My name is Austin Hill. I’m a Canadian entrepreneur and angel investor.
I was born in Ottawa during the summer of 1973.
I spent most of my childhood growing up in Calgary, Alberta (whether I ever actually grew up is subject to opinion).
I currently spend my time in between Montreal, Toronto and Calgary with frequent visits to the Bay Area.
I got my first computer in 1980 - it was a Vic-20.
I was twelve when I got my first modem, started a BBS and started exploring the online world.
I think my career opportunities as a programmer peaked somewhere in between Applesoft Basic and TurboPascal on my Macintosh 128k. Despite these limitations as a programmer, my dream growing up was to be a technology entrepreneur. While other kids dreamt of Hollywood or Wall Street my dreams were about the Homebrew Computer Club and Silicon Valley. My heroes were geeks who built companies. Lucky for me it turns out I had skills other than programming that would come in handy.
I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be working as a technology entrepreneur for my entire professional career. I didn’t finish high school since I caught the entrepreneurial bug a few credits shy of my high school diploma and dropped out to start a company. I don’t recommend this, but it was the road less traveled and it’s been an interesting adventure. Since I can’t recommend students follow my own advice, listen to Mr. T when he say’s Don’t be a fool, Stay in School
I created my first company Cyberspace Data Security when I was seventeen. I did security penetration testing and security awareness training for customers like the Calgary Board of Education and TransAlta Corporation.
TotalNet & Infobahn Online Services
In 1994 I started an Internet provider in Montreal called Infobahn Online Services. My brother Hamnett (who co-founded the company with me) and I merged Infobahn with another ISP to create TotalNet. I ran the technical operations of TotalNet which became one of Canada’s largest dialup ISPs until we sold the company to MPACT Immedia/BCE Emergis in 1997.
During my time with Zero-Knowledge,
- I was the company’s President from 1997-2001 where I helped the company in raising $75 million in venture capital.
- I participated in the development of the Freedom Network, an encrypted anonymous IP overlay network. I also participated in development of toolkits for electronic cash, electronic voting and digital identity systems. I played a role in the development of a risk management solution for enterprise data policy management. Some of the ideas we worked on and goals we attempted are still being pursued today by the people behind the TOR Project, Credentica (acquired by Microsoft) and many of the Identity 2.0 companies. I hope our failures & successes in building a commercial privacy market and the technical research we did contribute to others working on these problems.
- I was selected as a technology pioneer of the World Economic Forum in 2001. This gave me the incredible opportunity to attend and present at their annual meeting in Davos.
- I was once called an Enemy of the State.
- I was (and continue to be, though less active lately) an advisory board member for the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
- I served on the board of the Information Technology Association of Canada.
- I spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley and speaking on the technology conference circuit where I met and worked with many of my heroes.
- I did a lot of public speaking, media policy work on the issues of Internet privacy, encryption policies, cybercrime and Internet civil rights. This work led to media coverage in the NY Times, CNN, 60 Minutes, WSJ, Wired, National Post and the Globe and Mail.
- I designed the concept and copy behind a series of popular advertisements that Zero-Knowledge produced.
- I was active in recruiting a lot of incredibly talented staff. At our peak Zero-Knowledge had 220+ employees with offices in San Jose and Montreal. We eventually reduced to 50 employees before growing to 100+ great staff now working for Radialpoint.
I’ve been very lucky to work with incredibly talented people who have always made me look much better at my job then I often was.
- Between 2001-2006 I played a number of roles at Zero-Knowledge including Chief Technology Officer, Chief Strategy Officer and President/CEO of Synomos (a failed spin out of Zero-Knowledge Systems enterprise business unit that closed in 2005). During this time the company became profitable and refocused on helping broadband providers deliver consumer Internet services.
- In 2005 Zero-Knowledge Systems changed its name to Radialpoint where I spent a year helping with marketing, research and product development in my role as EVP Research and Communications.
