Tribute to Phil Everson
I can remember the first day I met Phil Everson. I was standing in the Velocity Garage and it was the first day of the co-op term. Hope McCallum lead my marketing team and she had hired this gangly looking guy with red hair who couldn’t stop moving. You could just tell he was full of energy. I introduced myself and found out he was in management engineering. It didn’t take long before we were talking about starting companies, how he had his own consulting company, how he knew 4 different software tools for managing his time. I pulled out my favourite time management app and he told me that Harvest was way better because he could bill clients directly in the app. We argued about this fact – what was the purpose of a time tracker – just to bill clients or to track where you spend the limited time you have? It was the first of many good discussions we had over the years.
And so began a very unique friendship with Phil Everson. We had a LOT in common. Both entrepreneurs and we both loved fidgets. I distinctly remember getting a new fidget and I just had to show Phil. Two seconds later he was already searching it up on the internet. He loved the fact the fidget had a name – Noah.
Phil only stayed with the Velocity team as a co-op student for that single co-op term yet Velocity became an important part of Phil’s life. A few terms later he lived in the Velocity Residence. Shortly after that he became co-president of the Entrepreneurship society as the two founding leaders graduated. Then the folks over in Waterloo Residence kicked off their own entrepreneurship program and we strongly encouraged them to hire Phil. Smart decision on their part. Finally, we hired Phil as a coach within Velocity Start – a role he continued to have long after he graduated from Waterloo. Phil was a lifelong learner. Throughout all of these roles, he would be the first to say that he learned more from the students he coached then they did from him. But despite Phil’s humility, he was the go-to coach for aspiring students on campus who were looking to get into entrepreneurship. He ran countless workshops, sat in on pitch competitions and met with hundreds of students one-on-one. He always had time for a student.
So many stories about Phil. About how he wanted to borrow my “still wearing my Velocity t-shirt” to kick off the start of the term because apparently his got turned into a quilt. I totally didn’t believe him. Or in July he swore up and down that the fact Sweet Lou’s Cookies stopped by Velocity Start to drop off cookies for everyone must have had something to do with me because I knew Lou. I promised him it was just a happy coincidence – one he never believed.
He was great at sharing credit and for finding ways to connect with people in his life. He sent me a text message in June telling me that he interviewed someone for a new “student residence coach” role. Phil asked the student, who was in their last term at Waterloo, how they first heard about Velocity. The student said, “It was when I was in 2B, and at the time I didn’t exactly know what it was, but my first exposure was through Velocity Start, because I needed lunch, and there was food there, and the tables had these cards on them talking about entrepreneurship.” And of course, Phil sharing the feedback said “You shouldn’t need any validation for the work you did while with Velocity, but recalling some of our very early lunch conversations about the Start space (I distinctly remember something about “velocity branded coffee cups”), I thought you might enjoy hearing this tidbit :).” he said.
I have one more story that I want to tell before my time is up. When I made the decision to leave Velocity 3 years ago, I really missed the time I spent with students. I remember mentioning this to Phil a few years ago. He told me to come to the Velocity Start session that night. Just pop by. Sit in the crowd. He made it sound so easy. So on a whim I took him up on the offer. I joined partway through and wandered into the back of the space. It was great to be there and Phil must have known it wouldn’t be long before I was answering questions for people. Shortly after the session I had a crowd of students standing around asking questions and you could see the smile on Phil’s face. He always seemed to know what people needed.
I asked him why he kept the job as a coach at Velocity Start after he graduated. He was very busy with Goosechase and living in Toronto. Until he moved back to Waterloo, he had to commute every Wednesday to help run the sessions even in the crappy winter weather. Phil’s answer was classic – “I really enjoy helping”. Thank you Phil for always helping, always being there, and for being my friend. I will miss you.