Alumni Q&A: Karl Swannie

Karl Swannie
Swannie at a special science alumni celebration for the classes of 2020 and 2021 Spring on Friday, June 10, 2022. Credit: UVic Photo Services

Karl Swannie (BSc '99) is Chair of the Faculty of Science's inagural Alumni Advisory Board. 

Where I am now: CEO at Intlabs, a start-up with an online platform supporting secure, intelligent decisions.

The science I research, in a nutshell:

  • Systems Security
  • Human, Signals and Open Source Intelligence = Misinformation and Disinformation
  • Led the creation of one of the first Dark Web Search Engines

How I got here: I’ve been called the creative, persuasive and decisive force behind many successful SaaS Platforms and recently sold a very successful company. Mostly, I’m just stubborn, curious and fortunate. 

I’ve been a company leader, project director, business developer and former CTO with a +20-year career. I am an expert in data aggregation, advanced analytics, AI, NLP and advanced visualisation.

A challenge I had to overcome to get where I am: Most recently, running a pre-revenue company is very challenging. But, I surrounded myself with the very best people that I could find, like my business partners. My three business partners started our company in a very small and cheap space. We worked long hours and built up an incredible amount of trust between us. In the end, the partnership was more valuable than anything. We helped each other push through by staying focused, while not taking ourselves or each other too seriously.

One secret to success: Make most decisions quick, fast and fearlessly. Acknowledge that you will have to fix some, if not most, of today’s decisions tomorrow.

Favorite UVic memory: Friends. The friends I made at UVic were unlike any others. They were built with common interests and shared economic situations.

Advice for current UVic students: Learn every day. I started as a product person and ended up a communicator to boards, advisors and bankers. Every step along the way I had to learn something new. You have to love that.

Most people don’t know that I: I became a CEO out of necessity, not out of desire. At the time of my first companies foundation, my network did not include people who could build a company around the software I envisioned. I was trying to build the company in Victoria. We simply did not have CEOs on hand to make this company happen, so I naively stepped forward.

As soon as I stepped forward and became the CEO I started to meet so many people who wanted to help. It was truly inspiring. We are very fortunate to live in a place with great advisors, investors and community.

Learn more about the Faculty of Science Alumni Advisory Board