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Rob Bennett

Man smiling while wearing black jacket and T-shirt in front of wood-slatted backdrop.
  • Category: Presidents' Alumni Award
  • UVic degree: Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, 1983
  • Current hometown: Victoria, BC
  • Birthplace: La Jolla, California

About Rob

A member of UVic’s first computer science graduating class in 1983, Rob Bennett has been involved in the Victoria technology community ever since, as a software developer, founder, investor, mentor and coach. Rob has worked at the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology & Entrepreneurship Council (VIATEC) for more than 20 years, supporting innovation and entrepreneurship in tech companies. As COO and program director, he runs a variety of events, programs and resources to assist entrepreneurs with the development of their start-up and early-stage companies, most notably through the W Venture and the VIATEC Accelerator programs. Rob is a frequent lecturer and panelist at UVic, Royal Roads University and Camosun College business schools and has volunteered for several boards and committees, including the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Victoria Development Agency, the BC Cancer Foundation and the Salvation Army.

How did your experiences at UVic shape who you are?

Even though [UVic’s] an educational institution, an academic institution, there were real-world opportunities being provided—and that was before co-op existed. There were practical and enriching activities that I was able to participate in. And every one of those shaped me. Having that computing facility was very important… learning how to use the facilities for commercial applications, strengthening relationships with all sorts of staff at UVic in computing services and academic services. It’s always been this opportunity that's allowed me to take another step and another step and another step.

What skills or traits are needed to be good at what you do?

The ability to listen and pick up on what people are saying. There are the words they say and then there's what they're really trying to say. If you're talking to a potential customer, you're trying to understand what they're looking for. In my role helping start-up companies, it's trying to understand where the entrepreneur is at and what they really need, not what they think they need. And in listening carefully and picking up on all sorts of other cues and clues, you can get a little closer to the real heart of the matter.

What's one characteristic in people that’s underappreciated?

People, especially successful people, don't talk openly about the role of good luck in the journey. Of course, you've got to be prepared. You’ve got to be able to pounce on that luck and understand the opportunity that's being presented and go for it. And sometimes that can take years of preparation. But inevitably there is a lucky moment. Conversely, there's bad luck, too, and people are quite happy to talk about their bad luck. But people don't talk about their good luck. And most successful people would have people believe that they make all the right decisions and their success is due to their intelligence or tenacity, but there is always a lucky moment.

What’s a valuable piece of advice someone has given you?

Don't make a decision until you have to. But don't be afraid to make a decision with imperfect or incomplete information. It's a fine edge to hold off making decisions so that you can collect as much information as possible. But also don't be paralyzed without analysis. Hopefully the decisions you make are pretty good and effective. But it's that first part that is a unique insight. Don't make a decision unless you have to.

Do you have a mantra?

Problems beget problems. Basically, get it right first time. And if you don't, it's funny how many times that you'll have successive issues as you try to recover.

What is something that brings you joy?

When I see live performance and human beings at their best. That could be theatre or a concert... seeing people hitting that pinnacle. It's amazing.

What do you do to relax?

Computer games. I play online poker, or I'll play RollerCoaster Tycoon or Age of Empires.

What's a secret talent you possess that might surprise people?

I know how to wire a house. I would have been an electrician if I didn't get into this.

What's the last great thing you've watched or read?

Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke. She's a former poker player, and I thought it was going to be a poker book, but it’s not. It's a book about decision making and getting back to making decisions based on incomplete information, which poker is all about… She also gets into peer mentoring and how important it is to surround yourself with people that excel in what you're interested in if you want to get better.

About the Distinguished Alumni Awards

Nominations for the 2024 awards are now closed. Nominations for the 2025 Distinguished Alumni Awards are open through Oct. 18, 2024.