ChangeIt is moving on up and out – but only across town.

The Communitech Hub’s longest tenant is making 2014 a year of change as it welcomes a new CEO and moves to new office space.

The company, which automates gifting between your bank account and a charity of your choice, started in Dave Beaton’s basement. Beaton was the only employee. His dog acted as a foot warmer in the drafty space.

In January 2014, Beaton welcomed Mike Kitchen to the team. Kitchen isn’t required to warm any feet, but he is looking towards the future of the company as it moves into office space twice the size of the current location.

Beaton’s new role will be President and Chief Philanthropy Officer.

“This company has huge potential,” Kitchen says. “The potential is to do extremely well as a for-profit entity, and the potential to change communities and how fundraising happens.”

Kitchen, recently retired from the banking industry, joined ChangeIt as a board member in August 2013. He quickly became inspired by Beaton’s vision, and knew he could help move the company forward.

While Kitchen was working with the team as a strategic adviser, Beaton and the Board asked him to become CEO later that year.

Kitchen isn’t planning on making dramatic changes to ChangeIt in his new role. Rather, he sees his arrival as an opportunity to help the company open doors to its next level of business.

“A lot of people (at startups) think you don’t want to bring someone senior on and pay him a reasonable amount,” Kitchen says. “I say, are you kidding? Most companies have a great idea and they need someone who can get them the introductions they need.”

One of those next steps involves forming a partnership with at least one big bank in both Canada and the U.S. by the end of 2014.  For its growth, ChangeIt will need more – and different – space than is currently available at the Hub.

The company is moving into former BlackBerry offices on Phillip Street in Waterloo. ChangeIt has been in the Hub since it opened in October 2010.

For practical reasons, the ChangeIt team is moving because their lease is up.

For entrepreneurial reasons, the team is moving because they believe it’s time someone else experienced the energy and opportunity in the Hub.

“There is a transformational, formative, growth [effect] that this place has had on us,” Beaton says. “We owe a lot to this ecosystem.”

For Beaton, staying in the Waterloo Region ecosystem is key.

He believes that building a company outside a collaborative community like this one makes it a lot harder to be successful. The ChangeIt team will remain involved in the community through mentorship, Communitech programs and advising for companies.

Hiring a new CEO – Q&A with Dave Beaton on stepping down and changing gears

Q – How did you know it was the right time to bring on a CEO?

A – For a long time I knew there would be a moment where this transition would make sense. You know you can look back at any successful company, and they had a few events happen at the right time. And so I saw that this was one of those for us. It was never about me, so I had no problem making this decision.

Q – How did you decide Mike Kitchen would be the right CEO for ChangeIt?

A – After joining the board, Mike took the role of strategic adviser. . . and I was watching the interactions Mike was having with his colleagues at institutions he had never worked at before, and the way he was respected and revered by his colleagues. It was impactful to me to see that.

It meant that he was a bridge builder and not a bridge burner.

Q – It’s important for founders to be able to separate themselves from the business in order to succeed. How are you able to do that?

A – Iain Klugman made a comment the other day. He was referring to Tom Jenkins of OpenText and he said when that company grew to $400 million, the first thing Jenkins did was fire himself because he didn’t feel comfortable taking the company to that next level.

I equate that to this situation and the thing is I’m not going anywhere. I’m taking on a role in the company that I’m passionate about. I’ll be doing a component of the business I feel I can do a really great job at, and it makes sense for the business as well.

Giving back, after all, is the foundation of the ChangeIt philosophy.

“I’m excited about what’s happening now because this is where we wanted to be for so long,” says Beaton. “We’ve had a wish list of things we wanted to have the opportunity to do. The things we are doing now were at the top of that list.”

About The Author

Kayleigh Platz

Kayleigh Platz is a storyteller and community relations manager for Communitech. Born, raised and schooled in Waterloo Region, she holds two degrees from the University of Waterloo and is interested in new media, social networks and making connections.