To the general public, Tony Lacavera is probably still best known as the former CEO of Wind Mobile (now rebranded as Freedom Mobile), a role he stepped away from in 2014, though he’s stayed busy since then, with a particular focus on Globalive Communications Corp., the diversified investment firm he started in 1998 which has supported dozens of software, technology, and telecommunications startups around the world.
In 2014 Lacavera cofounded Globalive Capital, the company’s funding arm, which less than two years later has invested in more than 25 private companies, 10 venture funds, and 15 public companies, including such well-known brands as TouchBistro and Timeplay, making it a rare example of a Silicon Valley-style angel investment firm in Canada.
The company is an especially enthusiastic supporter of artificial intelligence, fintech, machine-learning, autonomous vehicles, and quantum computing, he says – sectors in which he believes Canada could become a leader.
“We feel really bullish about Canada’s chances to become a leader in artificial intelligence,” Lacavera says, noting that Globalive is particularly interested in researching ways to apply AI and machine-learning to new industry verticals, including agriculture, healthcare, finance, and distribution networks.
However, to fully take advantage of that latent potential, Lacavera also believes that Canada’s institutions – especially government, education, and enterprises – need to step up their respective games when it comes to pursuing a culture of innovation.
“The government has a very significant role to play, but it can’t just talk the innovation talk – it needs to walk the innovation walk,” he says. “We can’t just be having presentation after presentation followed by broad allocations of government resources – it needs to narrow down its actions and focus on the areas where we can win.”
Meanwhile, Canada’s largest enterprises – which some reports say lag behind other nations – need to acknowledge their own role when it comes to fostering a culture of digital innovation.
“We have some of the most powerful, well-run companies in the banking, insurance, and oil and gas industries,” he says. “We have a world-leading telecommunications industry… Our biggest companies are strong and healthy and well-run, and they need to play a very big role in creating an innovation environment going forward.”