The Genesis Group of St. John’s, which operates one of the most successful business incubators in the country, will soon enter a new phase of its development — but without the man who has steered the firm for the past two decades.
David King, who joined an earlier incarnation of the group in 1993, has announced that he will leave his post as chief executive officer to move to Qatar in the United Arab Emirates.
Instead of retiring, King will become the dean of business at the College of the North Atlantic’s campus in the Middle Eastern country.
Genesis Group, the Memorial University of Newfoundland’s technology commercialization arm, will soon begin its search for King’s replacement. The next chief executive officer will lead the organization through a new phase, as it considers shifting focus from incubation — mentoring fledgling startups — to developing an accelerator, which would help young firms make plans for growth as they become established.
“There’s been a whole kind of entrepreneurial revolution in the past few years,” King said, pointing to groups like Startup St. John’s, Build Ventures and the province’s coming venture capital fund, which are changing the landscape. “This whole spectrum is there in pieces, and what we’d like to do is to bring it all together.”
A bit of background: In the 1990s, Memorial University set up a technology transfer group — a common feature in academic institutions that helps them commercialize their research, either through startups or in partnership with corporations. That unit evolved into the Genesis Group, which took over commercializing university research and became the Genesis Centre in 1996.
That centre nurtures between 10 and 12 startups at a time. It has graduated many of the leading startups in the region, including fraud-detection company Verafin, risk-analysis provider ClearRisk and a marine training company, Virtual Marine Technology.
This summer most of the technology transfer responsibilities went back to Memorial University, leaving the Genesis Group mainly focusing on mentoring startups.
It’s also preparing to move from the university campus to The Battery, a former hotel complex on the slopes of Signal Hill. Memorial University bought the old complex last year and plans to turn it into housing for graduate students and the Genesis Group’s new home.
The incubator is now plotting out how it will grow and adapt to its changing environment. King said it may develop an accelerator that would mentor companies that receive venture capital funding.
King has taught business at Memorial University (he describes himself as an “MBA/CA type”) and, of course, has immense experience in mentoring entrepreneurs.
He had been planning to help oversee the changes at Genesis Group, and retire in the middle of next year, but then he caught wind of the opportunity in Qatar.
When he leaves the Genesis Centre on Aug. 21, he will head straight to the airport to travel to the campus that Newfoundland and Labrador’s technical college established in Qatar.
“I would have liked to have had a little more time to prepare for it,” he said. “But it’s like everything entrepreneurial — you have to seize the opportunity when it’s there.”