James Clift
Credit: Lindsay Siu

James Clift, 29

Co-founder and CEO

Life Story: James Clift is in the business of helping people find employment and build careers, yet the White Rock native and UBC grad has never worked full-time for someone else and proudly keeps his startups’ employee count below an all-time high of four. VisualCV helps job seekers build eye-catching resumés and portfolios. It’s the flagship product of Vancouver parent company WorkStory, which also makes a tool to help people track and share their career accomplishments.

Clift’s own career path is a series of entrepreneurial ventures beginning in high school, with varying degrees of success. He imported and flipped cars; ran a window-cleaning franchise, then started his own business in the same field; and created websites for companies ranging from law firms to dog daycares. After graduating from the Sauder School of Business with a BComm in accounting in 2011, he tried and failed to build several software startups before founding WorkStory with Jade Bourelle, Ken Miller and Thomas Zhou in 2014, the same year the company acquired VisualCV from a group of investors.

The Bottom Line: WorkStory has grown to an annual run rate of more than more than $2.4 million as of October 2017. VisualCV’s user base has expanded from 200,000 in 2014 to some 2.4 million members worldwide.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Never pee into the wind. It’s practical as well as metaphorical.

Your favourite book is…
My Losing Season by Pat Conroy. It’s a basketball book. Most books talk about winning. This talks about a team in college that just wasn’t that great and about working really hard with no reward. I think it’s a good lesson. You just have to do the work and not worry about the outcome. And sometimes the outcome is bad.

Who is your role model or mentor?
I don’t really believe in the mentor model. I don’t like looking at it like a hierarchy. Whereas to me, it’s who are your peers? I’ve been lucky enough to have some of my best friends who happen to also be successful in business. To me, those are the people that I look up to, but also have these really valuable relationships with.

What’s your biggest regret?
The way I look at regret is to ask myself, what kind of advice would I give myself? I’d say, “you’re going to end up here, so can you do it without all the emotion attached to it? So without the stress, without the sleepless nights, without the angst?” I think that’s all romanticized, but it’s also not necessary and in some ways it’s detrimental to actually building a company.

A little-known fact about you is…
I lived in Buenos Aires for about five months while building this business. So I’m reasonably fluent in Spanish, which I learned the first three months of living there.