Jeff Magnusson’s approach to business is simple: he loves building things from scratch that solve problems and make money.
The 37-year-old said he “got the bug of software development” at Chilliwack Secondary and fell in love with programming at Simon Fraser University. He launched his first company, River Styx Internet and Sentry Payments, with friends at age 19. “We dabbled in everything,” Magnusson remembered.
Their contract programming jobs included work on online marketing management systems, payment processing and poker sites.
“We were doing the classic 60 to 100 hours a week as a small team of young guys. That’s before we started talking about startups as a thing.”
The payment business grew to $230 million in volume, and in 2008 he sold the company. He was 30 years old. Instead of immediately launching another startup, Magnusson decided to hit the books again, for an MBA at Queen’s University.
“I would learn enough to solve a problem, whether it was accounting [or] HR,” he said. “After I sold my first company I realized that my experiences and abilities as a CEO were limited to the situations that I had faced in my own company.”
Magnusson returned and became “deeply embedded” in the local software scene, starting the non-profit Bootup Labs to mentor young entrepreneurs and help launch companies.
His next startup, co-founded with Lyal Avery, was Playerize Networks, a 2011 concept to drive growth for social and Facebook games. He moved his family to Montreal for three months to work at the FounderFuel accelerator, “getting our asses handed to ourselves by [venture capitalists] over and over again until we refined the pitch.”
Magnusson and Avery raised money for the company, returned to Vancouver and opened. It was profitable within 12 months, he said. Playerize acquired payment and monetization vehicle SuperRewards in 2012 and competitor PayByShopping in 2014. Perk.com (TSX:PER) acquired Playerize last year, and Magnusson exited in August. Now he is busy developing a concept for another startup.
Join us to celebrate the 2016 Forty under under 40 Awards January 25, 2017 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. For tickets and event info visit www.biv.com/events/40under40