Challenge to Change | MBA working to fund Vancouver’s next tech sector superstars

The MBA program helped Jay Rhind shift from a career in finance to a leadership role as a venture capitalist in the city’s booming startup scene.


Jay Rhind was thriving in the competitive world of Toronto finance – but still, he couldn’t quiet his entrepreneurial drive.

With a background in biology, the ambitious Toronto native was working for a clean tech startup when he was approached by a Bay Street investment firm to assist with the sale of an ethanol business. It seemed like a perfect pairing; but within a year, Rhind knew that transaction-focused finance wasn’t the right fit. So he applied to the MBA program at UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School.

“When going into an MBA some people think, ‘I want an investment banking job’ or ‘I want a consulting gig.’ For me, it was about grounding myself back in entrepreneurship and giving myself the opportunity to take time for self-exploration,” says Rhind. “You essentially have a year and a half of dedicated personal development.”


Rhind says that an entrepreneurial nature is an innate part of his personality – and has been for as long as he can remember.

Even as early as grade four, Rhind was capitalizing on gaps in the market by going to the corner store at recess, buying a case of Cherry Coke for $4, then returning to the school where he would sell it for $1 a can.

“I’d net eight bucks, and I’d hit refresh on that all the time,” jokes Rhind, who also taught scuba diving in Australia, then returned to Canada and started his own dive business in Ontario’s cottage country.

“Part of it was a desire to arbitrage, and to capitalize on inefficiencies, which I find really exciting. And then part of it is just not limiting your ambition, which I think is a big part of entrepreneurship,” says Rhind. “You’re only limited by how hard you work and the vision you set out for yourself.”


Coming from Toronto finance, Rhind expected the MBA program to be cutthroat and competitive; but instead he found a highly collaborative program where he and his classmates were challenged in all the right ways.

One of the most influential courses he took was Technology Entrepreneurship, a class that pairs MBAs with graduate engineering students to develop new tech-based startups.


“Over two terms you go through the process of problem identification, solution design and iteration using a process called the business model canvas, where you identify the core components of building a solid business,” says Rhind. “It definitely had the largest impact on where I am today.”

He also found that students formed strong networks that persist throughout their post-MBA careers, both with classmates and the school’s alumni, and that those networks are extremely helpful in supporting graduates’ goals.


After graduating, Rhind was hired by UBC Sauder MBA alumni Fraser Hall and Dan Eisenhardt to help launch the Vancouver Founder Fund, a venture capital fund focused on tech investments that has so far raised roughly $15 million in under two years. Hall and Eisenhart met a few years prior in UBC Sauder’s Technology Entrepreneurship course where they began the wearable tech company Recon Instruments that sold to Intel last year for $175 million.

“We deploy capital but we also get operational, and if there’s a particular problem we’re adept at solving, we’ll help businesses solve it,” says Rhind, who works as a Principal at the fund and adds that the knowledge he gained in the MBA program has become part of his daily business practice.

“Vancouver Founder Fund is, in many ways, like a startup. We’ve identified a problem in the way capital has been deployed in early stage startups and have designed our approach to fit that unmet need,” he says. “It’s a cliché, but it doesn't feel like a job when you genuinely love what you do — and we meet industry-changing entrepreneurs every day who challenge us and broaden our perspectives. There's always something exciting walking through the door."