We were shocked and saddened to learn this week that Dr. Mary Kilfoil, one of the pioneers of the Atlantic Canada startup community, had passed away peacefully at home last week.

A woman of great kindness and generosity, Kilfoil is best known in our circles as the leader of Starting Lean, the ground-breaking entrepreneurship program she founded with her husband Ed Leach at Dalhousie University in 2012. Held twice weekly on the second floor of Dal’s Killam Library, the Starting Lean sessions became a cornerstone of Halifax’s startup ecosystem in the early days of the community. Having studied under entrepreneurship guru Steve Blank in the Bay area, Kilfoil and Leach were early evangelists of lean methodology and – above all – customer discovery.

Kilfoil’s catchphrase was “Get out of the building,” meaning that entrepreneurs must test their hypotheses by going out and meeting potential clients, then adjust their business model based on what they learned.

The companies they guided through their early stages included Analyze Re, Spring Loaded Technology, Axem Neutotechnology, Ashored Innovations, Aurea Technologies, and the Atlantic Institute for Resilience, to name a few.

Kilfoil served as the Director of the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship at Dal, where she dedicated herself to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. She was honored with the national Entrepreneurship Educator award from Startup Canada in 2014.

In June, Kilfoil won second place in a national pitch competition for her presentation of the Certified Age Friendly Employers program. This solution enhanced economic productivity by addressing a labour shortage in the tourism sector while demonstrating the positive impact of “purpose” in people’s health outcomes. She was in the advanced stages of completing a pilot with the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia and was about to scale the solution.

A celebration of Mary Kilfoil's life will take place Saturday, Sept. 16h at the Banook Canoe Club, 17 Banook Ave., Dartmouth. The service will begin at 2:00 and will be followed by a chance to network and chat. You can find the livestream of the service and read the obituary posted by her family here.