An Ottawa-based organization that aims to help grow Canada’s next generation of entrepreneurs has tapped a well-known local tech executive to be its new leader.
Startup Canada announced this week that Anastasia Valentine has assumed the newly created role of chief executive director. She takes over the organization’s day-to-day operations from president and co-founder Victoria Lennox, who will continue to assist with fundraising and lobbying.
Valentine says her main objectives include expanding the geographic reach of Startup Canada, which currently has chapters in 50 communities across the country that support entrepreneurs at the grassroots level, and providing more programs and services for startup founders.
“My commitment is to ensure entrepreneurs have resources at every stage of their journey, whether it be funding, mentoring, education or additional business support,” she said on the organization’s website.
Startup Canada, which is funded through government grants and private-sector partnerships, has eight full-time employees in Ottawa. Its services and programs include events such as the Canadian Export Challenge that provide capital to budding enterprises as well as podcasts that offer advice to business owners on topics such as funding and IP strategies.
Valentine says the organization’s mandate is to guide founders through every stage of a company’s growth “and make sure that they have everything that they need in a very easy-to-find way at their fingertips.”
She said the group also helps shine a spotlight on successful startups in an effort to encourage other Canadians to pursue their own entrepreneurial dreams.
“If we can showcase how entrepreneurs contribute to economic growth, employment and innovation here in Canada, we will encourage entrepreneurship as a viable option for Canadians and encourage successful entrepreneurs to help others who are on the same journey.”
Still, Valentine told Techopia the organization needs to do more to serve “underrepresented” groups such as new Canadians and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit community.
In a 25-year career, Valentine has worked at some of Ottawa’s most notable tech firms.
A graduate of Laurentian University in Sudbury, she joined one-time software darling Corel in the early 1990s before moving on to other powerhouses of the original golden era of Ottawa tech, including SHL Systemhouse and JetForm.
She then spent a decade as a marketing manager at Cognos and later IBM. Most recently, she served four years as head of marketing at Versature, a local cloud communications startup that was named one of Ottawa’s fastest-growing companies in 2017 before being acquired by New Jersey-based net2phone last fall.
Valentine’s eclectic list of entrepreneurial ventures also includes running her own record label for three years in the late ’90s and piloting a marketing and social media company. In addition, she served as chair of hER VOLUTION, a Toronto-based non-profit group dedicated to improving access to STEM education for girls and young women.
Valentine said her own experience leading startups will be a valuable asset in her new role.
“Having someone who understands all of that, and to be quite blunt, sometimes has the scars to prove it, is really important,” she said in an interview on Wednesday. “It adds to the credibility of everything that we produce.”