Janet Bannister, HBA'92, continues to see opportunities after Kijiji success

By Angie Wiseman

If you’ve ever bought or sold something on Kijiji, you’ve experienced Janet Bannister’s brainchild first-hand.

Bannister, HBA’92, founded Kijiji Canada, which has become the largest and most visited classified site in the country. She later led Kijiji Global, which included businesses in Europe, the United States and Asia. Her success with the company was unparalleled and, at the height of it, she walked away.

“I realized I wanted to be there for my son. I thought, ‘Ugh I’m missing out.’”

While at the time a bold business move, every decision Bannister has made in her successful career has led her to where she is now – overseeing 10 start-up companies as a general partner at Real Ventures, a venture capital firm.

“What I’ve realized is, through my career, I’ve jumped back and forth from consulting to operating roles. While I love operating, I think it makes me a better business person, and I’ve had some success there, I actually prefer advising, consulting and mentoring.”

The perfect mix for a venture capitalist.

And while it wasn’t always clear where her career would take her, she knew the entrepreneurial spirit she had cultivated from a young age would serve her well.

“Students get stressed out about should I do this, should I do that? The reality is, often it takes years. And people shift and change and you don’t really know until you get there. If you do something you love, and at the same time, you are learning and growing, you are in a better position than you were yesterday.”

Bannister ’s keen sense of adventure and willingness to explore the world was born at Western with an exchange in her fourth year that later landed her a position at Procter & Gamble in Brussels, Belgium. It was an opportunity to be immersed in a place with history and culture. It would not be her last international experience – it was just the beginning.