Gerry Pond, centre, being presented with the inaugural BDC Entrepreneurship Champion award Gerry Pond, centre, receiving the inaugural BDC Entrepreneurship Champion award, with BDC CEO and president Jean-René Halde, left, and PROFIT publisher Ian Portsmouth, right.

Gerry Pond transformed Atlantic Canada into fertile ground for tech start-ups, taking fledgling ideas and building them into multi-million enterprises. This combination of foresight and tenacity earned him the inaugural BDC Entrepreneurship Champion award, which was presented at a packed reception in downtown Toronto on March 24.

The event celebrated Pond’s 45 years of business success. After a distinguished career with NBTel, where he rose to the position of CEO, Pond left in 2001 and quickly co-founded a remarkable string of companies. Internet security firm Q1 Labs was purchased by IBM in 2011 while Radian6, a social media monitoring firm, was bought by Salesforce in the same year for $340 million.

“Ask anyone in Atlantic Canada to pinpoint one thing he did and you will hear the same thing,” Jean-René Halde, the president and CEO of the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), told the crowd. “It’s impossible to measure the impact he had on the tech community in the region, since he has done so much.”

Pond said the key to identifying a start-up with potential is determining if there’s a “big idea” at the core of the business. “If they’re looking to build a better mousetrap—even if there’s plenty of mice around—I look at it and say ‘Naw, that’s an idea that’s run its course,’” he explained in an interview prior to the reception. It’s better to invest time and effort in businesses pushing into new areas, as Q1 Labs did with security and Radian6 with social media, he said.  And even with a big idea, it’s crucial to ensure the co-founders are committed. “It’s all about whether it’s a game or a business,” he says. “You need to make sure it’s a team, not a bunch of drinking buddies from college.”

The BDC created the Entrepreneurship Champion award to recognize an individual who has grown one or more successful businesses and can inspire others to innovate, take risks and expand their own companies. The packed reception at the Toronto Board of Trade attracted luminaries from across the business, media and entrepreneurial communities. Among the attendees were Dragons’ Den host Dianne Bucker, Betakit founder Sarah Prevette and Mike Woollatt, the CEO of the Canadian Venture Capital and Equity Association.

In addition to co-founding Q1 Labs and Radian6, Pond is also chairman of Mariner Partners, which makes technology that helps video and broadband networks monitor their image quality. He also created Propel ICT, a start-up accelerator, and East Valley Ventures, an incubator for Atlantic Canadian tech firms.

Pond told the audience that, despite his impressive career, he still aspires to build a start-up that will grow on its own into a tech giant. “It would be nice if one could put down roots,” he said.

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