If Norm Couturier has his way, Startup New Brunswick will become an umbrella organization for all entrepreneurship in the province, then expand to include the other Atlantic Provinces.
Couturier is a serial entrepreneur who has been through the entire startup process, from concept to exit, more than once, and he perceives the need for a single group that oversees all the components of the startup community.
There are local groups, many affiliated with the Startup Canada network, and startup houses that usually cover a certain area. Then there are organizations promoting IT or life sciences, and others that are attached to universities. There are groups for young entrepreneurs, others for social entrepreneurship.
What Couturier would like is a single group that represents all these bodies, and he’s working toward it in New Brunswick.
“We’re developing a brand new space,” said Couturier over breakfast in Fredericton recently. “It’s really about building up a presence and then promoting what we’re doing. It’s about building the Kitchener-Waterloo of the East.”
Couturier knows a thing or two about growing tech companies. He was a Co-Founder of the Fredericton IT company Accreon, which was purchased in a management buyout in 2014. He was also a Co-Founder of iTacit, growing it to a market of 100,000 users before departing in 2017. Since October, he has been the President of 3D Planeta, a new venture that offers clients three-dimensional terrain imaging.
Courturier is also a lead in Startup Fredericton, the local community group for Startup Canada. New Brunswick has the highest concentration of Startup Canada community groups in the country, as almost one-fifth of the communities listed on the organization’s website are in New Brunswick. Couturier believes that makes a good base from which to grow a provincial organization.
“We’ve created a not-for-profit group with a board structure,” he said, adding that a variety of startup organizations are represented. “We’ve got people who are ready to help, now we need to tell the story.”
The group is now hoping things will gel in New Brunswick so that one body can speak for startups across the province and address the needs of all sectors and parts of the province. And he hopes it’s successful enough that groups from other provinces reach out to join, adding it's up to the groups outside New Brunwsick to initiate such talks.
"We believe this model is right for the province," he said. "And we believe it's right for the region, but we can't oversell it."