Entrepreneur of the Year 2005 - Emerging Entrepreneur.
“I tend to yap openly about everything,” says Jules Campeau, president of Asentus, the tech marketing company he started in 2001. “This is an open environment where you can speak your mind.” In fact, it might be fair to say that sitting around the boardroom table at the company’s West Pender offices in Vancouver is a bit like sitting around the family dinner table for the 41-year-old entrepreneur. Campeau first met his director of business development, Patrick McCarthy, in Boy Scouts when they were both 11 and the two have worked together for the past 12 years. (McCarthy recalls how he broke Campeau’s arm during a game of Port and Starboard.) Campeau has also known his director of development services, Brent Larson, since they were in Grade 2 together. “Working with people who know each other so well has its challenges, but it’s worked very well for us,” says Campeau. “We can be very candid and to the point.” With a strong team of friends and trusted associates, the young company has experienced spectacular growth. Asentus runs training seminars for software developers who want to teach resellers, IT workers and their own employees how to use their products. In the past four years, the company has grown to $27 million in revenue and has expanded to 90 people with offices in Vancouver as well as Redmond, Washington, and Amsterdam. Last year alone, Asentus trained more than 20,000 people, although most of them wouldn’t even know the company’s name: the seminars operate under the software companies’ brands. One of those is industry giant Microsoft: Asentus worked on a worldwide security outreach initiative with the company and helped execute the launch of its Windows Server 2003 software. A large chunk of Asentus’s business comes from running Microsoft training seminars around the world. Some Microsoft resellers remember Campeau from his days at Veritas Software or from previous projects in the tech sector. Asentus’s COO Charanjit Hayre calls Campeau a “serial entrepreneur.” At the age of 19, while studying programming at BCIT, he preferred his part-time job selling software. He dropped out and started a company that sold software to businesses. A few years later, he formed Connections Plus, which was bought by IKON Office Solutions. He stayed on for two years as president of IKON’s Western Canadian Division. People who’ve worked with Campeau say he’s done well in his various ventures because he’s a charismatic leader who charms his clients. And because the partners know one another so well, they’re not afraid to let Campeau know if he goes too far. (It’s hard to get too high and mighty when your director of business development broke your arm when you were 11.) Being a hometown boy might be another factor keeping Campeau’s feet on the ground. He still lives in the city he grew up in, Port Coquitlam, with his wife and two young children. However, he does have some indulgences: Campeau and McCarthy paid US$2,750 on eBay for a pair of tickets to see the men’s Olympic gold medal hockey game in 2002. But Asentus’s continued growth will likely keep Campeau busy in the foreseeable future. The company recently opened an office in the Netherlands to serve the European market and hired a representative in the Philippines to start assessing opportunities in Asia. That said, Asentus’s growth isn’t stopping Campeau from pursuing his passion for creating innovative new companies. His eyes sparkle when he talks about a spin-off company he recently formed to sell a product that offers Internet-based training. “We can go in and train 25 people anywhere in the world as long as they have an Internet connection,” he says. “We’re really excited about that.” Looks like this serial entrepreneur is about to strike again. Runners-up Earl Hirtz B.C.’s economy is booming and Hirtz is the guy supplying the tools. He’s the president of CWS Industries, a company that designs and manufactures components for heavy machinery used in the forestry, construction, mining and energy businesses. Since Hirtz and his partners bought CWS in May 2003, the company has gone from 90 to 300 employees and has grown its revenue by 500 per cent. Determined to win the hearts of his clients, he’ll send his engineers anywhere to check out his customer’s mechanical problems. Colin How It takes nerve for a small Victoria software company to compete against Google and Yahoo, but How says he’s up for the challenge. His company, How2Share Technologies, created PiXPO, a program that enables digital files to be shared through a peer-to-peer network. Friends can browse through photos on one another’s computer without uploading or downloading files. How is betting that PiXPO is ahead of the tech curve and digital entrepreneurs agree: How2Share recently signed a deal to license its software to DivX, a company that created a video compression format, to use PiXPO to distribute movies online. 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