Ryan Holmes, CEO, Hootsuite Media Inc. | BCBusiness

Ryan Holmes, CEO, Hootsuite Media Inc. | BCBusiness
Return to: B.C. Entrepreneur of the Year 2012

Congratulations to Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite Media Inc., and 2012 Pacific Region Entrepreneur of the Year in Media and Entertainment.

Ryan Holmes looks every bit the laid-back Lotusland entrepreneur. His wavy brown hair hangs just shy of his shoulders and his collared shirt is comfortably unbuttoned at the top. A hound named Mika greets visitors at the door to his office, which is shared with assistant Vanessa, who has been pressing Holmes to make a decision on whether or not to attend Burning Man again this year. But make no mistake: the 37-year-old CEO of HootSuite is as driven to succeed as any hard-nosed capitalist. Holmes grew up on a farm without electricity or running water, the son of hippy parents who left teaching jobs for the simple life. He started his first business — a paintball course — as a teen, and went on to run an online sporting goods store and then a restaurant. Those early experiences taught him the basics of running a business.

Though he describes himself as a generalist, Holmes has always excelled at products and marketing. When his first Vancouver-based venture, Invoke Media, created a tool that allowed clients to better coordinate their social media presence, he quickly recognized its potential. “It was like a hungry baby that just needed to be fed,” says Holmes.

Holmes sought capital to develop the product, and received it on the condition that he devote himself to it full-time. Two years later, in early 2009, he launched HootSuite, which now boasts nearly three million users worldwide, including corporate clients such as McDonald’s, PepsiCo and Time Inc.

Last year the company disclosed its annual revenues — $11 million — for the first time. Holmes won’t divulge more recent numbers, but says revenues have easily doubled since then. By the end of this year, he expects to have 250 employees on board.

While Holmes has been vocal about his aspirations to turn HootSuite into a $1-billion company, he says he’s not big on setting goals. “What I do is absolutely wake up every day and work as hard as I can. That’s what I have control over in my life.”

Four Questions

What did you want to be when you were a kid?
A video-game developer.

What was your first big break in your current business?
I don’t think I really had a first big break; it was just subsequent small steps toward a bigger goal.

Looking back, what’s one thing you would do differently, professionally speaking?
I’ve learned the velocity that taking on financing can give you. Bootstrapping, you’re focused on making sure enough dollars come in to pay for expenses. That can become an obsessive focus.

What book would you recommend for entrepreneurs starting out?
The Long Walk [by Stephen King] talks about human perseverance and the ability to overcome, and about the kind of grit that it takes to succeed.