Harold Jahn: Regular Recessions and High Unemployment Helped Me Choose Entrepreneurship

Nick Branson
Nov 22, 2020 · 6 min read

Harold Jahn is an entrepreneur with interests ranging from real estate development to technology. His multiple businesses have taken him from Edmonton in Canada to South Korea, Africa, and Utah in United States of America. One thing I particularly liked is his journey is the thirst for knowledge and how Harold makes it all look simple.

Mr Harold, how did Your entrepreneurial journey start?

Harold Jahn: Every story has who where what and how. I grew up in the Northeast part of Edmonton, Canada. This is where my entrepreneurial journey began. This area was full of immigrants and struggling working class families impacted by cycles of fluctuating oil prices that left many unemployed every few years with regular recessions and high unemployment. My parents were both war children who migrated to Canada from Germany with a fair share of growth, hunger and family difficulties. I guess my parents work ethic paved a way for me to take up the path of entrepreneurship.

Since around 12 years old I worked on evenings and weekends with my dad on fixing and improving rental townhouses and homes be would purchase. We did everything from landscaping, to building fences, replacing roofs, fixing and moving appliances, building out full basements, painting, floors, drywall, and renovations of all kinds late into the night skipping meals until the task was completed.

My mother started her own business making drapes and window coverings, long hours and with the high cost of materials, there was very little return on her investment, but it was a sense of pride, creativity, and enjoyment in producing these beautiful European drapes that was wonderful. My father and I would go to homes and businesses and put up the curtain rods and install them for her.

By the time I was 14 years old I had significant savings and purchased Canada savings bonds and then started reading the daily business section of the newspaper and learned about every stock on the Alberta and Toronto stock exchange. By 18, I had made my first stock purchases in mining and medical technologies.

In high school my favorite subjects were chemistry and math, I learned that we can take different chemicals and make wonderful products that could replace other basic products.

All these are exciting but conventional businesses. How and when did the ability to dream big develop?

Harold Jahn: I read a great deal about energy and electricity and became fascinated with how we could deliver energy wirelessly to appliances, cars, and from space based solar. I have a serious interest in space and space developments, in the year of my birth 1969, humanity landed on the moon, and in 1978, a wonderful film came out called Star Wars, plus films such as Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and other space adventures filled our TV. My mind was ablaze with possibilities. Personal computers were also being introduced in our high school and I took 3 years of computer science classes in high school and saw the possibilities of the computer age. This was pre cell phones and the internet by more than a decade, but again I envisioned new opportunities.

I started to come up with several innovative ideas on how to make our world a better place in my teens, my mind is constantly thinking about the future and what could make this world better, as I had seen how other countries were starting to recycle and I questioned why are we not recycling everything in Canada or the US. Why are we wasted oil and gas? Why are people dying and not living longer? How can we get to Mars without fuel? Why can we not build a house cheaper and better to save on heating and cooling? Why are we not driving electric cars?

What is one issue that you think you should have avoided during this journey?

Harold Jahn: My internet companies in the early 1990s were the first to develop global directories, create leading edge web sites, catalogs, and exceptional search engines, but the danger was people in the industry could easily copy our computer source code and see daily all our innovations from every corner of the world. We were in the news and my worry would be now people are copying our business model.

Often, we found our clients were pulled away to larger firms in New York, Toronto, and other larger centers.

Now we take a technology and develop it from start to finish in house, build it, and then after our clients are satisfied with the results with independent reports, we again quietly distribute or license the technology to other nations or large firms.

The other issue I have struggled with is my view of the world. I may wish for everyone to have free energy and drive electric vehicles, but millions of people depend on the existing hydrocarbon industry and I have learned that this will take time to transition to a clean future. In my case, many of my ideas from 30 years ago and now slowing becoming accepted, and I truly believe that all vehicles will not be electric for another 25 years. This is half a century. I also appreciate that hydrocarbons will remain with us for several centuries to come are the building blocks of a variety of very important chemicals for food, materials, and health related medicines and plastics or hybrid bioplastics that bring us betterment to our ecosystems and humanity. A balance must be met to reduce our impact on the ecology with economic growth.

What is biggest challenge you faced in your journey?

Harold Jahn: The largest challenges in my life have been related to educating governments and the local community that there is a viable proven business solution to accomplish a national goal, or ensuring I have enough investment capital to undertake a major research or infrastructure project. I have conducted thousands of meetings to governments and investors over the past 30 years and it is not easy finding those that wish to take a leadership role or be first in invest in a new technology or development.

It has only been in the last few years that I found similar entrepreneurs who are independently wealthy and can appreciate the scope of the project and our objectives to bring a major project to fruition.

The other point of challenge or resistance is people in general are comfortable and resist change. In some instances, the project may be viewed by local established leaders or businesses as a threat to an existing industry, work force, or group of people. In all my projects, I do my best to show them that many of my innovative projects not only are good for the ecology and economy, but complement what is occurring now and will create more jobs.

I have always viewed technology as a blessing and to take care of those people that may be displaced over the long term. As an example, keep refining oil, but make it more efficient to produce more with less resources, eliminate the pollution and transform the waste into secondary by-products, plus limit the facilities footprint to have less burden on the ecology.

And have a real plan to retire the facility in 100 or 200 years or transform the site into the next innovation with jobs for those families in small communities to continue.

I have spent several years looking for old industrial sites to transform them into new industries to create local jobs. People do not appreciate that these older buildings and structures cost millions to build, they should be reused, including all the roads and utilities that were paid for by local communities’ decades or centuries ago. This is very rewarding for me to see redevelopment of older industrial facilities, energy plants, buildings, and sites into something new.

Unicorn Story

Ideas + Stories