Innovacorp has named Nicole LeBlanc as its new board chair, selecting an experienced venture capital fund manager who has worked in Atlantic Canada, Toronto and Europe.
The Nova Scotia government’s early-stage venture capital agency announced the appointment on social media this week, saying she is succeeding Rodney F. Burgar, who had held the position since 2014.
“As a venture capital professional with a network across Canada and the United States, I’d really like to use that network to open more doors and to get the Innovcorp team access to that network,” said LeBlanc in an interview on Tuesday.
LeBlanc’s career has straddled the New Brunswick-Nova Scotia border, as she has worked with the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation in Fredericton and the First Angel Network in Halifax. In 2014, she moved on to Toronto where she worked as an investment manager for BDC Capital, the largest VC investor in Canada.
Three years ago, she became the Director of Investment and Partnerships at Sidewalk Labs, the group that was working on the redevelopment of a lake-front district in southeast Toronto.
LeBlanc has recently moved to Copenhagen to take a job with a European urban tech and sustainability fund. She declined to name the fund as it will be announcing her position in a few weeks, but she did say its investments include Halifax-based CarbonCure Technologies. LeBlanc will divide her time between Denmark and the farmhouse that she and her husband, the designer Philip LeBlanc, have restored in St. George, New Brunswick.
Already sitting on the board of the regional IT accelerator Propel, LeBlanc joined the Innovacorp board two years ago and repeated throughout the interview that she is excited to now be the chair.
As well as the strength of its portfolio, she said she’s impressed with Innovcorp’s pre-investment programs like Sprint and GreenShoots, as well as the incubation spaces. And she fully supports the Innovacorp mission to provide VC backing largely to companies that aim for billion-dollar valuations.
“Within venture capital, it’s not a business of home runs; it’s a business of grand slams,” she said. “It’s all about having these big companies. If you look at Canadian history, it’s the companies like RIM (now BlackBerry) and companies like Shopify that are the anchors in the local economy that allow the economy to grow and thrive. We can grow those companies in Atlantic Canada.”
Asked in what direction she wants to take Innovacorp, LeBlanc said the agency will have some surprising announcements this year, but she declined to say what they are.
LeBlanc lived in Halifax 10 years ago, before Volta, Build Ventures, Concrete Ventures and the Creative Disruption Lab were in existence. Nova Scotia and its startup ecosystem are evolving quickly and the pandemic is creating opportunities as well as hardship, she said.
“Atlantic Canada is very representative of startup communities in other parts of the country,” she said. “It’s just really hard to sell and to scale. What’s really important is for companies in Atlantic Canada to have ties to investors and anchor customers based elsewhere. I’m just really excited to give back and to stay involved and to continue to provide more national and international access to more companies and Innovacorp in general. Having those international ties will help us to get better and stronger.”
Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.