Before Byron Thom’s career took him to law, entrepreneurship or venture capital, it started in engineering.
“Get into the hardest thing you could possibly get into and you can always back off,” said the principal of Framework Venture Partners, recalling advice he was given years ago.
He liked calculus, had an affinity for science and loved technology.
“Everything I’ve done in my career has always surrounded technology. That’s kind of the string that connects all of the different facets of my life,” he said.
Even as a lawyer – a role he pursued after working as an engineer – Thom primarily practised intellectual property law.
His clients ranged from startups to some of the biggest names in technology. He worked with BlackBerry and Apple and helped satellite manufacturers with patents for technology destined for space.
“It was really interesting from that early stage to understand how valuable what I was doing – and how valuable the IP process – was to industry,” Thom said.
He had always wanted to start a company, and “a little bit of serendipity and a little bit of network” helped Thom co-found Optigo Networks Inc., which offers Internet-of-things technology for buildings. When co-founder Pook-Ping Yao secured a grant to help start the business, Thom quit his job in Toronto and moved back to Vancouver.
“I was 30 at the time and thought, ‘If I’m going to do it, now’s the time.’ So I made the leap.”
Thom said “a little bit of luck, a little bit of timing” led to his work with the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), where he was responsible for the BDC IT Venture Fund’s western Canadian deal flow and portfolio management until he joined Framework, which is backed by BDC and other partners.
Now, Thom is focused on finding and supporting Canadian companies. It’s an open question whether he will leap back into entrepreneurship himself.
“I’m always trying to understand the ‘why.’ Why do things work? What is the opportunity? How do things grow? For the right opportunity, I would never close the door.”
Where you live now: Vancouver
Highest level of education: Bachelor of laws with a concentration in law and technology
Currently reading: I am currently rereading Robot Law, a brilliant collection of essays exploring the difficulty in applying current legal and policy frameworks to advances in robotics and artificial intelligence. The book was edited by Ian Kerr, one of my mentors, who recently passed away after a long bout with cancer
Currently listening to: Embarrassingly cheesy music from the ’90s or classical (Beethoven, Bach, Rachmaninoff)
When you were a kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up: Astronaut
Profession you would most like to try: Astronaut (if they could fix my eyesight)
Toughest business or professional decision: Taking the path less travelled: engineering > law, law > entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship > VC
Advice you would give the younger you: Travel more – as much as you possibly can afford and then find a way to do more
What’s left to do: Find and support world-class companies with entrepreneurs looking to disrupt incumbent industries and/or change the world
Join us to celebrate the 2019 Forty under 40 Awards on January 30, 2020, at the Westin Bayshore. For tickets and event information visit https://www.biv.com/forty-under-40