Mark Attanasio, Toronto Executive and Hillcrest Merchant Partners Co-Founder Discusses Entrepreneurial Leadership, Venture Capital Investment

Toronto’s Mark Attanasio, co-founder of Hillcrest Merchant Partners, has years of significant experience with advising clients on mergers and acquisitions raising capital and navigating the landscape of general capital markets.

He began his career as a chartered accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers and moved to National Bank Financial, where he worked for 11 years, first within the mergers and acquisitions group, and then as a director of global equity derivatives. Later, he became vice president of merchant banking at Dundee Corporation, where he oversaw investments in multiple sectors. He was then appointed president of Dundee Capital Markets, with complete management of the capital markets business. Subsequently, Mark Attanasio led a management buyout of Dundee Capital Markets and became co-founder and CEO of Eight Capital.

In 2017, he embarked on a new venture, founding Hillcrest Merchant Partners with Donato Sferra. Hillcrest Merchant Partners is a Toronto-based merchant bank that focuses on investing in a number of sectors, including industrials, technology, gaming, cannabis, electric metals, mining, and healthcare.

As an entrepreneur and executive with years of experience, Mark Attanasio has advice to share about business leadership, the investment industry, and how to make your mark as a modern entrepreneur.

While the determining factors for success might vary widely across different industries, what do you consider the most important overall qualities for an entrepreneur to be successful?

For an entrepreneur to be successful, I think they have to be results-oriented, a passion for building and they have to allow the people on their team to make important decisions and strategic plans. A successful entrepreneur is often one who has a defined strategy for the company, and is able to handle adversity and setbacks with a positive mind, and creates a good environment for their team, an environment that’s aligned with their vision for the company. This is probably common sense, but I think a great entrepreneur is also a strong decision maker and a skilled communicator.

From what you’ve experienced in your career and what you’ve witnessed of other companies, what do you think are some factors that can make or break an otherwise talented entrepreneur?

Resilience and grit. Perseverance. Entrepreneurs must have a lot of drive and they need to push themselves relentlessly into taking risks and learning new concepts. You have to be willing to fail and learn from those failures. That is what being an entrepreneur means: undertaking something new, putting yourself and your ideas out into the marketplace. The best and most successful entrepreneurs that I know are the ones who are striving constantly and using their drive to both create more and learn more.

When it comes to venture capital and choosing companies to invest in, what do you look for when you’re making a decision?

I’m always looking for companies that have an idea that can be disruptive to an industry or have a first mover advantage to a large market opportunity.  Secondly, I look for the leader of the company to be a strong leader, and a passion to succeed.

In addition, I look for companies that are proposing well thought-out solutions to difficult problems. I am not interested in investing in companies that simply propose a cosmetic addition or negligible variation on some other company’s solution. I want to invest in companies that have new ideas and can create a sustainable advantage over their competitors in the market. I’m interested in companies and entrepreneurs that have done their due diligence and are working hard to bring their significant new product or concept to the market.


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