Inniskillin Changemaker: Adam Bent
“Part of being an entrepreneur is knowing that every business you make is an experiment.”
In partnership with Inniskillin, Canada’s first estate winery, Startup Canada is celebrating and spotlighting leading entrepreneurial changemakers and disruptors across Canada. Startup Canada was pleased to sit down with Adam Bent, CEO of Scout Canning to learn about their journey and the impact of their work.
Adam Bent is Scout’s CEO and leads the team to operationalize Scout’s mission – to become the most trusted seafood brand in North America while reducing food waste and protecting our oceans. He is also a founding member of the Seafood Collab – an industry group comprised of emerging seafood CPG brands who are committed to a regenerative ocean food system and increased consumer engagement in sustainable seafood.
Previous to Scout, Adam was a technology entrepreneur building VC-backed businesses as the Co-Founder of thisopenspace and Uppercase. His passion in food isn’t a new journey as he was the former VP at Provender, a TechStars backed online marketplace that addressed inefficiencies in local food delivery to the wholesale industry. Adam was the Canadian manager for Urbanspoon before its $50M acquisition and is a partner at Prairie Boy Organic Bakery in Toronto, Canada.
SC: In one sentence, what does being an entrepreneurial changemaker mean to you?
AB: Proving today, in 2020, that it is more possible than ever to have a profitable business while taking into consideration the net impact or benefit for people and planet.
SC: Tell us about your entrepreneurial venture(s) – what do you do? What role has it played in your life?
AB: Scout’s mission is to be the most trusted seafood brand in North America while reducing food waste and protecting our oceans. We know that emerging brands that are authentic, better for you, and better for the planet have come in and transformed most of grocery retail. Seafood is one of the last big categories that hasn’t seen the same level of transformation from emerging brands. Water covers 70% of the planet and it is the most regenerative food system on earth but we aren’t doing a whole lot to protect it. So that is what Scout is doing for the North American market – making seafood appealing, understandable, sexy, and delicious. We reinvest a portion of our revenue to First Nations led environment and fisheries protects in the regions that we source from.
I have a background in building companies, specifically tech companies, and there are a lot of transferable skills that I have brought into this consumer products venture – you’re looking for customers, you want them to repeat, you’re measuring consumer behaviour, and you’re constantly trying to prove your products. After leaving the technology industry, I missed the meaningful impact those companies were having on society. I have found fulfillment in Scout. It has connected the dots in what I have done before in food tech, agriculture technology, and building businesses. It is nice to have a tangible product that you can touch and feel that is produced by people who are working out in our oceans and waterways. It is incredibly fulfilling to have a hand in a product that is making people happy and that is providing some net benefit for people and the planet.
SC: What motivated you to become an entrepreneur?
AB: When I was in high school, I tended to be drawn to the less academic classes and more to the topics of business and entrepreneurship. I was pretty industrious in high school – I had a couple side hustles. Right out of the gate I decided not to go to university or college and started building companies with no post-secondary education. I guess, for me, it was seeing technology come to fruition and knowing I would be more optimized building something of my own. I knew from a pretty young age that I wanted to go out and build companies with really great teams.
SC: What are you most proud of related to your venture(s)?
AB: Something that I have taken away from all of the companies that I have built is the power of an incredible team. I find it incredibly fulfilling to have a cohesive team that actually enjoys working with each other, showing up, and solving tough problems. Externally, I am proud of the impact we are having in increasing economic opportunities in regional fishing communities across Canada and being able to work with First Nations groups as a form of economic reconciliation in the fisheries.
SC: Tell us about your biggest hurdle – what was it and how did you persevere through it?
AB: In my past ventures, I have unfortunately had co-founder relationships that were extremely challenging and led to somewhat of a breakdown in company performance and in company culture. That is something that I have taken with me to Scout and learned to navigate. Those co-founder relationships, especially in technology with the ‘growth at all costs’ mentality, can force people to make bad decisions that prioritize revenue over team morale. Your team is incredibly important to the wellbeing, growth, and sustainability of your business. I work really hard at my co-founder relationships to ensure there is a high level of trust and transparency to avoid some of these issues.
SC: What has your biggest learning been along the way?
AB: Lead with empathy, not with fear or a top down approach. I have learnt along the way that the best leadership comes from the bottom up and side by side, regardless of the team size, roles, or responsibilities. No contributor is too small to be recognized for the value of their work. Another element is having a somewhat democratic decision making process internally, especially when teams are small. Those are the pillars of what I take into leadership.
SC: What drives your motivation when things get tough?
AB: Part of being an entrepreneur is knowing that every business you make is an experiment. No business is designed, as much as you can try, perfectly. When things get tough it is important to remind yourself of that. Entrepreneurs with a ‘one and done’ success story are a myth – these are very few and far between. Typically, entrepreneurship takes multiple iterations and fixes before you find success. So when things get stressful I remind myself that we have taken the risk of trying to build something new and that this risk is not necessarily tied to success. My team and I find some peace of mind in that.
SC: Where can people go to learn more about your journey and organization?
AB: They can head to www.enjoyscout.ca! We have information there regarding our vision and our founding story.
SC: What is your ideal vision for Canada’s entrepreneurship community over the next 20 years?
AB: I am really proud of the tech scene we have developed in Canada. That being said, I would love entrepreneurship in Canada to be more broad outside of technology. I think we place a lot of weight, priority, and resources behind tech entrepreneurs and companies. As a very resource privileged country with a lot of fantastic support ecosystems, there are so many opportunities for us to build off of that. So I would love to see some more consumer product goods industry develop more in the Canadian market. To sum it up, more diversification outside of technology so we start to excel in other industry categories, more openness to risk and investment outside of technology, and better ecosystem opportunities for entrepreneurs outside of that industry.
SC: What do you think today’s entrepreneurs should be focused on for a better, brighter future?
AB: I hate to say it, but a lot of Canadian entrepreneurs will be a successful product or service in the US market and try to come up with a similar solution for the Canadian market. And that is great for the entrepreneur, wealth creation and job creation – but ultimately entrepreneurs should be focused on innovation. Find problems that don’t have solutions yet and push yourself to identify white space opportunities in the market that are totally underserved instead of joining a crowded space and repeating something that has already been done.
Are you an avid supporter of Canada’s entrepreneurship community? Share Adam’s story or showcase your OWN entrepreneurial changemaker across social platforms with the hashtag #CheersToTheChangeMakers!