Simpson Wants More Success in NB
As the incoming chair of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, Cathy Simpson intends to help more startups achieve the kind of accelerated growth that pushes companies and regions forward.
Simpson also aims to get more women involved in science, technology and management. To that end, she is leading youth initiatives that demonstrate that women can succeed in the innovation sector.
Interviewed shortly after taking up her new role, Simpson said she wants to see more companies like Radian6, Q1 Labs and User Events.
These New Brunswick ventures all sold for large sums and contributed to the economy through job growth and re-investment in new startups.
“We’ve had some big successes and we want more,” Simpson said. “We need to bring more of the private sector, government and academia together to ensure the growth of the ecosystem and help in the commercialization of research.”
As chair of NBIF, Simpson oversees an independent non-profit that invests in growth-oriented companies and applied research. Since beginning in 2003, NBIF has helped create over 50 companies and 350 applied research projects.
Simpson brings 25 years of experience to her role, including 13 years in the Telecom industry working for NBTel and Bell Aliant.
She went on to T4G, an IT professional services firm, where she remains vice president (public sector).
She is a co-founder of PropelICT, which began 11 years ago as a group for the IT industry, and is now the foremost Atlantic Canadian accelerator.
“At first we didn’t even know why we were meeting,” she said of Propel’s early days. “It was crazy, but we felt that if we were connected we could grow our individual companies and the IT industry.”
Simpson also played a leading role in producing Atlantic Canada’s Big Data Congress. The first two congresses were held in Saint John. This year’s event will be held in Halifax in October.
At last year’s congress, there was a student event attended by speaker Hilary Mason, New York-based founder of Bitly (the app that abbreviates links). This year’s Congress will see another, similar student event.
“Hilary brought a female perspective to the coolness of data and the jobs available for those who love math and all things tech. David Alston (Chief Innovation Officer at Introhive), talked about the cool things happening in New Brunswick,” Simpson said.
“The kids’ subsequent tweets revealed how exciting and inspiring they found the conversation. I thought--we’ve changed lives today.”
Simpson is also a co-founder of The CASM Group, a social enterprise focused on young women’s leadership and personal development. She was recently accepted into the International Women’s Forum (IWF).
The mother of three, including two daughters, believes girls need to hear that they can succeed in the innovation sector.
“We need to start when they’re still in school,” she said. “I’ve seen girls inspired by speakers like Sally Ng and Erin Flood.” (Ng is the executive director of Fredericton accelerator Planet Hatch and Erin is the COO of Hotspot Parking.)
“We need to change these terrible stats—that only about 15 per cent of CEOS of Fortune 500 companies are female, and fewer than 10 per cent of startups have female CEOs.”
Simpson was born in Newfoundland and moved to Nova Scotia while young. She gained her Bachelor of Business Administration from Nova Scotia’s Acadia University before starting her career in New Brunswick. So, she has a broad perspective on the region.
“It’s an exciting time. There are many economic opportunities. I see IT and the knowledge sector as continuing to be a significant regional strength, along with strengths like energy and healthcare.”
More regional collaboration would help fuel economic growth, she feels.
“PropelICT now works with groups across the region. It’s managed to eliminate borders. The NBIF mandate applies to New Brunswick, but we can share our ideas with others.
“We’re pretty small in Atlantic Canada. Regional innovation is essential.”
Disclaimer: NBIF advertises on Entrevestor.