Removing the word “interim” from her title, Martha Casey has been named the new Chief Executive Officer of the Halifax innovation hub Volta.
When Volta parted ways with CEO Jesse Rodgers in late March, it announced that COO Casey would be the Interim CEO until a permanent replacement was found. Recently, the organization has quietly changed her title on the Volta website to reflect the permanent status of her position.
“The Board made the decision to appoint me to the position permanently, which I’m really excited about,” said Casey in a phone interview on Wednesday. “We’ve seen some success recently and the idea of stability is important.”
Previously the Chief of Staff and Executive Director of Dalhousie University’s Office of the President, Casey joined Volta in November 2018 as Chief Operating Officer. Since March, she has overseen the organization through the lockdown and maintained its activity as it operated remotely.
Volta has held a virtual Volta Cohort pitching competition, launched its six-week Volta Academy: Recovery program, and co-hosted the Health Challenge pitch competition with the Nova Scotia Health Authority and others. And Volta Leap, the accelerator overseen by venture capital veteran Toon Nagtegaal, has continued to work with resident companies.
Now Casey, the Board, and her team are looking forward and working on a new strategic plan for Volta, which she intends to release in the fall.
“Something that our team identified as a priority early on in our strategic planning process is the importance of inclusive innovation, which is something that underpins everything we do,” she said.
The Volta facility, which comprises three floors in the Maritime Centre in downtown Halifax, is getting back to normal. It is now fully open, and its café will open for business on Aug. 10.
Casey said her immediate priority is to focus on stability and to ensure as many tech companies as possible are once again on a growth track – not just Volta resident companies, but those throughout the community.
She spoke of the need for Volta and other support organizations to collaborate more to work together to emerge from the pandemic and grow the innovation economy.
“Some people say there’s too much duplication, but rather than focusing on duplication, let’s look at what’s complementary,” said Casey. “What can we do best? And if we’re not the lead in something how can we support others in doing it?”
She also said she is concentrating on the “sustainability” of Volta and how to grow the organization. There is a waiting list for companies to move into the facility, and three companies will be moving in next month. She added that the Volta Board has been a huge help in the planning, and each member brings something meaningful to the planning process.
Though she believes it’s too soon to predict how the companies in Volta will emerge from the pandemic, Casey said she’s been impressed with the discipline founders have shown in making their cash last as long as possible and making sales during the pandemic.
“Some companies have pivoted and they’ve done a really good job, even if it’s only on a temporary basis,” she said. “I’m optimistic. I’ve seen great discipline by the companies and a great willingness to listen to advice.”