196: Ivan Rapin-Smith (Watsco Ventures)

Ivan Rapin-Smith on Innovation City

“Leadership is not one who has all the answers, but is someone who is vulnerable & human.” -Ivan Rapin-Smith

Welcome to Season 6 of Innovation City (The Miami Edition), a podcast featuring innovators, creators, and disruptors to discover how business is changing in the modern world.

Created and produced by SLAM! Agency and Aīre Ventures, Innovation City gives you an inside look at how rapidly business and culture are changing thanks to increasing diversity and inclusion, heightened creativity, and a stronger and better-connected business community.

Today’s guest is Ivan Rapin-Smith, Managing Director of Watsco Ventures, an incubator company in Miami. Ivan is an empathetic leader with decades of experience in the accelerator and startup industries. In this episode, Ivan sits down with the team to discuss the top leadership qualities needed to succeed, the importance of long-term thinking, and the innovative work Watsco Ventures is doing to support hundreds of HVAC businesses.

They discuss:

  • Ivan’s Superpower
    • Empathy, understanding where people are coming from.
  • Origin Story
    • Ivan was born in the UK. His dad is English and his mother is French.
    • When he was two, his family moved to Belgium and his parents were always exposing him to other cultures.
    • Ivan was always the kid on the playground who stood up when something unfair happened.
      He’s also a classic Libra who hates conflict, so he’s always trying to make sure that other people feel good.
  • Major Professional Positions and Milestones
    • Ivan currently leads an organization called Watsco Ventures, an incubator company in Miami.
    • Previously, Ivan worked with other accelerators in Belgium, which was a happy accident. He graduated as an engineer, and lucked out meeting a guy who owned a management consulting firm.
    • Ivan credits this excellent mentor who he met early on for helping him gain confidence, and his first exposures into training and coaching.
    • In addition to working in accelerators, he also had the accidental chance of entering into the startup world early on in 1998 with a company called Webdiggers.
  • Relocating to Miami
    • Ivan’s wife brought him to Miami. She was ready for something new, and she told her CEO to send her somewhere warm. A few months later, her boss offered her a position in Miami.
    • They relocated with their son, Adrian, and have been here ever since.
  • Top 3 Qualities for Leaders
    • Understanding your role as a leader.
    • The notion of the servant leader. Leaders need to let people take credit for their work and be ok with being in the background.
    • Leaders need to be ok with not knowing.
  • Watsco Ventures
    • Watsco Ventures was formed seven years ago. Watsco, Inc. is an air conditioning distribution company with about 700 stores across the United States. It’s a publicly traded, but family-controlled company that thinks long-term.
    • Their CEO, AJ, hired Ivan to start Watsco Ventures to support their HVAC customers in all aspects of their business, from sales to marketing.
    • This innovative company take a customer-focused approach; they partner with startups, acquire startups, and provide all types of support.
    • One of the keys to their business model is thinking in the long-term. Ivan says, “We don’t think in quarters, we think in quarter centuries.”

Lightning Round

  • What are you working towards that you could use help with?
    • More people, more talent, particularly more help with environmental projects
  • How do you show love to others?
    • In small ways, like getting treats and snacks for people in the office
  • What is most important to you?
    • Family first
  • What do you want to let go of?
    • Imposter syndrome

Get in Touch

Check out Watsco’s website

Visit Watsco Ventures website or come visit us at Coconut Grove!

Connect with Watsco Ventures on LinkedIn

Follow Watsco Ventures on Twitter