Why He’s Top 40: After putting his pants on like the rest of us, Jenkins comes close to innovating them clean off, creating new startups, tech incubators and revitalizing an Edmonton institution in the process.
Key To Success: “I always push myself hard to leave myself open to opportunities.”
Sam Jenkins once thought he’d be a musician. He played the violin. And the alto saxophone. Oh, and the guitar. And there was that one time in the Harry Ainlay High School jazz band when he switched to tenor sax.
Though his schemes of stardom didn’t quite pan out – “My talents don’t lie there,” he admits – that omnivorous appetite for anything “interesting” made Jenkins one of Edmonton’s foremost tech entrepreneurs. Last winter, he left his steady job at Iomer Internet Solutions to found WellNext, which encourages healthy choices in the workplace. The software plugs into corporate cloud-computing systems and promotes healthy lifestyle choices such as workers leaving their desks for the gym.
Before that, he helped get tech incubator Startup Edmonton off the ground. His resum also includes stints at other small firms like CIS Communications, Intuit and Control-F1. He can’t seem to stop starting up, or even confine himself to one venture at a time.
“If WellNext isn’t successful, it won’t be the last thing that I work on,” he says. “There’s so many really great ideas that sometimes it’s hard to choose just one.”
He also sees beyond the need to perfect Sam Jenkins Incorporated. In 2009, he joined the Fringe Theatre Adventures board of directors and, in 2011, he became the volunteer president. Two years later, the famous festival sold 40 per cent more tickets than it did in 2009. It was already the biggest of its kind in North America when Jenkins got involved, but by 2012, the Fringe announced a new record set for visitors.
“The Fringe is such an important institution,” Jenkins says. “People identify this festival as their festival, not as a festival. I take a lot of pride in the fact that this is something that has its roots in Edmonton.”
And Edmonton should take pride in the fact that Jenkins still has roots in it. He’s spurned offers of work in warmer climes, and speaks of transforming this city into a great one, not a large one.
“Let Toronto and Vancouver … fight over who’s biggest,” he says. “Let’s focus on being great at a few things. We have this amazing backbone, which I think comes from our pioneer culture, around small businesses. We should capitalize on that and encourage people to start businesses.”