FREDERICTON – This week, Fredericton-based startup accelerator Planet Hatch announced a new leadership team as it approaches its five-year anniversary. This includes appointing a new director, Adam Peabody.
Huddle chatted with Peabody about the impact Planet Hatch has had on New Brunswick business, where he plans to take it next, and more:
Planet Hatch has been around for about five years now, how would you describe the role it has played over that time in the New Brunswick business landscape?
One of the really important roles is being that catalyst agency for the startup community for the Greater Fredericton region and New Brunswick as a whole. [Planet Hatch] has undertaken a number of different initiatives in its own right, but its real purpose and mission has been to bring the various stakeholders that we have in the community of Fredericton and across New Brunswick together around a mission of supporting startups, originally in the ICT sector, but now including many other sectors as well.
What would say has been Planet Hatch’s biggest successes over the last five years?
Our core mandate around economic development, we have supported over 150 startups that have graduated from programming that has been offered through Planet Hatch and has supported the creation of more than 400 jobs. That’s just in five years. That is a really significant impact in the economic development of a province like New Brunswick. We’re really proud of that work and I think that is really the biggest achievement that we’ve had to date.
What do you plan to bring to Planet Hatch as its new director?
What we’re going to be doing with this new structure is really taking a look at what is next for Planet Hatch after we’ve reached this five-year milestone. It’s always important to be looking at what you can be doing better and where the trends are not just regionally, but internationally. We’re looking at that and what types of service offerings are being done in other markets around the world that we can learn from and apply here in a local context.
We’re also looking at our market and what areas of the marketplace currently don’t get the support that could be offered that could add another boost to the local economy and an additional support mechanism for startups to be able to continue to grow and produce those jobs. As an example, sales training in New Brunswick. I think the ecosystem has recognized that’s an area where there isn’t as much support available for entrepreneurs who want to undertake rigorous sales training. So in the next few months, we’re going to be having an announcement with programming to come in that space.
We’re also looking at the experiential learning … What we’ve seen with this generation, we can really start earlier. So working a lot more with the high schools in the region and other organizations that are playing in that space to make sure that we have young people that are graduating from high school and community colleges and universities that have an entrepreneurial mindset and that are workplace-ready.
What is your long-term vision for Planet Hatch? How do you hope to see it evolve under your direction?
I think we really have a strong base to work from. We have been recognized nationally for the work we’ve been doing, particularly with startups. I’d like to build on that and take us internationally. There’s no reason why Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick, and Planet Hatch shouldn’t be seen internationally as that hotbed for startup activity and innovation. We have a long history of innovation in our ecosystem. We’re very strategically located between the rest of Canada and Europe. I see that as a real benefit and asset we can take advantage of. Obviously, the United States is an essential market that we’re going to be continuing to strengthen our relationship with.
We also have some interesting opportunities in the Asian market. Two years ago, Planet Hatch was actually the first acceleration centre in Atlantic Canada to formalize an MOU and Soft Landing Zone agreement with an acceleration centre in China. I think there are a lot of international opportunities that we can be taking advantage of. When we look at the overall nature of our marketplace here in Atlantic Canada, for us to be successful economically we have to go international. We have always been an export-oriented economy and we need to be thinking globally to truly achieve the success that I know we can achieve. What I’m hoping as director of Planet Hatch is that I can work with my counterparts at the various acceleration centres across the region to collaborate and have a bigger global impact.
What would you say are is the biggest challenge startups in New Brunswick face right now?
There are a number of them. Access to capital is always top-of-mind. We do have great angel investors in the province and we have a great organization in NBIF. But we do need more private sector capital access for our startups so that they can quickly scale up.
I think that one of the other challenges when we look at how startups fit into our overall economic development, is the exits we’ve achieved to date are really excellent … But I also think we need to place some focus on being able to grow that billion dollar company from our own backyard that is going to continue to stay here and hire locally and grow and provide another avenue for international recognition.
What do you think the private and public sector can do better to support new businesses in the province?
For the private sector, I think that we’re really lucky that we have a business community that is every connected and supportive of one another. I think we need to continue to do that. I think we need to be a lot more proud and really vocal about the successes that we’ve had. As New Brunswicker and Atlantic Canadians, we’re often very humble, sometimes to our own detriment. I think that we need to be very loud about celebrating the successes that we have and not be afraid to say that we are the best in something. I think we as a business community can do a lot more of that.
In the public sector and government specifically, we have a history over the last two provincial governments of a focus on supporting the startup ecosystem and startups sectors through funding and the support of organizations like Planet Hatch, Connexion Works and Venn. But we need to make sure that we are constantly conscious of changes in the global economy and that we remain one of the most competitive areas to do business. I mean that from nurturing the talent pipeline that we have, making sure that our taxation and cost structure is globally competitive, ensuring that we’re investing in research and development and that we’re continuously opening new market opportunities for our startups and small businesses to sell to.