What makes a startup technology success story? How does it happen? Are some founders gifted with divine luck? How come some founders see their startup ramp up fast, while others lag and fall behind?
In this inspiring story, we see what it takes, and it’s a surprisingly simple equation.
When Ryan Clements, now 32, ran around carefree as a kid with his parents and grandparents in Uxbridge on a sprawling farm with edgy racehorses, he loved going on journeys, traveling all across Ontario with his grandfather, Norm.
Those trips became Clements’ education into the ways of the world. Watching his grandfather with those eyes of childlike wonder, the boy grew up with the same zeal, passion, and love that drove his grandfather, a spirit to be a one-of-a-kind entrepreneur.
Clements watched his grandfather build a business, the iconic National Sports store that dominates Ontario’s malls and shopping centers. Clements grew up with his grandfather nursing that business to the grand success story it became. Clements learned that this is what life is all about, starting something and building it to a resounding grand finale. He learned from his grandfather the art of life, as a natural way of being. To Clements, the only life that’s normal is that of a successful entrepreneur.
But when the Millionaire Mindset interviewed Clements for this story, we found that he had developed a surprisingly simple strategy to succeed as his own entrepreneur and founder.
National Sports grew from a small Mom-and-Pop mobile shop out of his grandfather’s car trunk in the 1960s, to become an Ontario business icon and a great Canadian success story. The family sold the business to Sports Chek, which sold it off to the current owner, Canadian Tire. For Clements, the story of National Sports maps his journey to living his dreams today.
Clements operates his company, Farm Ventures, out of the former National Sports headquarters building on that farm in Uxbridge, with his grandfather – now retired – still engages in the horse racing business that the family is famous for in Ontario, and in running a charity. Farm Ventures, unlike what the name implies, is a technology company, specializing in gaming apps for Android and OS devices.
“I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life. Growing up with my grandfather, I would travel with him all over Ontario, as he visited all the National Sports stores, 30 store locations. I heard him speak for all those years on his phone about the business, and saw him in action so much,” Clements said.
That entrepreneur bug thus bit Clements, so that when he grew up, after two years at Western University, he quit, and launched his own business – much like the great Silicon Valley founders. That first company he launched when he was 18 years old. It was an online enterprise that offered people the opportunity to invest in live racehorses, called OnlineHarnessOwner.com, and meeting with early success.
Clements now employs app developers to manage three new apps his firm operates, two dealing with virtual horse-racing. Called Catch Driver and Off and Pacing, these two apps generate revenue of over half a million dollars a year. He also has World Wrestling Manager, another mobile game app.
Clements lives on the farm with his father and grandfather, and uncles and aunts. His office is a section of the former National Sports headquarters building. The rest of the building serves as office space for the charity his grandfather now heads up, which raises funds for children with terminal illness, the Jennifer Ashleigh Children’s Charity.
It’s fascinating to hear Clements describe his childhood, hopping along with his grandfather as he soaked up everything that his grandfather did for National Sports. Also a big part of his life since childhood is the horse farm. This is no ordinary horse farm. The family breeds and raises race horses, and also operates a race track. In fact, Clements himself takes time off his business to “train horses for fun”.
The farm is famous for Harness, or Standard Bred Racing, where horses race pulling an open cart with a driver. The farm has about 40 horses currently, with his Dad, Daniel, managing it.
“My family has a history of horse racing in Uxbridge. I grew up there, and live there now,” Clements said.
The entrepreneur spirit called early to Clements, and he responded, but it has not been an easy road. However, Clements demonstrates fine business acumen. “I worked and saved money for six months. Then I quit the job and hired a developer for six months. I told him that we have six months to come up with a good idea to make money with the business, or he’s out of a job. So he was motivated. We did it, after brainstorming and trial and error playing around with different ideas, we stumbled on one that worked. I have not looked back since,” Clements said. For those six months he moved back to the farm in Uxbridge, where he’s stayed ever since, and also got his developer to board there.
He saved for six months to secure the startup capital he needed, then set a deadline for the business to become revenue-generating. It’s such a simple strategy to raise seed financing.
Clements describes the classic scenario one hears about how the big global tech firms got started in Silicon Valley, with founders quitting college or university, and working with focus out of basements, garages or dorm rooms. Clements and his developer worked out of a farm building on a horse farm, and the company grew from nothing to half a million dollars revenue this year, moving from business idea generation to execution and revenue generation.
He had launched the business with no real idea to work on. “So we came up with something I call Dream Process, where we test ideas to see what would work. That’s how we develop business ideas and test what would work and what wouldn’t,” he said.
Clements – who went back to University and completed his degree in Computer Science – says the mobile gaming market is “huge”, and also different in how it makes money. His firm allows players to sign up and play the games for free, generating revenue from in-app purchases of virtual accessories, goodies, virtual currencies, and other paraphernalia that the developers add on. While most of the players may not purchase anything or spend money, choosing just to play the free version, “about 0.5% of the players purchase stuff and take the games seriously. Those generate the bulk of the revenue,” Clements said.
He currently employs five developers.
For Clements, life on the horse-racing farm with his extended family – including his wife, Charis, and two-year-old daughter, building a mobile gaming company, is a dream he’s making real. Not only is he continuing in the footsteps of his grandfather, but he’s also tapping into a significant future trend for successful business ventures – mobile gaming. It’s a different era now with mobile app games as business ventures than when his grandfather built National Sports, but that same entrepreneur spirit blesses him with the dream life.
“We live in such a great country, where anybody could achieve their dream. Once you’re pursuing your dream, that journey itself is the dream – there could be no such thing as a failure because every twist and turn is a life lesson,” Clements said.
He advocates for the young generation to seek out the older generation to gain as much coaching, advice and tips as they could. “I go to my grandfather a lot, every time I face a challenge, I go talk to him. And he’s always giving me anecdotes and stories with morale and meanings that speak to the situation I’m in. He is my advisor and mentor, along with a group I am a part of, Tech Connex, based in New York”.
Clements seems set to go big with his Farm Ventures firm, and with his grandfather’s mentorship after his experience building National Sports, and with his Mom as his bookkeeper and his Dad around with those racehorses, he is living the dream life as a young Canadian entrepreneur – sure to follow in his grandfather’s tall, proud, noble footsteps.