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Whistler entrepreneurs focus on technology

New club to tap into well of local talent: founder

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Pat Montani doesn’t use a telephone.

Well, he does, but when it comes to business he’s all about new technology. If he needs to contact a client in another country the phone is just not an option. Instead he uses Skype, an online application that allows you to contact people as far away as Bahrain, and it doesn’t max out phone bills with long distance charges.

Montani wants to pass his passion for technology on to local businesses as part of the Whistler Entrepreneurs Club, an organization that seeks to mentor young talent and teach them how to tap into the web-powered world of business.

Montani, 59, has lived in Whistler on and off for about 20 years. He’s a founder of IP-V Gateways, a company that provides videoconferencing services to companies such as Deloitte Touche and the Bank of Nova Scotia.

He’s also a ski bum, a cycling fanatic and founder of Bicycles for Humanity, a philanthropic organization that sends bicycles to Africa. He’s a busy guy by any stretch of the imagination.

Lately he’s noticed a deep well of entrepreneurial talent within Whistler and he wants to start his club to help mentor new businesses and exchange ideas.

“There’s a huge talent pool here in Whistler, educated people and people trying to make a living,” he said in an interview. “People, they move here, they maybe come here to live here or ski but then they want to stay here, so they look for what they can do.

“A lot of them have skills beyond tourism so they start businesses using those skills at home.”

A lot of those people are running businesses from their own homes, according to Montani — but that’s not just happening in Whistler. At the club’s first meeting he met a woman who came from California with a background in marketing with a tech company. Now living in Whistler, she wants to use her skills to start something here.

The Whistler Entrepreneurs Club is a place where she can meet, network and share her skills, as well as acquire wisdom from just about any entrepreneur, as all are welcome.

“The idea is to sort of get the entrepreneur-minded together to start to share ideas, start to find mentors for them,” Montani said. “It’s the entire gambit of existing businesses to people wanting to start.”

Most entrepreneur clubs, he said, do two things. They’re about networking and hearing guest speakers wax on about their experiences. Whistler’s club looks to go a little further than that.

As part of meetings on the third Monday of every month, Montani hopes to develop programs where members can learn skills that are transferable into a business world dominated by the Internet. He’d like members to learn how to use the Internet to drive a business in Whistler or even start a web-based business.

“Bring the talent together and then work with the talent to understand the shifts, the new paradigms, so to speak,” Montani said. “So it’s networking mentoring and learning, if I had to sum it up.”

An important component of the entrepreneurs club is “Business and Humanity 2.0,” a course that Montani hopes to start teaching in January. In it he hopes to teach people how to use “collaborative technologies” in a way that can increase their business.

“It’s helping people think about how to deploy technology and use existing technologies,” he said. “It’s understanding how to use… Facebook and Youtube to gain an audience. It’s about, instead of building yourself, think about how to find strategic partners that can help give their business a lift, and in turn they give yours a lift.”

Guest speakers are likely to form a big part of the club’s meetings. They may include people who’ve been entrepreneurs in Whistler for a long time but he hopes to branch out from there and hear from people immersed in technological fields.

“Ideally we’d like to get the Electronic Arts guys but we haven’t approached them yet,” Montani said. “There’s people here who have built banks, built media companies, it’s a case of going to them and every week having one speak.”

Meetings will be held every month at the Whistler Public Library. The first meeting drew 20 people, and 70 more have contacted Montani by e-mail about joining. But he still wants more people.

“What we need to do is figure out how to find all of the young entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs,” he said. “A lot of these, they’re going to be kids in high school.”

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