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UTSC alumnus shares his story of success and of his commitment to giving back

Alumnus Jeffrey Feldberg speaks to the campus during a UTSC visit in March.

 

Jeffrey Feldberg (9T5) sits back in his chair and grins.  He pauses for a moment, as if remembering some private joke.  We have been discussing  his first major business venture in 1995, E.mba net (later changed to the single-word Embanet) which he started mere days after graduating from his MBA program.  Embanet would go on to become one of the pioneering companies in the e-learning industry, but right now Jeffrey is remembering the early part of the Embanet story--when the company wasn’t an industry leader and providing distance education services for over 300 organizations worldwide. 

“Was it successful immediately?” I had asked.

“It failed before it began,” he laughs.

A student at Rotman in the early 1990’s, Jeffrey found that the members of his MBA group into which he’d been placed, despite the very best of intentions, were simply miserable when trying to meet their self-imposed commitment of meeting each day.  Their work suffered, and in a last-ditch effort to find a way to make things work, Jeffrey began experimenting with some of the “new” technology that looked like it had some promise for an impact on business and education: e-mail and electronic bulletin board systems, known then as “BBS’s”.  After a few tweaks, the E.mba net system was born – providing a way for their group to access course materials, virtual work environments, and discussion groups.  The group immediately began performing at a much higher level.

“At first we kept it a secret,” says Jeffrey, “but eventually we realized this was something that could really benefit our fellow students, so we made it available to them.”

The response was immense: the first-year class at Rotman embraced the technology fully, and between 1993 and 1995 it was implemented across the entire Rotman school.  Upon graduation in 1995, Jeffrey and his wife Waleuska officially formed Embanet, and Jeffrey struck out to sell the product to other business schools at first, and eventually to other universities and organizations.

“I remember getting the chance to present at a conference filled with some very tired and grumpy Business School Deans from across Canada at their annual conference.   I was sure when I finished speaking I’d be swamped with people wanting the product,” remembers Jeffrey.  “When I finished, everyone just left.  It was a tough one to swallow.”

Despite having a good idea and a product to match, Jeffrey and Waleuska struggled to get Embanet up and running.  The interest that had been shown by their peers at Rotman simply did not materialize.  Facing the challenge of creating both a new company and a new life with his soon-to-be-wife and business partner, Waleuska, Jeffrey embraced the difficulties.

“I haven’t met a true leader who hasn’t dealt with adversity,” says Jeffrey.  “It’s the best thing that can happen to you. ..but one of my favourite quotations is from Winston Churchill: ‘Never, never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense.’”

The dedication paid off, Embanet got a foothold, and went on to become one of the pioneering companies in the e-learning industry.  Jeffrey had the opportunity to develop expertise in technology, education, marketing and operations, and to launch some of the world’s most successful and prestigious online programs – programs that touched the lives of millions of learners from around the world.  The company that “failed before it began” was sold to two large venture capital firms operating out of California in 2007.

It’s a success story that surprised everyone, especially Jeffrey!

“I honestly had no idea what I was going to do with my life until the last week of my MBA,” remembers Jeffrey.  “I came to university because I had to. Iit wasn’t an option in my family.  When I first arrived at Scarborough for my undergrad, I thought I was going to be a dentist!”

Jeffrey has gone on to become the Chairman and Success Builder of Magnum Opus Ventures and Magnum Opus Developments, companies whose mission is dedicated to the betterment of the human condition and aims to add value to society through innovative products and services. 

“There is no such thing as profit first, people second,” says Jeffrey.  “If you can help people first and profit from it second, you’ve got the best job in the world.”

Jeffrey Feldberg is “Inside the Leaders’ Circle” on Tuesday, March 31st, at 5:30 p.m. in BV380 (the Ralph Campbell Lounge).  He will be discussing his story of entrepreneurial success, and the importance of realizing that choosing a career in business does not mean turning your back on being a good person who can truly help others.

Seating for the event is limited.  Check www.utsc-leaderscircle.ca in March for registration information




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