Last week I was in St. John’s, Newfoundland spending time coaching and mentoring some of the best and brightest start up businesses in Newfoundland.
Now for those of you from outside of Canada, I have to pause and explain that Newfoundland is one of our ten provinces. Its part of the Atlantic region of the country and it was the last province to join the country in 1949. Newfoundland is simply unlike anywhere else in Canada. First, the geography is spectacular (see the picture I took). Soaring cliffs and crashing ocean waves can be seen from almost every direction. The climate and culture is very similar to what you’d find in Ireland. And the people on ‘The Rock’, as locals occasionally refer to it as, are some of the funniest, most charming, caring and friendly people you will ever have the chance to meet. If you get the chance to visit Newfoundland, do it.
I was in Newfoundland for a program called MentorCamp. This is an initiative developed by Permjot Valia. Perm is a very successful entrepreneur, consultant, coach, investor and Fund Manager. I know that list is long but it doesn’t even begin to cover the tremendous skills Permjot offers. The MentorCamp program that he created is designed to work with a group of early stage or high growth companies over the better part of a week. The sessions at the start of the week include intensive training in all aspects of successful entrepreneurism (Finance, Sales, Marketing, IP, Exit Planning, Valuations, Managing Growth, etc.) These early sessions help the companies prepare for the final day of the week when they get the chance to spend one on one time with a broad group of about 30 mentors. These mentors are drawn from all over the world (in St. John’s we had mentors from Ireland, Brazil, the UK, the US and Canada) and they offer the companies a chance to have coaching and access to senior level business leaders with a range of subject matter expertise, connections, and general wisdom.
Last week the businesses selected to participate in MentorCamp came from the fields of power generation, under water robotics, 3D/HD imaging, biotech and health sciences. But what they all had in common was the Ocean. These businesses are linked to some type of ocean science or operation. Hence the name of this specialized MentorCamp: NewfoundOcean.
There is a lot to say about what is happening in the start-up space in Newfoundland. And frankly, it’s all good. There is no question that Newfoundland is at least 10 years ahead of the other Atlantic Provinces. They’ve achieved a laser-like-focus among the key stakeholders that is impressive. Government, Academics, and the Finance community are all aligned and working together for the common good. The bickering, competitiveness or cross purposes you sometimes see is just not there. They all want the province to grow and flourish and be home to some of the best Ocean sector businesses in the world. They want to be world-class and they have found ways to actually get there and turn ideas into attractive and valuable businesses.
But really, the folks on Newfoundland have always been ahead of the rest of us. Maybe it’s because of that extra 30-minute time zone they have. Or maybe it’s that razor sharp wit that’s indigenous to the people. Whatever their secret ingredient is don’t underestimate it. People were living and settled in Newfoundland long before Columbus found Plymouth.