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Leader Spotlight on Derrick Hunter: Championing Entrepreneurship in Calgary

Futurpreneur | November 22, 2017

If you’re in the entrepreneurial scene in Calgary, chances are you’re familiar with the name “Hunter.”

Derrick Hunter is the President of Bluesky Equities Ltd., an investment management company with interests in real estate, energy, distilling and alternative strategies. Earlier this year, Derrick was named to Futurpreneur Canada’s Board of Directors. Nevertheless, he and his family have been championing entrepreneurship in Calgary for decades.

“I grew up in an entrepreneurial family,” says Derrick. “Unlike a lot of families where people tell their kids to go get a job with a big company, my parents always had the exact opposite point of view.”

Derrick’s educational background is in Geology – he has a Bachelor’s degree in the subject from Queen’s University. However, graduating during a recession meant he had a difficult experience finding a job.

“The market was rough, kind of like how it is today, so that led me to go back to school to expand my toolbox of skills,” says Derrick.

So he went to the University of Calgary to get his MBA. Since then, he has founded or co-founded 14 companies including several exploration companies, two technology companies and a property management firm. He has also been an active member of the local angel investment community for the past ten years. Bluesky Equities is one of the most active angel investors in Southern Alberta, having invested in over two dozen local start-up businesses during that period.

However, Derrick is also invested in entrepreneurship in another way – through education. As a Trustee of his family’s foundation, he helps facilitate impactful donations to innovative organizations and causes that demonstrate entrepreneurial thinking. To date, the Hunter Family Foundation has donated millions of dollars to charitable organizations in the Calgary region.

In the last few years, the foundation has turned its focus to supporting entrepreneurial education at the University of Calgary – Derrick’s alma mater. While the university had an entrepreneurial stream when Derrick was a student, it was shut down in 2002.

“We had this situation where the University of Calgary was the only significant business school in the country that didn’t teach entrepreneurship,” says Derrick.

That all changed in 2013 when his family’s foundation made a transformative gift to the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary to help it create the “Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.”

This year, the Hunter Family expanded on their mission at the University of Calgary with the creation of the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking. According to the website, “The Hunter Hub is the University of Calgary’s new initiative to engage students, faculty, staff and the community with entrepreneurial thinking, placing it at the forefront of teaching and student discovery.”

“I think of it as trying to demystify the entrepreneurial process,” says Derrick, who describes the Hub as a centralized place for students to access the Hunter Centre’s curriculum as well as engage with their peers from other faculties.

It’s clear that Derrick Hunter and his family have made an indelible impact on the University of Calgary and the Calgary entrepreneurial ecosystem as a whole, and they’re only getting started. In the future, Derrick aspires to bring his entrepreneurial education to other members of the community, from elementary school students to unemployed workers who may be looking to start a business.

“We take the view that if even if a student is going to graduate and go work at Deloitte, it’s still a good experience to build a business case, fund it and compete against others on the quality of your idea,” says Derrick. “And if they do decide down the road that they want to pursue something entrepreneurial, then at least they have an idea of how to get started.”

Written by: Jasmine Williams, Social Media and Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada