Ilya Brotzky

Ilya Brotzky, 29

Founder and CEO

Life Story: Born in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, and raised with a younger brother in Vancouver, Ilya Brotzky tends not to see borders. His parents moved the family first to Israel, in 1991, and to Vancouver two years later. In 2010, after earning a bachelor of business administration from Cornell University, Brotzky headed to Rio de Janeiro as a management trainee with Brazilian mining giant Vale S.A. When he became friendly with Brazilian software engineers who wanted to relocate to Canada, he had a eureka moment. “A lot of them were good technically, but they were missing English as a skill,” Brotzky explains.

So in 2015 he launched VanHack Technologies, an online school and recruiting platform where international job seekers can receive help with their English, resumés and interview skills, and get hired by companies looking for hard-to-find tech talent. VanHack is based in Vancouver, but Brotzky leads it from wherever he is, which could be one of any number of tech accelerator programs he’s taking part in, from Techstars Berlin to Start-Up Chile.

The Bottom Line: Run by a staff of 10, VanHack has 142,000 members from 73 countries. Basic membership is free, but a $65 monthly fee provides premium access to English-language courses, one-on-one coaching, resumé and cover letter tutorials, and interview prep. Upward of 350 companies have used VanHack’s recruitment services, for which Brotzky charges a finder’s fee of 20 percent of starting salary. The company broke $1 million in revenue last year, and he expects to exceed that in 2018.

What’s the best advice you ever received?
People don’t remember what you said or even what you did; they remember how you made them feel.

My favourite book, album, song, movie or TV show is…
“The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, any book by Michael Crichton, and The Matrix.

Who is your role model or mentor?
My dad, for having emigrated from the Soviet Union with two young kids and moving to Vancouver with $1,000 and no English. He worked hard to provide a better life for us and gave me lots of advice, even when I wasn’t open to listening.

What’s your biggest regret?
One of my biggest professional regrets is not going to China. I was selected for an internship program in China when I was in my second year in college and ended up declining the offer to work in Vancouver. I regret not having pushed myself to see the world and be exposed to a new culture.

A little-known fact about you is…
I spoke Hebrew when I was five years old.