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Profiling: Karina LeBlanc, ED of Pond-Deshpande Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship March 13, 2012

Posted by Jane Fritz in News, Profiles.
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This is the first of our new series of profiling women in our industry. Please leave a comment if you like this idea or if you have suggestions for other women to profile. Or you can drop me a line at jane@unb.ca.

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For Karina LeBlanc, executive director of the newly minted Pond-Deshpande Centre at UNB, entrepreneurship is about more than a business buzzword.

“Entrepreneurship, for me, is about innovation, taken from the idea stage to the market launch stage, generating a product or service that solves real problems,” she says.  Problems may be economic or they may be social, but the spirit of entrepreneurship is the same, she adds.

“It is essential to strip away all the buzzwords and catchy phrases around entrepreneurship if you want to engage individuals of all backgrounds, different organizations and diverse communities,” she says.

The Pond-Deshpande Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UNB aims to act as a catalyst to advance innovation and entrepreneurship in New Brunswick by facilitating collaboration among entrepreneurs, young companies, and students, faculty and alumni from universities and colleges across the province.

It will help both business and social entrepreneurs.  “Anyone can have a good idea, but only those few with the right combination of passion, leadership and mentorship can make an idea come to life.”  And that’s where the centre will help, she notes, by nurturing and supporting people who have that combination of ideas, skills and passion.

The centre was created in the fall thanks to a generous gift of $5 million from two UNB alumni, Gururaj (Desh) Deshpande and Gerry Pond.

LeBlanc began her term as the executive director of the centre on February 27.

A background in business and social innovation

LeBlanc has more than 15 years experience in senior management roles, in both Fortune 500 and start-up companies, and is a specialist in bringing new products and ideas to market.

Prior to coming to UNB, she was the vice-president of two start-up companies, Virtual Expert Clinics and Mathis Instruments, where she leveraged her skills in product development, market validation, and commercialization to support two entrepreneurs in bringing their innovative ideas to market.

After successfully spinning out Virtual Expert Clinics through acquisition, LeBlanc became an independent consultant, helping entrepreneurs commercialize their ideas through market validation studies and raising early-stage financing.

She is the past president of the Board of Directors of the YMCA Fredericton and was a campaign co-chair of the Your New Y fundraising initiative.

“I have been fortunate to work with some of the most tenacious and innovative entrepreneurs in solving both market and social problems over the past two decades,” says LeBlanc.

“Now I hope to share what I have learned from all of these experiences with the up and coming innovators, both in our university community and across the province.”

LeBlanc has an MBA from York University’s Schulich School of Business, and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the University of Western Ontario.

“All of her experiences make her a great choice to lead the Pond-Deshpande Centre and grow innovation and entrepreneurship in the province,” says UNB President Dr. Eddy Campbell.

Bringing the centre to life

Over the coming months LeBlanc says her focus will be on developing and sharing a clear, common vision for the centre with its many stakeholders.

“The centre could be many things to many people, however, there are already many great programs at UNB and around the province addressing the subject of entrepreneurship and innovation, both economic and social,” she says.

LeBlanc says the centre will play two important roles.

“The first role will be to support initiatives that are already working well. The second will be to assess challenges and barriers that currently limit innovators from bringing their ideas to market”, she says.

“I see the centre as being a leader in breaking down these barriers.  This may take many forms, however, we will certainly be leveraging the successful programs of our sister centers at MIT, Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts and North Karnataka, India.”

UNB’s Pond-Deshpande Centre will help create ties between the business community, researchers and innovators, provide grants and investments for early stage and commercial-ready companies and host entrepreneurship and innovation conferences and competitions.

“For me, there are very few things, professionally speaking, that are more exciting than when an innovator comes up with an idea that actually solves real market problems,” says LeBlanc.

“Whether it be a for-profit enterprise or a social innovation, the passion, dedication, patience and endurance required is the same”

Contributed by David Shipley, UNB Communications & Marketing.

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Comments»

1. Judy Griggs - March 14, 2012

Love the idea of a profile, it’s informational and a great way to reach out to ICT members. — Congrats!

2. Mary Goggin - March 14, 2012

The profile is an excellent idea.
Karina’s is very informative about her background and the centre’s role – a great fit!


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