Days after his departure as CEO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, Calvin Milbury said he was taking time to review his options and looking forward to the next phase of his career.
The non-profit innovation agency based in Fredericton released a statement on Wednesday saying that Milbury was no longer heading the organization, and that it would commence the search for his replacement immediately. The rupture took place on Monday.
In an interview following the announcement, Milbury reflected on the 15 years he spent at NBIF, including the past nine years at the helm, and spoke with pride of what the organization had accomplished.
“It’s been 15 years for me,” said Milbury in the phone conversation. “I was there from Day 1 and helped them set up their venture capital fund. When I started there, people in New Brunswick didn’t know what venture capital was. Financing was getting loans or government grants. We were able to step it up and provide something different. We’ve reaped the harvest of that over the last five or six years.”
The NBIF statement did not give any reason for the move, and spokeswoman Vanessa Matthews said the foundation will not have an interim CEO as it seeks a replacement. Board Chair Cathy Simpson will assume some executive duties, she said.
“NBIF was at an inflection point and the board decided it was time for a change of leadership,” said Matthews in a phone interview.
In his own interview two hours later, Milbury said: “Myself and NBIF have agreed to part ways and move on in our separate directions.”
Milbury’s interview with Entrevestor dwelt mainly on the pride he felt in building up an organization that has helped 106 New Brunswick companies grow, and provided applied research funding to academics and scientists across the province.
The NBIF is a non-profit corporation and is the New Brunswick government’s main vehicle for implementing innovation policy. Milbury said the foundation last fiscal year provided more than $14 million in funding, divided evenly between VC investment and innovation vouchers, which allow companies to work with researchers. That’s up from funding levels of about $4 million when he became CEO.
Milbury’s tenure as CEO included the high-point of NBIF’s 15-year history – its announcement in 2011 that it made a return of $9.3 million on Radian6 or 28 times its original investment. The Radian6 exit was the CVCA Deal of the Year for venture capital in 2011.
The other portfolio company that Milbury highlighted in the interview was Moncton-based RtTech Software, an Internet of Things company that sold its Cipher unit in December for an undisclosed amount. He said he learned a lot from the staff and board at the company, including from the principals of McRock Capital of Toronto, which invested in RtTech three years ago.
Milbury is also proud of initiating and growing the biennial Breakthru competition, which last year awarded about $1 million to four young companies. Milbury never hid his fondness for Breakthru, and on Wednesday said it helped to change the culture of the province and make New Brunswick more entrepreneurial.
“I am most proud of the gains we as a community have achieved together to put Atlantic Canada on the startup radar nationally,” said Milbury. “I am positive there are many more success stories to emerge from within the NBIF portfolio and I am confident the team at NBIF will do its best to ensure continued strong results.”
Both Milbury and Matthews said the parting of ways had nothing to do with a law suit filed this year by an NBIF portfolio company against the foundation, Milbury and others. Fredericton-based KnowCharge Inc. launched a suit against NBIF, the First Angel Network, and some of their current and former officers, seeking $11 million in damages.
NBIF currently has over $85 million invested and has helped to create more than 106 companies. Earlier this month, the government of New Brunswick announced it was investing a further $5 million in NBIF’s research funding and support for graduate students, bringing the total for that work to over $11 million.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors, I want to thank Calvin for his important contribution to the NBIF and innovation in New Brunswick,” said Simpson in the statement. “He has supported research and startups and helped secure new funding for the NBIF that will yield significant benefits for New Brunswick for many years to come.”
Milbury said he wants to take his time to find his next opportunity. After taking a break, he hopes he’ll be able to find a position in Fredericton.
“I’ve never been naive enough to think that I would be there forever,” said Milbury. “I was happy to serve for nine years and I believe I did that passionately and in a dedicated way. But there comes a time when you have to step away. I really want NBIF to succeed because I believe in its mandate and I know they have the team to make it happen.”
Disclosure: NBIF is a client of Entrevestor.