Jeff Ryzner | Winner of the 2018 Entrepreneur Promotion Award – National
“There is strength in community. Meet, talk, learn and be inspired. That person over by the vending machine may be your next CTO”
As the president of North Forge Technology Exchange, Jeff is one of the most sought-after mentors in Winnipeg for young entrepreneurs and early-stage ventures.
For nearly 20 years, he has helped companies to successfully commercialize their technologies, whilst orchestrating a thriving innovation ecosystem across Manitoba.
Hosting Canada’s largest non-profit workshop with hands-on access to digital fabrication and prototyping equipment, North Forge provides training, support and mentorship programming for entrepreneurs across Manitoba. Through his leadership of North Forge, Jeff has helped more than 200 companies access more than 180 million dollars in financings, creating hundreds of jobs across the Prairies.
Jeff is currently leading a project called Manitoba Open Innovation Challenge, bringing together multiple private-sector partners and provincial officials to advance childhood literacy and numeracy in Manitoba.
Jeff’s commitment to follow through on collaborative ideas and projects has forever changed the landscape in Manitoba.
Jeff Ryzner embodies the essence of Canadian entrepreneurship and his leadership of the Winnipeg startup community had fuelled economic growth across the region.
Startup News had the opportunity to sit down with Jeff to learn more.
SN: What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
JR: Like many entrepreneurs, my journey was not planned. I was working in a software company and loving every minute of it. The company imploded and I was left unemployed. I found a few business partners and started chasing my dream and I have never looked back. As challenging as it has been, the journey has been incredibly rewarding. It is an honour to help other entrepreneurs chase their dreams and help build a stronger, more competitive Canada every step of the way.
SN: What is the biggest lesson you have learned to date?
JR: Great people are our only true, sustainable competitive advantage.
SN: What advice do you have to those starting up today?
JR: There is strength in community. Meet, talk, learn and be inspired. That person over by the vending machine may be your next CTO. Grow your network.
SN: What is the one thing you think we need to do as a nation, today, to position Canada as a global innovation and entrepreneurial leader?
JR: Accessibility for all. Innovation is derived from great ideas. Great ideas come from people. The more people inspired to try, the more ideas. Diversity acts as a multiplier. s a beacon of cultural diversity and inclusiveness in the world, Canada is positioned well to be a leader in innovation if we can CONNECT EVERYONE to the resources they need in order to participate.
SN: What is your message to the world?
JR: Denis Waitley once said, “Failure is something we can only avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing and being nothing.” The world needs heroes and the world needs innovation. Be the person who tries. Dare to do.
SN: How have you benefited from being a recipient of the Startup Canada Awards so far?
JR: We have leveraged the recognition into sustainable sponsorship and funding that has allowed us to grow and develop new startup initiatives in rural communities. This award would help me leverage additional funding to start a community in the north that would help support indigenous entrepreneurship. Northern Manitoba is at risk and it needs to diversify its economy. We want to help.