Business

Jason Matthews: From Waterford struggle to Canadian success

'Fortune favours the bold'

BY HANNIFFA PATTERSON
Business reporter
pattersonh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

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Jason Matthews has always been passionate about the internet and technology. As a teenager, he would often spend his evenings riding from Waterford to his friend's home in Edgewater to use her personal PC, as he did not have one at the time.

Now the owner of his own software consultancy, web and mobile development firm based in Toronto, Canada, this Jamaican is making his mark in the world of tech.

The company called NetProToCal specialises in software & systems consultancy, system architecture and design, and web & mobile development. The name NetProToCal, is actually a play on words Network and 'Protocol', which refers to the rules around how a network works. “However,” he explained, “instead of the COL I changed it to CAL - so it sounds like a NETwork PROfessional TO CALL. Net Pro to Cal!”

EN ROUTE TO ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Jason grew up in Waterford where he also attended the Waterford High School, then moved on to the Portmore Community College. The youngest of seven children, he was raised by his parents, Lorraine and Norman Matthews, and described himself then as poor to middle class.

“We got clothes once per year, ate lots of chicken back, and never had family vacations.

“But my parents always made sure we were clean, fed and well read. We were one of the few families that had a set of encyclopedias.”

As a young man he developed a strong interest in all things computer, and after stumbling upon a site called www.w3schools.com which offered free self-taught web courses, he dived right in.

However, as life would have it, there were some setbacks. At 16 he became a father and later was denied entry to the University of Technology in Jamaica, but remained positive.

“I was always taught to look past the present and into the future and do the best with any situation at hand. I also try to live without regrets, and instead by the mantra 'Fortune favours the bold'.”

That has always been behind his push to move forward and constantly be and do better, especially as it relates to self-development and entrepreneurship.

THE MOVE TO CANADA

At 20 years old, Jason migrated to Canada. It may have sounded like the “foreign dream”, but it didn't start out easily.

“My first job in Canada was working at a gas station in the dead of winter, outside pumping gas. That helped to shape me in so many ways. It taught me determination and humility, and working hard for what I want.”

Though the gas station was his first stop, he always wanted more.

“I decided to apply for a customer service job as a way of getting my foot in the door of a new company. On my way there, there was a freak weather day of -20 degrees and I was wearing a suit, dress shoes, dress socks. That was it. I even got lost on my way to the location. At that time there was no GPS.”

And he didn't have a car. However, he was determined to attend the interview. “When I arrived I was trembling and I couldn't feel my legs.”

At the interview he was made a surprising offer. The company could hire him to do their internet and web work despite his very limited experience and training, but at a significantly lower salary. However, in exchange, he could do any course at their expense while employed there.

“I gladly took the offer. Unknown to the manager, the low salary he offered was still higher than what I was making at the gas station anyway. Plus I knew this was a great opportunity.”

While there, he did courses in diverse areas — making sure to check online for skills that companies were hiring for and then to do courses in those areas. “I made sure to do courses that would make me marketable, even if I left the company.”

Everything happened for a reason, as his company also paid for his tertiary education, which he pursued at Ryerson University in Canada.

His skill set and confidence grew.

In a few years he moved up significantly in the company. “It was there that I built my confidence and leadership skills. I eventually had people working under me, and often sat with the GM to plan the direction of the company.

“I had done courses in, and done the practical work in so many important areas of the company, that I essentially knew the company and its needs inside out and had become a key team member. I was saving them thousands, as they no longer needed to outsource the services I now knew how to provide…”

While learning and growing and doing his best to implement his newfound skills for the company, he realised that before him lay another great opportunity.

“I realised that I could offer these services to external clients and increase my income. I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur. When I was a kid I used to do little things for money, like fix bicycles and repair computers. This was a great way for me to start off my own business.”

And this is how his company NetProtoCal was born. “The fact that in this environment I had the freedom to fuel my knowledge, develop my skills and actually apply them, was how it grew.”

NEW OPPORTUNITIES

After a few years with the company, Jason realised that he wanted to grow more and moved to a much larger company in downtown Toronto. There he acquired another set of skills that would prove essential for his budding business.

“Once before, I had tried to save a client some money, and in the end he was actually angry and felt that the price reflected the work.” It was then that Jason learned another critical business lesson: “If you charge people more and you deliver more, they will be happier.”

Since then he has become more selective in choosing his clients. “And I always deliver great service, at a price you truly feel you are worth.”

Over the years working for these various companies he also learned how to structure his billing process, manage his time, and demonstrate the value he brings to his clients.

Since then his business has consistently been growing.

“The services that NetProtoCal provides are very customised. There is no template or formula for potential business. Every project is approached by trying to understand the benefit to the three parties involved: NetProtoCal, the client and the end users. I also believe that I should believe in the product I am creating or working on.”

Last year he did a pro bono project for AccessNow where he helped build a mobile app for the iPhone which helps pinpoint accessible locations around the world.

Recently married, Jason credits his wife Sindhu for her role in his business, which has allowed him to utilise his skills and time more effectively, especially as he still continues with his day job. “My wife has become more than just an emotional partner. She has helped to support the business significantly, especially when it comes to negotiating contracts. We work together to create and identify better business opportunities for NetProtoCal.”

Jason also credits his parents with providing him with a solid foundation.

“My parents were strong pillars in my family and always stressed a few key lessons, a very valuable one being 'It's not what you earn, it's what you save', which has taught me to not only appreciate money but to also understand how money works.

“Having three brothers and three sisters who were much older than me, I was able to learn from them and leverage their knowledge and experiences.”

As to the future of NetProToCal, “Long-term plans are to build it into a full-service consulting agency for software development, servicing small to medium-sized businesses, from a design and engineering perspective,” he says.

“I am just grateful to have had the kind of people and support around me to have helped to get me where I am today,”

Jason Matthews' life has been one of identifying opportunities, taking bold steps and learning the lessons. For him, the future is bright and he is ready for whatever new challenges and opportunities the future may hold, because “Fortune favours the bold.”

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