing,” he says, “especially since my failures have defined my career and current position.” It’s an outlook that’s bound to be part of any discussion about the future — a discussion that Litt hopes to be a part of at TEDxUW.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

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