You may have heard the name VentureNorth thrown around a lot lately. It comes up in conversation or is mentioned in media, but do you really know what it is? VentureNorth is an initiative lead by four local entrepreneurs to create “Canada’s Most Livable Innovation Economy” right here in Peterborough. The founding partners include Cameron Taylor of OutdoorSmart, Paul Bennett of Ashburnham Realty, Robert Gauvreau of Gauvreau and Associates and Mike D’Alessandro of Park Place Financial. All driving forces behind launching StartUP Peterborough, their goal of shaping Peterborough’s identity as an innovation economy started as a discussion over beers and snowballed to the transformation of a 38,000sq ft building downtown into a multifaceted incubation hub. Arthur caught up with VentureNorth co-founder Cameron Taylor to learn more about the initiative:
Who are the partners involved in this project?
There is myself (Cameron Taylor), Paul Bennett, Robert Gauvreau and Mike D’Alessandro. Mike Skinner was also involved in the project initially, but after his appointment as President and CEO of the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster (GPIC) he stepped down from the VentureNorth Project to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.
What is the goal or purpose of the VentureNorth project?
Essentially, the idea was to create an ecosystem and a hub to help entrepreneurs be successful. By creating that physical place which brings together public partners like GPIC, Peterborough Economic Development (PED) and Junior Achievement (JA) with entrepreneurs, start-ups and existing creative economy businesses we created a place where great ideas can collide. The ultimate goal is that by putting them in the same space they can help each other to become more successful.
How did the project first come together? Who had the idea?
As most things do, it came out of good discussion, but the instigating factor was StartUP Peterborough. We were all involved in that initiative and interested in finding ways to help the local startup community. We wanted to create an opportunity to help define a new and progressive direction for Peterborough. There were already great groups and businesses doing this, so for us the logical next step was to create a physical place that helped define us as a creative community.
Which organizations are currently housed in your premises?
GPIC has moved in and is currently utilizing whole 3rd floor for their incubation services. That amounts to 10, 000 sq ft of incubation services for start-ups. PED is moving into 1st floor and JA will be moving their offices here in November. The Konrad Group, which is an established creative economy business, will also be moving in shortly and we are working out how StartUP Peterborough will be involved. We would like to inspire Trent and Fleming students to stay here and are looking at ways to have Trent and Fleming involved. This may take shape as coaching workshops or events partnered with FastStart as well as the Chamber of Commerce.
What would you say to a potential client to convince them that Peterborough is the right place to foster their company?
As someone who grew up here and came back to grow a digital business, Peterborough has a unique set of offerings. It truly is emerging as the “Most Livable Innovation Economy in Canada.” It’s an amazing place to live work and play, with cottage country at the doorstep. You can so easily live on the lake yet still have a 15 minute commute with no traffic. Immersion in the outdoors allows you to really live in the place and fosters more creativity. Peterborough has great schools, healthcare and a vibrant entertainment and cultural scene. The community is also very youth-oriented with Trent and Fleming students wanting to stay in the community and pursue careers here. In today’s digital age when you don’t really need to be in Toronto to run a creative economy business, wouldn’t you rather be here?
What does the future of VentureNorth look like?
The definition of success for the initiative will be when people leave the building; when we have incubated them from the amazing initial idea, through the ongoing growth process and into a thriving business. Hopefully they will leave the building because they need more space to add new talent and they move to other locations in Peterborough to continue strengthening the economy. Success is to create and sustain an ecosystem where all of the tenants work efficiently together to help each other succeed and grow. Our eventual multiyear plan would be to add a second building. The true point of success would be to create an identity for Peterborough as Canada’s most livable innovation economy where we can see more students staying and creating or finding opportunities for themselves.
To find out more about the initiative you can visit www.venturenorth.com.