Degree: Computer Science Technology
Year of graduation: 2000
How entrepreneur Geoff Hogan retired at 38 and never looked back
Whether he’s motorcycling through Australia, scuba diving in the tropics, or flying a stunt plane in Tahiti, Geoff Hogan is living the good life of a semi-retired entrepreneur.
Hogan is an unusual case among the world of self-made success stories: he was able to kick off his retirement at the age of 38.
In 2016, Hogan handed off the reins of Georgetown, Ont.-based Osnium Software – a company he founded that creates client-tracking software for domestic violence and sexual assault centres.
Currently, Hogan doesn’t even own a television. He’s much too busy teaching rock climbing, fostering homeless dogs, and testing his physical limits (he completed an Ironman Triathlon in 2018). Often, Hogan’s children are right alongside him. His 15-year-old daughter shares his passion for robotics and adventure, and is pursuing her motorcycle licence. His 13-year-old son, an avid scuba diver and rock climber, also tags along for many of Hogan’s adventures.
“I’m always jumping to the next challenge,” says Hogan. “If I had to do it all over again knowing what I know now, I might do some things differently — but I have no regrets.”
Growing up in Kincardine, Ont., Hogan was drawn to Sheridan’s Trafalgar campus by what he describes as its “small-town feel”. Greatly influenced by program co-ordinator Doug Waechter, in 1997, he made the decision to register in Sheridan’s Computer Science Technology program.
“He was the very first person that I talked to about coming to Sheridan and was so approachable and easy to talk to — he came from the same area I grew up in,” explains Hogan.
From a co-op placement testing Y2K compliance for Canadian Tire, Hogan ended up co-ordinating business systems for MDA Space Missions, which built the Canadarm for the space shuttle.
Although Hogan loved the job at MDA, the intensity of the work and the long hours led him to make a change to preserve work-life balance.
“I had a small daughter at the time and another [child] on the way,” he says. “Family has always been a priority for me and I wanted to be there for my kids. So I took a pay cut and moved down a few rungs on the corporate ladder, and got to see my daughter every day.”
From there, Hogan spent years working for companies that were involved with U.S. military defence. However, Hogan desperately wanted to, “make the world better” through founding his own company. Although he looked at fields as wide ranging as cemetery management when brainstorming his business, ultimately, Hogan returned to a familiar idea.
“When I was a kid, I cut grass for a women’s shelter, so I was aware of these facilities when I started looking for industries to help with my new company,” says Hogan. “There were very few products to help manage non-profits at the time, and what was there was old and clunky.”
He started Osnium Software in March 2008 at the age of 29, and the day before his 30th birthday, the company incorporated. Today, Osnium’s clients include Harvard, Berkley and MIT, and the company supports over 400 organizations across North America. It also has three other Sheridan graduates currently on the team.
"Ultimately, the purpose of the software is to help domestic violence and assault centres prove what they do for funding at government level. Most of our customers are in the U.S., where reporting requirements are much more onerous than in Canada,” he says.
Although Hogan’s days are awash in activity, he takes time out from his high-flying adventure to teach part-time at Sheridan in the Faculty of Applied Science and Technology, helping to judge student capstone projects and also working with the Centre for Applied AI (formerly known as the Centre for Mobile Innovation).
“It was neat to be able to go back and teach in the program I graduated from. I love teaching, and really enjoy helping others get a head start,” he says. “It’s come full circle.”
Geoff Hogan’s list of suggestions for success as an entrepreneur and in life
Looking back over his career, there were a few things that Hogan wished he had known earlier. “Since I didn’t have a mentor, I had to learn a lot of difficult lessons on my own,” he says. Here, he shares some of his top tips.
- Stop talking about starting a business and take concrete steps today to make it happen. It's up to you to turn your idea into a reality — right now.
- As an entrepreneur, you need to be able to turn stress off. You need to be able to jump off a cliff without a parachute, knowing you'll be able to make one on the way down. You should be relaxed enough to take a nap during that free fall.
- Not everyone is like you and not everyone will understand your passion. Build a team of people who understand you, including people who have already walked the path.
- Get your priorities right, and don't sacrifice your family now for a dream in the future. Only sacrifice what's yours to give.
- Enough is enough: learn to understand when you have succeeded. Don't keep moving the finish line on yourself so that you can never reach it.