Basic Info

Jean Belanger
Contributor Status:
Native AdVert
Initial Contribution Date:

Career Info

Primary Industry:
Personal Career Headline:
Co-Founder & CEO, Cerebri AI

My Native AdVert

Career Snapshot:

I am co-founder & CEO of Cerebri AI Inc., based in Austin, Toronto and Washington DC. I started my career with PwC in Ottawa and Paris. After the graduating from the London School of Economics ( M.Sc. Finance ), I joined what is now CIBC World Markets as an investment banker, where I represented three of the four largest public companies in Canada, lead managing financings of over $4B in Canada, US and Europe.

I left investment banking and started a small VC fund in Montreal, investing in seven startup technology companies, three of which went public, one 24 years later! After sitting on Boards for five years, I decided I would rather build products rather than telling people what to do remotely from Boards, etc.

After a year running a mainframe software company, I became Chairman & CEO of Metrowerks and helped turn this small three-man shop into a leading programming tools vendor. Supporting 10+ platforms, which we subsequently took public and sold to Motorola. CodeWarrior was named Software Product of the Year by MacWorld Magazine, and was used to build the vast majority of software in popular use on the Macintosh in the 1990s, and subsequently supported different hardware platforms including PlayStation, Palm, Nintendo, others.

In 1995, a columnist in MacWeek said Metrowerks saved Apple Computer! MacWorld Magazine awarded me their World Class Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Macintosh Platform, and I was Finalist for the E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Austin. Upon selling to Motorola Semiconductor, I was named their VP Business Development, where I was responsible for investing over $450M in 14 months.

After Motorola, I started a supply chain software company selling to F500 companies including Walmart, CVS, Best Buy, and McLane. Over 20% of our technical staff were Masters/PhDs in operations research and data science. Reddwerks was a data science pioneer in the Internet of Things developing state-of-the-art supply chain applications automating e-commerce and retail order processing in major distribution facilities averaging over 500,000 square feet in size. Reddwerks was the fastest growing company in Austin according to the Austin Business Journal in 2010.  Reddwerks was purchased in 2015 by Dematic.

Native AdMission Statement (AKA Personal Brand Pitch):

Career wise, I have spent most of it building complex software products from scratch, solving very difficult problems. Personally, I am a private person, I try to do the right thing every day, looking out for the underdog.

What Else To Know

Tell Us More:

How did you get into the industry?

I wanted to build products, I chose software after starting and running a small VC firm for five years. I did not enjoy sitting on Boards and being so distant from the action, hands on.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Study math, data science is the future, I have been heavily involved in DS since 2005. Do the right thing and look after people.

Any emerging industry trends?

Massive number of startups, management expertise has not grown commensurately, so any downturn in the economy will be difficult for a lot of these companies. Increasing focus on what macroeconomic trends will bring. Building software has never been easier but competitive products have never been more complex in the enterprise market where working at scale is now at a premium.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Attention to detail, we aspire to solving the problem, no exceptions so processing work outside of our software is kept to a minimum in the context we don’t do this or that because it is hard to do or too much work. Customers want a complete solution, the whole product. Crossing the Chasm is the bible on how to start, it should have been titled – “Do you know what your whole product really is?”

How do you motivate others?

I do not like being told what to do, it is why I am an entrepreneur, so my view on work is simple be your best, be the best, hire brilliant people, let them get on with it, let them excel and produce great things – be ready to help when they raise their hand. I really dislike being micro-managed, so I treat everyone accordingly. If someone needs help, I will work tirelessly to help if required. We spend a lot of time trying to find the right people who fit for how we do things.

What are my aspirations?

Be the best at what I do, give back privately.

My Biggest Success?

Surviving. Thriving. Learning that working hard really works. I was put in foster care when I was two weeks old and was adopted when I was eight. My adopted father was extremely difficult, life was often miserable, physically and psychologically. Fortunately, I liked going to school, a refuge. Nothing good happens if you do not go to school.

My Most Challenging Moment?

Surviving. However, as a CEO in the technology business, I am currently faced with the challenge of showing I am truly concerned with D&I issues. I decided to approach the D&I problem differently to most. Ignoring the status quo. I set out to address the issue of D&I head on, no compromising on the goals.

For me the obvious question was: “How do we learn how to treat people fairly, equitably, the right way?” Leaders, staff, everyone learns this somewhere, is it not too late to learn this on the job? Should basic concepts of fairness, equity, etc., by left to on-the-job training? We can remind people when they join our teams, but they need to have some basic understanding to start with.

The way forward seemed to me to have key religious leaders sit down and tell us how they think through these issues. What better consultants than the individuals who are educated at great length in these issues. So, I initiated a series of interviews with a genuinely diverse group of accomplished leaders, which we converted into a series of podcasts. Their insights were compelling.

First and foremost, the interview series highlighted that our guests were not part of monolithic institutions and that there are many flavors of faith-based traditions. Each tradition has had to reconcile how they treat adherents of the various streams in each faith. Christians can be catholic, orthodox, protestant, etc., Jews can be liberal, conservative, orthodox, etc. the list goes on.

The second takeaway was the massive diversity in how the same core tenants are enabled and practiced on a day-to-day basis. Hindus do not as a matter of course kill cows, why? We found out why, economics plays a part. The more you listen to these leaders the more you realize how similar their teachings are, especially in terms of respect for individuals.

A key takeaway from these sessions was how keen these leaders were to help us think through D&I. And how easy it was for them to delve deeply in their faith traditions for examples of what they were telling us. Practical, relatable and usable examples.

Our speaker series has now expanded to include topics such as race, gender, sexuality and other relevant areas

that raise diversity and inclusion issues. The questions raised in these podcasts can be taken as a given or can cause controversy. Everyone’s experiences are different.

We technologists created the Internet and gave everyone a voice. However, we now easily find people with similar experiences and like-minded views, so diversity and inclusion suffer as a result. Above all, I hope these podcasts help bridge the gap for all. I will continue to do other podcasts, as we seek to identify and deal with new issues that divide us – working towards our goal of making diversity and inclusion an everyday reality for all.

My Motto?

Stop whining. Work hard – you will figure it out.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

Winston Churchill

What Else to Know?

I usually favor the underdog

My Daily Thoughts:

I do not think in days, but rather in goals. I have built four companies from a blank sheet of paper, the last three in software stretching over 25 years. These software companies have required tens of millions of dollars of investment in R&D, before any profit could be earned. So maniacal focus on long term goals of building the best product in the world in what we were doing at the time, while keeping the wolves at bay have dominated my working life for what seems like forever!

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