“I am always hungry for knowledge, to learn new things. This drive to know more I think is the single most valuable mindset that caused me to achieve my goals,” Potvin said. Every day, he consumes business videos and podcasts, and read to keep his mindset focused
In the next five years, Canada will be home to a million millionaires, double the number of Canadian millionaires in 2018. Today, 100 billionaires call Canada home. Our country offers rich possibilities. Most made their wealth not in Real Estate, but from “soaring stock markets”, according to a report on Canadian wealth that the Boston Consulting Group commissioned: startups that go Public generate global wealth.
In fact, Canada sits atop the global village as a 21st century wonder world, among the best society in the history of humanity. Canadians enjoy a high quality average lifestyle, economic prosperity, technological prowess, national wealth, an open, free, accessible ladder to climb to the top, and the best system of meritocracy on the planet.
But here’s the thing: how could the average Canadian escape the nine to five grind, the routine plodding to retirement at 65 years old, the daily toil at a soul-numbing job? How could we transform our mindset from one of work-to-retire, to envision what we could achieve as Canadians?
Whose life could we look at, to see what’s possible for the Canadian? Who moved from ordinary to extraordinary? Whose story and life journey show us the mindset that we need to cultivate?
Meet Jeffery Potvin.
Mention Potvin’s name within the innovation community in Ontario, and startup experts become excited: he’s the coolest dude on the innovation circuit. And he’s an upstart.
He believes that when you see a problem, don’t despair; just invent a solution. That’s the philosophy of Potvin. He’s the kind of person who got an eye to spot what’s out of alignment, what’s not working. And he finds a way to transform the situation. One such moment gave Canada his brainchild, the Open People Network, which is bringing a new dynamic to the startup circuit.
Behind the scenes in Ontario’s vibrant innovation community, Angels float about, mysterious, wealthy, able to make or break a startup founder’s dream. Potvin is an Angel, with a new vision for engagement between startup founders and Angel investors.
He grew up in Ontario, an ordinary guy who worked and went to school. He worked at Loblaws, mopping floors, packing produce, sorting display shelves. He worked his way up, starting from menial tasks as a teen.
Then, as e-commerce came on stream 15 years ago, and retail stores started exploring ways to not miss out on the future, Potvin spotted a problem, and a way to invent a solution: Loblaws had to embrace e-commerce at some point, for the future definitely would be the Internet.
So he approached a manager at Loblaws, and offered to research and develop ideas and strategies for this new thing, e-commerce. They gave him an office, and he started learning, researching and developing an e-commerce platform for Loblaws.
Potvin is an interesting guy, not content to settle, but with a mindset of constantly rising, always developing. He reaches for ever higher goals. So he asked the Vice-President whom he reported to if he could get some mentoring. The guy agreed, with the trade off that mentorship would also be a way of sharing the new knowledge of e-commerce that Potvin was developing.
Tackling the task with enthusiasm, passion and dedication, Potvin developed Loblaws’ e-commerce platform, and became so successful at it that the company gave him a one million dollar budget. He led the department, and it grew to a $90 million enterprise. And then he decided to go on his own, to offer a software development service. After working with a few hot start-ups in Toronto as a programmer and developer, he launched his own firm, and named it Hardboot, spending a decade building it to today being a thriving success story.
Potvin had been talking to startup guys who came to Loblaws with ideas. And he started seeing that they needed all kinds of help – from mentoring and coaching to developing business plans, sourcing financing, and scaling. It bothered him that they could not find substantial help anywhere.
He felt a passion for the startup founders to win, instead of a few succeeding and most failing. Also, he found that a lot of the startup founders would complain that when they got deals with big firms, they invariably got a raw deal, or ended up losing. The big firms took advantage of them. Potvin saw a problem of business ethics, and set out to solve it.
So, two and a half years ago, he founded Open People Network, and after a year, joined forces with two other Angels who were doing the innovation startup circuit, to expand OPN from him only to a three-man operation. In its two years, OPN, along with personal investments from the three partners, invested in a total of 40+ start-ups. The OPN partners created their own investment Fund, called the Supporters Fund, together investing in eight start-ups so far.
Potvin moonlights as a professor at Seneca, where he teaches business and innovation courses. He studied Public Policy and Management and Computer Science at York University. Now he spends his time engaging with startup founders through OPN – which he started as a pet project, but which has evolved into a promising innovation platform for the startup community.
Yoga, jogging and hockey are his passions. Fit, hip and cool, with a casual rather than a formal business style, Potvin sets out to “be the gateway for start-ups to get funding. OPN is completely free, and we help every startup, whether with advice, mentorship or guidance. We pick a few that we think are where we want everything to line up, and invest in those,” he said, noting that the founder and the team are crucial factors.
“I am always hungry for knowledge, to learn new things. This drive to know more I think is the single most valuable mindset that caused me to achieve my goals,” Potvin said. Every day, he consumes business videos and podcasts, and read to keep his mindset focused.
Potvin, extraordinary Canadian, made it as an entrepreneur, and he could well be on his way to riding the Canadian wave to the very top, becoming a wealth builder for this and the next generation. At 43 years old, he’s young and brash and bold and full of optimism. His upstart audacity to invent new solutions and blaze new trails mark him as a startup guru, a leader for founders, a creator of the future. With OPN, he’s started to command a visionary new strategy for Canadian start-ups to win. In Potvin, we see the mindset of what it takes to move from an ordinary citizen to an extraordinary Canadian. Born in Port Elgin, Ontario, he’s today the rising star in the Ontario innovation community.