Bram Belzberg: Leading by Diversity
Bram is the Chairman & CEO of KEV Group. Since joining in 2009, Bram has played a leading role in product development, business operation and strategy leading to significant and consistent growth across the business.
Q: Tell us about KEV Group. How did it come to be?
Like 90% of entrepreneurs who succeed, Kim Vivian-Downs and Evelyn Eagle set out to solve their own problem. As school bookkeepers they were mired in the reality of volume, time constraints, and conflicting priorities. They knew there had to be a simpler, more effective way. In the early 90s, these two courageous women embarked on a Software as a Service journey; at a time when less than 0.4% of individuals enrolling in Computer Science post secondary programs were women, Evelyn and Kim taught themselves how to code and bring to life this solution.
KEV Group provides a simple, efficient solution for managing school cash funds; the money parents bring into schools for every day activities like field trips, fund raisers, pizza day, etc. KEV’s School Cash Suite of products provides school board administrators, parents, and learners a better, faster, smarter solution for managing these transactions. KEV Group has taken a 360 degree approach to School Cash and is striving to make an evolutionary difference to administrators and families.
Q: You have a very unique career path. How did you get to where you are today?
I started my career with great aspirations; I didn’t know they would lead me to being the CEO of an entrepreneurial tech company by age 29. Following my graduation from McGill, I joined Goldman Sachs in New York as an Investment Banker, what I thought was perfect for me. After 2 years I realized I needed a change.
Family is key to me, and I returned to my Toronto roots with the desire to build a family of my own alongside my career.
I worked with an Asset Management firm here in Toronto and decided to further my education at Harvard, achieving my MBA. It was at Harvard that I found my passion for helping emerging companies realize their full potential.
It was then that I was introduced to Kim and Evelyn; I saw KEV Group as a great opportunity to jump in and help reinvent and expand growing business and I believed in the vision. I believe in giving people a chance to succeed; KEV Group is that opportunity, in product and in people. It aligns with my values of creating “great” and serves communities and families. I joined as the in the position of Chief Operating Officer and within six months became Chairman & Chief Executive Officer.
Since joining, we have grown the top line of the business over 1000% and are on a progressive trajectory to continue to grow the business, brand, and talent.
Q: What was it like to join a team of two female founders and what impact has your core team had on the organization?
I think a huge part of our success 20 years ago, and today, is staying true to our roots and the evolution of our company as a community. It began with Kim & Evelyn and they are still the center of our business; I can’t imagine it without them. Having two strong female leaders has also been instrumental in growing our internal culture through a diverse and dynamic team.
We are very proud that as a tech organization, 54% of our organization is women; 66% of our hires in the past 6 months are women. More and more tech companies are striving for balanced diversity ratios and we’re doing it organically.
While female leadership is important at KEV, we partner with all types of diversity organizations and work hard to ensure we have maximum exposure to talent of all kinds.
Q: You have always had a very ambitious vision for the company. Tell us about how you build & lead the team.
KEV Group was founded by constantly asking “What if?”. What if we could do things more efficiently? What if we could fix something that is a pain point for all schools? Operating like this today is a huge contributor to our strong company culture of lifelong learning and empowerment. Our business will succeed with great talent. Employees of KEV are empowered, trusted, developed, and encouraged. Fit is important here; we don’t want people who are the same, but we do want people with exceptional skills and people who are here for the same reasons as us – they have a passion for our products and want to be a significant part of our mission.