Peter J Holgate

Let me tell you about Peter.  I call him the Buccaneer.  When I first met him at a networking event 15 years ago, I had no idea how much balls the guy had.  I thought he was just another small time entrepreneur.  Since then I have watched him literally create something out of nothing again and again.  He sees things in a completely different way to most people and unlike some people I know, Peter is able to take an original idea and turn it into something amazing.  Recently he took an idea in the electronic waste space and before you know it he has gone and raised over $10M dollars and built this massive facility that uses sound waves under water to extract gold from circuit boards.  It is like something from science fiction and he did it literally overnight (1).

I can tell you that while I appreciate Peter's incredible intellect and passion, Peter is not a fit for everyone.  I have watched him unknowingly offend people and over time I have come to the conclusion that Peter does not play well with insecure people.  You have to be able to see past his intensity and his very straightforward manner.  Maybe it was because he grew up in South Africa, I don't know.  What I do know is that if you are looking for a sanitized version of same reality then I would suggest avoiding him, but if you value an unfiltered view of things and want to be inspired that anything is possible, then Peter is the guy. 

While Peter has been a visionary CEO/Entrepreneur type in the past, I don't think that is the best fit for him, career wise that is.  Personally I think he makes a lousy executive (I think Peter would agree with that as well) but I do see he does amazing things when he works with other people or helps out in their organizations.  Because he has been a successful entrepreneur himself, I can see how the entrepreneurs and c-suite types he works with respect him and really benefit from his advice and experience.  I know he has worked with some of the large multinationals and with the Business Development Bank of Canada where he helped a whole whack of local businesses but he is pretty low key about who he works with.  I think he prefers to just get on and make things happen rather than be narcissistic and brag about who he works with (2).  

I have seen Peter give a couple of key note speeches and he is very compelling (3).  I would go so far as to say inspiring.  But it is more than that.  There is a conviction and persuasiveness he brings that you buy into and it somehow seems to propel you forward.  I know that Peter also writes articles and books but I have not kept up with that much.  I think some of his articles have been published in the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times (4). 

Even though he writes quite a a lot, my take is that you only get the good stuff when you met with him in person.  Peter is a relationship guy.  He doesn't really use twitter or facebook and always meets in person if he can.  I recall that Peter once travelled to Dubai just because someone he trusted told him he should meet a particular person there.  Turns out they ended up doing a $100M handshake deal as a result because the introducer vouched for both of them.  So yes, 15 years ago Peter would probably argue that strategy was more important than culture but nowadays he is all about the person, integrity and the relationship.

Hard for me to condense everything that is Peter into a short intro like this, but let me add a few more things quickly.  Peter is educated and has an MBA and some other degrees (5).  He started a charity to help people in rural African areas get smartphones because it changes their lives so much.  He has mentored individuals and startups and one of his mentees actually won the NVBC competition a while back.  He was an EO board member for a couple of years as well.

On the negative side, Peter got divorced some time back and I know he found it really tough to get through all the adversarial court stuff.  He also took it personally when one of the businesses he was helping out went into receivership.  On the positive side, he changed his life around once he realized he had things wrong.  I watched his face thin out as he lost close to 100 lbs and see how positive he is now that he only does work he finds meaningful and fulfilling.  I mean, changing behaviours is really hard and I can respect anyone who loses 100 lbs.  That takes grit.

Peter has been doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as long as I have known him and he also taught himself to play the piano (5).   His seven children are awesome and I think that speaks volumes to the kind of father he is and his wife Tara is amazing.   As I said at the beginning, I call him the Buccaneer and it is my privilege to have him consider me a friend.

Notes & Corrections:

(1) Actually it took three years to go from Zero to One.

(2) Peter has an extensive client list including multi-nationals like Nestle, EDS as well as numerous smaller businesses.

(3) Peter limits his public speaking to 12 keynotes a year.

(4) Peter has been published in; Financial Post, the World Economic Forum, Recode and Fast Company and others but NOT the WSJ or NYT

(5) Peter holds the record at Carlson Gracie (under Professor Marcus Soares) for not advancing past white belt level in 15 years.



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