As he takes the helm of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, Jeff White is setting his sights on developing more companies out of research at the province’s academic institutions.
The long-time startup CFO was last week named the new Chief Executive of the NBIF, a non-profit organization that oversees pre-seed venture capital investment and innovation in the province. In an interview after the announcement, White applauded the work done by the organization over the years and outlined his own priorities in the coming years.
As well as ramping up university commercialization, White wants to work with experts in a range of sectors who can complement his own experience in IT, and encourage collaboration with other organizations. Overall, White gave the impression that he likes what NBIF has done and he hopes it can improve on what it does well.
“I’ve watched and have been particularly impressed with the NBIF’s impact through 15 years,” said White, who is best known as the CFO of the Saint John-based investment group East Valley Ventures. “I really like and am inspired by some of the companies it’s been involved in and that it’s such a critical part of the ecosystem in Atlantic Canada for commercialization and company formation.”
White is now winding down other commitments, including his work with East Valley and his tenure as interim CFO at Canada’s Ocean Supercluster. He expects to begin his term at NBIF late this month.
He said there is tremendous research taking place at New Brunswick academic institutions, and he would like to see more done to commercialize that R&D to form and develop world-leading companies. White believes his experience as the finance head of several companies can help NBIF work with these young companies and help them grow.
He has served as CFO of Radian6 (purchased by Salesforce for US$326 million in 2011) and Q1 Labs (purchased by IBM, reportedly for more than $600 million in 2012). And through East Valley, he has worked with dozens of companies. In the interview, he said he’s learned that one way to grow companies is to focus on shareholder value, and this is a focus he can bring to the job. He’s looking forward to mentoring portfolio companies.
“In the last 18 to 24 months, we have toned down new investing at East Valley and we’ve been spending time working with existing companies so we can put them in a position to succeed without our help,” he said. “Some people have defined what we do at East Valley Ventures by the amount of money we put out, but we invest 10X in time compared with money.”
He also said that as CEO he hopes to identify and nurture experts in such areas as life sciences so that NBIF can support a range of innovation sectors, not just IT.
White will turn his attention to a few key administrative tasks when he begins his tenure. He and his team have to name a new head of research. And NBIF is now in the early stages of its biennial Breakthru competition, which will continue until March.
Asked about the law suit filed against NBIF and First Angel Network by portfolio company KnowCharge, White said he will be briefed more fully once he joins the foundation but he has nothing new to report for now.