Lightspeed founder Dax Dasilva invests his millions in the planet

Dax Dasilva started software company Lightspeed in 2005 from a Montreal plywood and grew into a multi-billion dollar company. After stepping down as CEO earlier this year, he has redoubled his efforts to fight the climate crisis with his nonprofit Age of Union.


i was eight when my father brought home a Mac computer. He was a graphic designer at a production company and used it to design press releases. I was fascinated by how the machine made complex tasks simple. Once I learned how to use it, I knew I wanted to design software for the rest of my life. When I was 13, I was apprenticed to a software designer—the son of my father’s boss, who helped me land the gig—to create digital time cards and other programs for the company. With the computer skills I developed during my internship, by the time I was 15 I started working part-time for a number of Apple dealers and had built software to help them manage parts of their retail operations. I also freelanced independent software development and made $5,000 to $7,000 per project.

Growing up in Richmond, BC surrounded by natural beauty, I also loved outdoor activities. I heard about the cutting of old-growth forests at Clayoquot Sound and participated in a successful protest to save these ancient trees. This started my journey into environmentalism and my belief that action can lead to better outcomes for our relationship with nature.

After studying computer science, art history, and religious studies at the University of British Columbia, I moved to Montreal in my early twenties. Earning nearly $100,000 a year from a combination of freelance software development projects and technical support, primarily for retail, I began to understand the need for a product that could run complicated inventory systems while maintaining a simple user experience. In 2005, my long-held dream of owning my own software company became a reality when I founded Lightspeed, a point-of-sale or POS system that manages not only transactions, but also analytics, customer loyalty, and accounting.

Lightspeed started out of a triplex in Montreal’s Gay Village. My apartment was on the third floor and when the unit below became available I rented it as an office. I spent many nights coding until 4am, fueled by Tim Horton’s French Vanilla Coffee. Me and three other people were responsible for sales, technical support and administration at the time. Some of our early customers—a furniture store, computer store, and spa—were nearby, so I was able to visit and watch our software being implemented. Once I better understood what they needed the software for, I would use that information to build a better version of it. We’ve built a huge user base that resulted in annual revenue of $10 million in our seventh year. Whole streets of New York City ran on that early version of Lightspeed.

In 2012, I was at the National Retail Federation (NRF) trade show at the Javits Center in New York City and met some venture capitalists working for Accel who were major investors in Facebook and Dropbox. After I explained what Lightspeed was doing, they told me they thought this was the future of retail. Within a few weeks, we had a term sheet for $30 million in Series A financing. Receiving venture capital boosted our growth. The investment and weekly investor consultations helped us professionalize our organization and allowed us to grow the team, expand sales and marketing spend, and acquire key technologies that would help us move our solutions to the cloud. move.

A few years into our Series A round, we raised $35 million in Series B and $61 million in Series C funding. It happened very quickly and I felt a lot of pressure to perform. I was exhausted, as if I had run without a break for the past 10 years. After 17 years at the helm of Lightspeed, I stepped down from the CEO role in February to focus on building my environmental alliance, Age of Union, which aims to address critical environmental challenges around the world. unload. (I still lead Lightspeed as executive chairman at the board level and contribute to all high-level strategy and environmental and social governance.) Officially launched in 2021, Age of Union allows me to share my passion for nature. and fighting the climate crisis to inspire real change. The nonprofit donates money to environmental groups and on-site projects that are already working to save some of the most endangered and degraded ecosystems. The donations help improve the work they do and achieve even more.

Right now I am the only source of money. But my team – there are seven of us – will soon be inviting other people who have made money in technology or business, as well as the general public, to contribute. I want to set an example and show what successful conservation projects can look like if they are properly supported. I have pledged $40 million to restore the Saint Lawrence River shoreline, protect lowland gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo, expand the Dulan Rainforest Reserve in Borneo, support reforestation in Haiti, and expand the Junglekeepers ranger program in the Amazon rainforest, which helps prevent illegal logging and poaching on land. I have donated $4.5 million to the ocean conservation group Sea Shepherd for an Age of Union vessel that will protect marine life from poachers around the world. We do more than write checks: we send videographers to the front lines of these projects to film them so we can promote all the work being done. We make short documentaries and share them on YouTube so people can see what’s happening and get involved.

I am very hopeful seeing what is being done on the ground every day. We are past the point where we need to raise awareness: we are at the stage where we need to see action. It gives me hope that the St. Lawrence River, which contains 20 percent of the world’s freshwater, will be restored through our partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. If I can scale Age of Union in the same way as Lightspeed, the future of our planet will have a very different outcome.

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