How do you go from being an accountant one day, to running a start-up accelerator in Tanzania the next? Lucas Perlman managed to do just that, and more. Lucas currently works as the International Partnerships Manager at the MaRS Discovery District, one of the world’s largest innovation hubs. Here is how Lucas took risks and leveraged his CPA background to bring him across the world and back.
Getting His CPA
A graduate from Wilfrid Laurier University, Lucas started his career in audit at BDO. Although he knew early on that a traditional accounting path wasn’t the right fit for him, Lucas is quick to point out all the positives he gained from the audit experience.
“I really enjoyed BDO as an organization and working with all my colleagues. My problem was it just wasn’t the right fit for me long-term. Once I passed the UFE and became fully designated, I decided to sit down, figure out what was next for me, and then make that jump.
I’ve always looked at the CPA designation as an opportunity to build a solid financial foundation that could be leveraged in a more general business context.”
Moving Across the Atlantic
Lucas wanted to apply his CPA skillset in a different and more impactful environment. Thus, he began looking at roles in developing countries, early stage businesses—anything that would stretch him professionally and be a fascinating learning opportunity.
“Eventually I was connected through friends with Anza—a start-up hub in Tanzania that enables businesses to grow by providing them with access to personalised and strategic capacity building, affordable capital, and access to networks they need to scale. Initially, I was going to join on for 6 months. I ended up staying for 2 years.”
Anza was going through an organizational pivot, and so Lucas joined at an opportune time. During his time in Tanzania, he managed Anza’s accelerator program, and helped launch the organization’s affordable loan fund and co-working space (Kili Hub) which is now the largest hub in the country. He eventually returned to Canada in 2016, but Lucas is still a member of the Anza Board.
The Next Chapter
“I needed to come home for practical reasons but I also wanted to continue working in the start-up/entrepreneurial space, so I joined MaRS. My role now is more business development oriented, so I don’t use my hard finance skills too often. However, I still find them invaluable. It has helped me in every area—whether its understanding businesses, ripping out a quick financial model, or speaking to investors and knowing my numbers.”
“So while I wasn’t the happiest person in public accounting, I am very happy I did it.”
Lucas’ Message to other CPAs Wanting to Make a Career Jump
“The downsides of trying something different for a short time are relatively limited, especially if you are in your late 20s and early 30s. Going back to the firm is always an option. Is being a year off your partner track really a big deal when you are on a 30-year arc?
I’ve seen too many instances of people saying they would do something then not follow through. I gave myself a hard deadline: 8 months and I am gone and onto my adventure. Having that mindset in place was the most important for me.”
“Don’t be afraid to go on an adventure and learn—invest in yourself.”
For CPA’s Looking to Make an Impact – Anza International Professional Program
Anza pairs accelerator clients with International Professionals who can provide in-country functional expertise for 6 to 12 weeks. CPAs have been an incredibly valuable resource for Anza entrepreneurs and have helped to implement accounting systems, upskill staff, prepare businesses to raise investment, and more.
This is a great opportunity to apply your skills in a different context and make an impact. Many past IPs have gone on to work in a myriad of exciting roles after their time in Tanzania,
If anyone is interested in something like this, apply here on Luminari or feel free to reach out directly to Lucas!
Interested in diving into the start-up world yourself? Learn about our #FinInTech program to see how you can get placed with a start-up!