“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
At seventeen years of age, Dan Martell turned his back on a life of drugs, violence, and crime and chose to walk through the doors of the Portage Atlantic substance abuse rehabilitation centre for youth at Cassidy Lake. Sixteen years later, he is a celebrated entrepreneur, angel investor, and public mentor, living between the Silicon Valley and Moncton, NB with his family.
Dan’s troubled childhood, coupled with attention deficit disorder, lead him in and out of group homes, special schools, and rehab centres, and eventually into serious trouble with the law. Hitting rock bottom in a jail cell, Dan promised himself that he would turn his life around.
Once at Portage Atlantic, he was able to address the root causes of his delinquent behaviour and substance abuse, and developed the self-esteem and confidence necessary to put it all behind him and move forward with his life.
And forward he did. After completing his rehabilitation program and graduating high school with honours, Dan discovered computer programming and delved into a rewarding career as an entrepreneur. Once he sold his first successful technology venture, which was named in Canadian Business’ 2008 emerging companies list, he went on to invest in eighteen different companies that employ over five hundred people. He was named one of Canada’s top angel investors in 2012, won BDC’s Young Entrepreneur Award for New Brunswick, a KIRA award for best export services, and was referred to as an “online marketing expert” by the Financial Post.
Dan credits much of his success to his experience at Portage. “None of that would’ve happened if I hadn’t made it through. What took place while I was at Portage has forever changed my life,” he says. He attributes his recovery at Portage to the role models he met while in treatment – staff members and peers – who had had similar addiction struggles themselves. “They helped me climb out of the same hole that they had once found themselves in,” he explains. The concept of role-modelling is central to the Portage Program, as residents who have been in treatment for longer take responsibility for welcoming newer members and helping them integrate into the therapeutic community.
“Once Dan felt safe and finally began to believe in himself, encouraging others and supporting his peers came naturally to him,” says Geordie Gould, director of Portage Atlantic. “Most role models are not trained as such, they just are.”
“Getting support from people who have been through it before is why I’ve had success, both in my personal life and in business,” explains Dan. At Portage, he learned the value of a functional community and has been able to apply that to his family life, his professional life, and to all the communities that he is involved in.
Dan’s most recent venture is Clarity.fm, a platform that helps entrepreneurs connect with seasoned entrepreneurs to get expert advice on how to grow their business. The majority of the fees charged by the experts are donated to charity. With over 10,000 experts available and 15,000 calls completed across fifty countries in its first twelve months, Dan believes Clarity.fm has the potential to affect a billion people in a positive way within a decade.
To get to this point in his life, Dan had to find his way around many obstacles and down a road with many twists and turns, some of which nearly cost him his life. But today, “life is awesome!” says Dan, who lives between Moncton and San Francisco with his wife and son Max, as they await their second child. Dan continues to find ‘his way’ through various opportunities and new experiences. His road to success is a testimony to finding one’s own way around obstacles; a life lesson he learned at Portage Atlantic.