A Startup’s Journey: Getting to Know the Entrepreneur Leslie Klein
Next up for Global Entrepreneurship week, we sat down with technology expert and extremely successful CEO of C-COM Satellite Systems Inc., Leslie Klein.
This University of Waterloo graduate began his journey in the computer technology industry, and now over 40+ years later leads a team of 33 employees from their offices located in the East end of Ottawa.
So how was he able to grow his passion into a multi-million-dollar business?
A driven beginning
From a young age, Klein was driven by his hands-on approach to learning. An engineer by trade, he worked for companies such as Hewlett Packard, Control Data and Bell Northern Research, where his dedication and hard work began to open his eyes to the possibilities of entrepreneurship.
So much so, that in 1980 he opened his first company called Eurodata. A company that revolved around the refurbishing, maintenance and resale of Hewlett Packard computer systems.
What led him to this?
He simply knew there was a better way to do things.
In the 1980’s, it could take 6-8 months for a million-dollar computer to be manufactured. Each part being custom built and made to measure. So, what were to happen if you did not have the time or resources available to wait for this?
At the time, there was no solution.
Enter Klein and his decision to start Eurodata, the company that he grew for over 35 years.
A new venture
When speaking to Klein about his journey through entrepreneurship, Eurodata was just a steppingstone. Building an organization around the simple concept of ‘inventory’ was a mission Klein had from the start. The concept for starting C-COM was based on the premise that one day when the Internet matures there will be need for high speed connection into cars, trains, busses and aeroplanes. Much like radio in cars, he envisioned that one-day high speed Internet connectivity in vehicles will become a reality. This was the idea behind starting C-COM Satellite Systems Inc. in 1997, a company that benefited from experience gained throughout his early career with Eurodata, which he eventually sold.
C-COM Satellite Systems has become a leader in the development and deployment of mobile-satellite-based technologies. Since its IPO in 2001, which raised $5 million, the company has sold over 8,000 antenna systems in over 100 countries. A rare technology gem in the burrows of Ottawa that pays dividends to shareholders and held an impeccable 35 consecutive quarters of profit, has no debt and has a working capital of $20 million.
The organization itself follows many of the same processes that his first company did and can provide product to companies and countries around the world in a matter of days, not months thanks to their impressive inventory.
When speaking with Klein, making this choice has been a life-saving decision.
Helping countries around the world
One of the unique value propositions of C-COM Satellite Systems Inc. is their capacity to help in moments of disaster. When there is no ability to wait 2-3 months for a product, C-COM can deploy satellite antennas to victims of disasters, within days.
Klein is very proud of his organizations capability to provide in times of need.
In fact, his company provided these life-saving solutions to Japan days after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011. Because of these satellite antennas, individuals were able to make their first call home to their loved ones.
Stories like this are what continue to drive Klein’s dedication to his craft.
Klein has made a point of integrating innovation into every level of C-COM and continues to push the envelope to find new technologies and continually bring new products to life. As matter of fact his organization has partnered with the University of Waterloo in a 6-million-dollar innovation project that began 4 years ago.
To state that adversity has not played a factor in the journey of Leslie Klein would be a mistake.
When Klein came to Canada in 1968, he did not speak a word of English. This did not stop him from attending the University of Waterloo merely 4-months later, graduating in from Electrical Engineering and launching himself into a dedicated life of innovation.
To state that Klein built C-COM from the bottom up without hardship is also not true. Klein described the start of his business as a bottomless pit. The idea was sucking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in time and resources with no guarantee that it would leave Klein anything other than bankrupt.
You must be able to overcome adversity and believe in yourself, otherwise you will never be able to understand why you are doing what you are doing.
Advice to the next generation
In truth, Leslie Klein has learned an immense amount through his journey of entrepreneurship. However, nothing has taught him more than being well capitalized.
Sure, not every entrepreneur will be able to fund their venture solely on their own capital, however, having the freedom to run his company without the fear of money owed has been a huge factor to Klein’s entrepreneurial journey.
It is what has allowed him the ability to innovate, grow and understand his business to the very core.
More important than this, Klein advised to never fear the failure you may face. Taking chances is the only way you will have the knowledge and understanding to start a business of your own. Klein knows, as best as any other entrepreneur, that the journey takes guts. The fear of the unknown is tremendous and sacrificing your salary, benefits and stable job for your dream is no easy task.
Just remember – it is possible and can be done.
About C-COM Satellite Systems Inc
Founded in 1997, C-COM Satellite Systems Inc. is the leading global provider of mobile auto-deploying satellite antenna systems. C-COM allows the delivery of broadband satellite communication services into mobile environments virtually anywhere a vehicle can be driven. The antenna systems have been used for Emergency (Data, Voice and Video) and Professional use (like SNG – Satellite News Gathering, Oil and Gas Production and for Remote Offices).
A sincere thank you goes out to Leslie Klein, Founder and CEO of C-Com Satellite Systems Inc., for taking the time to speak with us at LaBarge Weinstein LLP for this piece.