Dax Dasilva found his calling and changed his life by doing what all good entrepreneurs do: he found a need in a market, and he capitalized on it. His company, Lightspeed, provides small and medium-sized businesses in the retail and restaurant industries with point-of-sale solutions. He started the company in 2005 in a small Montreal office space with just four employees. Today, Lightspeed is used by some 50,000 businesses in more than 100 countries, and processes $15 billion worth of transactions each year.
Dasilva fell in love with coding and technology at an early age. His dad bought him his first computer, a Mac, for his 12th birthday. A year later, he scored a position as an intern with an Apple developer and decided that he wanted to create his own tech company.
“My dad was a graphic designer,” Dasilva told Forbes in 2014. “He used to bring home the original Mac when I was 8 or 9, and I just thought it was magical. It brought simplicity to complexity through a graphical interface. I was always entranced by the beauty of the interfaces that Apple created. When I started programming in my teens for the forestry companies and Apple dealerships in BC, I started to love building software. By the time I was in my 20s, I was working for a large Apple dealership and they wanted to run their four stores on the Mac platform but there wasn’t great inventory management or point-of-sale software for the Mac at that time.”
In 2005, after relocating from Vancouver to Montreal, he launched Lightspeed to create inventory-centric point of sale systems for retailers and restaurants to bring the “Apple Store experience” to their own small businesses. Dasilva’s idea connected almost immediately – from 2006 to 2011, the company enjoyed a growth rate of 1,900% and was named one of Canada’s fastest-growing firms. Lightspeed has since acquired three companies and has raised $307 million in investments since 2012.
“The retail landscape has changed dramatically since I founded Lightspeed,” Dasilva explained to Notable Life in 2016. “I learned the importance of adaptability and consistently remaining ahead of the curve in the early days of the company. I tried to immerse myself in the industry as much as possible, using that knowledge to drive the company forward and innovate.”
Since launching Lightspeed and finding success, Dasilva has made a point of giving back. He founded his own non-profit arts organization, Never Apart, which promotes community and diversity through arts and culture. Housed in Lightspeed’s former offices, Never Apart utilizes the 12,000 square-foot gallery space for seasonal exhibitions, a monthly online magazine, and a vinyl archive of over 10,000 records.
“Never Apart represents inclusivity for all groups and through its programming, we can promote various artists, thought leaders, and causes,” he told Notable Life. “It’s energizing being able to merge the worlds of tech and the arts by having both Lightspeed and Never Apart as projects.”
Dasilva says that since creating Lightspeed almost 15 years ago, he’s witnessed some significant changes in Canada’s tech startup industry, for the better.
“Companies are choosing to stay here. Instead of being bought by American companies, they’re going public,” he told The Globe and Mail. “Freshbooks, Shopify, Hootsuite, to name a few, are becoming large permanent tech anchors for our cities. It’s becoming a new aspiration for young people in technology. The belief is no longer that you must go to [Silicon] Valley to have an interesting and challenging job – it’s an exciting road for Canada.”
It’s entrepreneurs like Dasilva, and businesses like Lightspeed, that are lighting the way for the country’s tech sector, showing the world that Canada is capable of competing on the same level as global tech giants.
Justin Anderson | Contributing Writer
Photo Credit: L-Spark