It’s been two years since Jason Janes and Roger Power began Startup St. John’s as an opportunity for isolated entrepreneurs to network and gain mutual support. Meeting in borrowed boardrooms and local restaurants, those first get-togethers attracted around 40.

Today, over 200 members meet to find mentors, space and funding. For Janes, who self-identifies as “a typical IT geek who likes to start things,” the success of Startup St. John’s is a joy and a personal triumph.

Having always been entrepreneurial himself, Janes, currently chief operating officer of tech venture, Geo-wise, knows the difficulties of the lifestyle.

 “Startup communities matter because all entrepreneurs experience similar problems, similar successes and similar isolation,” he said by phone from St. John’s.

 “They need people who know what it’s like when there’s no money left in your bank account. People who will say, ‘Don’t worry; I’ve been out of money 20 times.’ It gets lonely, the navigation gets difficult, but people can help guide each other.”

Since the formation of Startup St. John’s, which is supported by StartupNL Corp., the Rock’s scene has burgeoned.

 “You see people getting together to form new businesses all the time as they realize they don’t have to have a killer idea, just an idea that can gain some traction.”

Entrepreneurs across the province are benefiting from events like last November’s Startup Weekend, which allowed innovators to gather to ramp up their ideas. Similarly, a new demo-focused event will be held during the upcoming NL Innovation Week, in partnership with Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries.

 “Our goal for this year is to help facilitate in Newfoundland’s third largest city, Corner Brook, where entrepreneurs are trying to get things started,” Janes said.

Now 41, Janes has been entrepreneurial since a young age. At 17, he operated a strawberry farm where he increased production after asking nearby farmers for advice. “What I quickly found out is that if you ask for advice, people help you.”

Growing up in a small town on the west coast of Newfoundland (Deer Lake) with not a lot to do, he learned to write code and earn an independent living at an early age. He has been building mobile apps with a focus on mobile enterprise solutions since the mid-1990s.

 “Mobile applications with a geospatial twist are my passion. I don’t always get it right at first, but that doesn’t stop me improving. I’ve helped develop mobile solutions to business problems, such as field sales and service, route accounting, and direct store delivery.”

A few years ago, he and Power teamed up with Dr. Jim Wyse to commercialize geospatial patents for optimizing and retrieving location-aware data. “Our patents improve the speeds by which locations are found. In our case, increased data doesn’t increase the length of the search.” The company’s latest project is a mobile app that will allow users to quickly find the emergency response centres closest to them.

Starting out, Janes studied business and computer studies at Newfoundland’s College of the North Atlantic and later became chief technology officer at Moncton startup BelTek Systems Design. After BelTek was sold in 2008, he returned to St. John’s and worked as a project manager for various IT companies.

Power says Janes’s community-building is appreciated by other entrepreneurs. “Jason combines enthusiasm, love of technology and a solid sense of how to commercialize new ideas,” he said.

Despite his successes, Janes thinks he could have accomplished more at an earlier age if he’d had a support network.

 “I had to go from thinking that having a job was what was important. If I’d had a support organization like Startup St. John’s when I was 20, I would have pursued my passions sooner.”