- Radialpoint (still run by my brother & father) is one of Canada’s fastest growing software companies, has been profitable since shortly after the bubble burst and has been earning a lot of awards for it’s incredible business success.
I left Radialpoint in June 2006 and am no longer active in the day to day operations of the company. I’m still a sizable shareholder of the company and continue to assist them on an informal basis whenever I’m able.
You can read the full details of the rise, fall of Zero-Knowledge, its resurgence as Radialpoint and my own words on why I left Radialpoint to startup a new company (Akoha) in my inaugural blog posts - Chasing Billions with Zero-Knowledge.
Current Work Gigs
- I am the CEO, Executive Instigator and founder of Akoha Inc., I founded Akoha with my partner & friend Alex Eberts. We are developing a new type of game which will launch in 2009. For info on Akoha you can track the Akoha on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook or keep an eye on our company blog.
- I am a co-founder and currently Chairman of Standout Jobs Inc.. I co-founded Standout Jobs with Ben Yoskovitz and Fred Ngo, two great entrepreneurs I wanted to be in business with. I provided them with the seed financing to get started and they have since announced raising $2 million with iNovia Capital, Montreal Startup and a number of angel investors. Standout Jobs is a kick ass product that helps companies do employment branding & recruiting. It grew out of our discussions about how companies were not using social media tools to connect with candidates. Standout Jobs has won a number of awards, honorable mentions and acknowledgments as an innovator in the online recruiting & social media marketplace. You can see how Akoha has used Standout Jobs to build our recruiting site.
Venture Capital & Angel Activities
- I’m a Venture Partner at Montreal Startup where I work with a great team of partners to invest in seed stage companies based in Montreal. Montreal Startup currently is an investor in two of my startups, Akoha and Standout Jobs. When discussing companies related to our investments I will disclose any conflicts of interest between these investments and what I write about on this blog.
- I’m a Venture Partner at iNovia Capital which is one of Canada’s premier managers of seed and early-stage venture capital funds, with operations in both Eastern and Western Canada. iNovia Capital is an investor in a company I co-founded Standout Jobs. When discussing companies related to our investments I will disclose any conflicts of interest between these investments and what I write about on this blog.
- I am a current & founding board member of Anges Quebec. Anges Quebec is a network for professional Quebec based angel investors where where we provide entrepreneurs and angel investors with an organized market for deal screening and investing activities. The organization started in late 2007 and will begin to accept deal flow in fall 2008. I do not sit on the investment screening committee of Anges Quebec, but do sit on the Angel recruiting committee. I do not forsee conflicts of interest requiring disclosure arising from this role, since it involves no active investing on my part.
- I am a Research Fellow at Coburn Ventures
Through my own firm Brudder Ventures I’ve made angel investments in Canadian startups, and provide mentorship and coaching to Canadian entrepreneurs. Due to my plate being full with Akoha and Standout Jobs, I am no longer doing any active direct angel investing . I refer interesting deal flow through Montreal Startup and iNovia Capital.
My current investments include:
- Brainpark-founded by Bobby John and my friend Mark Dowds.
- Bumptop-founded by Anand Agarawala. I met Anand at the TED conference where he wowed audiences with a presentation of his university research project Bumptop.
- Akoha my own startup.
- Standout Jobs as mentioned above.
I’ve been in a long term relationship with my partner in life, Kelly since the year 2000. She supports my busy life in so many ways and makes sure I relax and have fun. We mostly live in Montreal with our dog Pearl.
I’m an avid reader, a curious soul and passionate technologist.
I like public speaking. I often speak about entrepreneurship, Internet technologies and marketing, Internet culture and society and more recently the power of games to make the world a better place.
I believe that the key to happiness is to be a well balanced extremist.
I find myself well suited to extremism - but suspect I will spent many years practicing the well balanced part.
Although I have a love/hate relationship with my inbox - I do like to meet and connect with new people.
If you are interested in a conversation, then please contact me.