Decoding Digital

How to Embrace the Changemaker Mentality with Dax Dasilva

By Ideas @ AppDirect / March 15, 2021

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Dax Dasilva is the Founder and CEO of Lightspeed, a commerce company that’s redefining success across the tech landscape. In the last two years, Dax has guided the business through two successful IPOs on the Toronto Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange. Now, Lightspeed is approaching a $10 billion market cap.

But that’s not all. Dax is also the founder of Never Apart, a non-profit social change organization and the author of Age of Union: Igniting the Changemaker. And, in 2019, Dax was named Innovator of the Year by The Globe and Mail's Report on Business.

In this episode of Decoding Digital, Dax joins Daniel Saks to share how Lightspeed is helping more businesses than ever transition to digital and what it takes to be a changemaker.

How Lightspeed is helping digital businesses

So, what exactly is Lightspeed? Lightspeed builds cloud-based platforms that help small and medium-sized businesses do everything from run their operations to host transactions. Ultimately, Lightspeed’s main aim is to help companies grow. As it stands, there are more than 100,000 businesses worldwide currently using Lightspeed platforms.

Dax founded the company in 2005. Lightspeed went public in Toronto in 2019 and in New York in 2020. Going public amid a pandemic was an “interesting moment for the company,” noted Dax. But it couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment.

“Our offering helps businesses bridge the gap between physical and digital. Our tools are used very heavily to manage the operations of a physical restaurant or a physical store, but we provide a full set of omnichannel tools to pivot to digital.”

The pandemic rapidly accelerated Dax’s prediction that the shift from physical to digital would slowly unfold over the next three to five years. But, with Lightspeed already prepared for the digital transition and the tools readily available, going public on the New York Stock Exchange couldn’t have been timelier.

For Dax, it was a moment to double down to ensure that businesses could move off their legacy systems quickly, seamlessly, and onto a Lightspeed one. This meant focusing on transitioning previously in-person interactions and transactions into virtual ones across Lightspeed’s target sectors of retail, hospitality, and golf. But, even in those trying times, Dax prioritized getting his customers the tools that best suited them.

“Lightspeed provides lots of room for businesses to adapt and get creative. Businesses can mix and match and blend our tools to create unique business models for themselves. […] We've really seen the resilience of businesses when given the current circumstances – they’ve gotten really creative.”

Dax’s Lightspeed journey

Dax traces his digital focus back to software programming on an Apple Mac at 13 years old. He then became a software designer with a passion for visual design. After building many custom software solutions for different companies, he realized that Apple hadn’t yet developed software that would help run a complex business. So, he developed one.

In 2005, Dax designed and built the very first version of Lightspeed. At the same time, Apple was making a big comeback in the tech industry, and there was a gap in the market for business tools. Lightspeed launched at just the right moment and took off at – well – lightspeed.

“The first seven years we really bootstrapped the company. No outside investment. We built to about 50 people and about $10 million in revenue, just on our own sales.”

The next seven years brought VCs, which supercharged the company further. Dax knew that digital and physical business operations would soon collide and so used the VC investments to focus on moving to the cloud and futureproofing the business.

Today, Dax considers Lightspeed to be in its “public company phase”. He’s now prouder than ever of the company’s amazing 15+ year journey, as it’s helped so many businesses thrive through such troubling times.

The rise of the changemaker

After 10 years of growth, Lightspeed relocated to new offices. But Dax saw an opportunity to turn the previous office into a cultural center. He founded Never Apart, a non-profit organization aiming to bring about social change and spiritual awareness through art, culture, and music events.

Dax quickly realized that the conversations he was having with entrepreneurs in the VC and tech world were similar to those with the local leaders of cultural change. Many had a desire to give back or grow something that benefited others. To Dax, they were all changemakers in their own right.

So, alongside running Lightspeed and Never Apart, Dax wrote and published a guidebook for changemakers: Age of Union: Igniting the Changemaker. In the book, Dax shares his vision for “building a kinder, greener and more liveable world where everyone and everything can thrive in union”.

“It's a mindset of doing something with an intention that's beyond your own personal benefit.”

Dax is a firm believer that any individual can be a changemaker. He suggests that, whether you’re an entrepreneur, starting a project for social good, or just trying to make a positive impact, you have the power to affect change in your community and beyond.

“The power of the individual can be captured for the greater good. You can be a changemaker that uplifts you, uplifts the people around you, builds a better society and a better community. And hopefully, we can work towards better stewardship of the planet.”

How to become a changemaker

Dax’s work clearly seeks to inspire others to embrace a changemaker mentality, but how can you begin to affect change? His key piece of advice is to bring people into your vision.

“When everybody feels like it's their project, everybody feels like it's their impact. Being invitational is a way to make sure that you've got buy-in and that everybody's excited about what's possible.”

Everyone has the potential to be a changemaker and, according to Dax, it can have a domino effect. The more people that adopt the meaningfulness and purpose of a changemaker mindset, the more likely it is that others will get on board. In Dax’s ideal world, everyone would adopt a changemaker mentality.

“If we were 8 billion changemakers on this planet, instead of 8 billion individuals, we'd be on a different planet!”

The future of Lightspeed

Moving forward, Dax believes there’s still a lot of work to do. Fifteen years in, he still feels like Lightspeed is only just getting started and is excited to see where that path takes him. Meanwhile, he hopes to keep giving back by opening Never Apart centers around the world.

Dax says there’s been no “masterplan”. It’s taken years of foundational experience to get him where he is today. Now, he’s using those building blocks to give back in meaningful ways. For those at the beginning of their careers or embarking on new ventures, Dax shared some final words of wisdom.

“You’ve got to trust in the journey. You’ve got to trust in that discovery. Don't be so focused on the end goal and what you think that should be.”

To hear more from Dax about embracing a changemaker mentality, listen to the full Decoding Digital interview.

Check out the Decoding Digital podcast series for more insights from inspirational thought leaders and digital innovators. You can listen to the podcast on all the major podcasting apps, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.