When Teamwork IS a Matter of Life or Death

Posted in Company
By Ron Subnath on August 29, 2018

Rubikloud HQ transformed into a luxurious event space to host the first event in our new Toronto office on August 16th. Tony van Marken, businessman and adventurer extraordinaire (who also happens to be one of Rubikloud’s investors from OTEAF), joined the Rubikrew, along with a few external partners, to share stories from his adventures climbing the seven summits (the seven highest mountains on each of the seven continents).

You’ve probably seen Vertical Limit, or Cliffhanger, or at least one of the many other Hollywood movies that attempt to capture the challenges of mountain climbing. I have to say, there wasn’t much about these movies that ever made me think – “Hey, mountain climbing looks easy, I want to do that too!” but Tony isn’t the type of guy to do anything the easy way. Instead, looking at his past accomplishments, Tony takes on obstacles like it’s his job. We were only too happy to hear him share some of the lessons he’s learned along the way.

Listening to Tony chronicle his many athletic feats; not only summiting over 60 high-altitude mountains, but also completing numerous standard and ultra level marathons, not to mention crossing the finish line of a collection of high-profile international road and mountain bike races – you’d think being a superior athlete was an ambition he’s built his career around. But you’d be wrong. Translating his thirst for adventure and overcoming challenges into the world of business, Tony is by trade an entrepreneur and venture capitalist – a career choice that some might say is more difficult than climbing over 60 high-altitude mountains…

In his presentation, “Closer to the Edge: Lessons Learned on the World’s Great Mountains,” Tony described the many successes and failures he and his team encountered during one of his more challenging expeditions, summiting Mount Everest in June of 2005. While he spoke about the daunting challenges of combating high altitude sickness, entering the “death zone”, and pushing his body beyond its limits, he also inspired us with stories of unparalleled teamwork and support, and what it feels like to accomplish such an incredible goal.

When I compared the difficulties of entrepreneurship to mountain climbing, I wasn’t joking. As Tony points out, there are more parallels than one would think between taking part in a mountaineering expedition and launching or operating a startup. He spoke about the importance of setting extraordinary goals for yourself, establishing strong teams you can trust with your life, being prepared to face hardships, and not taking shortcuts. These are lessons that translate directly to business and life. While the average person is not facing matters of life and death 8000+ metres above sea-level, these lessons, which are a few of Tony’s nine “Everest Principals,” are no less important for anyone seeking to achieve and exceed their goals.

While I am certainly not under the impression that mountain climbing is easy, as cheesy as it sounds, Tony’s story and lessons did make me feel that I could climb a mountain – if that were to be an extraordinary goal I set for myself. It was such a pleasure having him at the office to speak to the Krew, inspiring us to conquer mountains (either metaphorically or literally) and use his Everest Principals to facilitate our own professional inflection point at Rubikloud.

Tony also supports The Juniper Fund, which provides Assistance to Individuals, Families and Communities in Underserved Countries Adversely Impacted by their work for the Mountain-based Adventure Industry.