Green Imaging Technologies (GIT) specializes in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) solutions for special core analysis in the petroleum sector. Their software is used to measure valuable rock and fluid properties to help oil and gas companies make critical exploration and production decisions.
Jill Green, Co-Founder and CEO, is a graduate of the University of New Brunswick (UNB) with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. Today, her company maintains a close relationship with her alma mater, in particular with their world-class MRI Research Centre headed by Dr. Bruce Balcom. The company supports UNB research through annual contributions to the Natural Science & Engineering Research Council (NSERC), as well as Atlantic Innovation Fund projects.
Opportunities NB (ONB) wanted to learn more, so we spoke with Jill to discuss—among other things—the return to New Brunswick to start a business.
ONB: Tell us a bit about the creation of Green Imaging.
Green: Derrick and I are both from Fredericton, and both took Engineering at the University of New Brunswick. I’m a civil engineer, Derrick is an electrical engineer. He did a PhD at UNB as well; it was in electrical engineering but was done in partnership with the Physics department and the MRI Research Centre. He was one of the first PhD students to graduate from that centre.
By the time he’d finished, he had educated himself out of the job market in Canada at the time, so we moved to Cleveland. He landed with Philips Medical Systems—one of the top three medical MRI companies in the world—as one of their top MRI scientists.
We had a great life in Cleveland. We’d had our kids, great jobs, wonderful friends, etc. Things were still moving along back at the MRI Centre, though, and they came up with some exciting patents they thought might be worth building a company around. But there wasn’t anyone at the centre that had interest in doing that, so they thought of Derrick and I. We had visited home now and again in the summer, and Derrick had kept in contact with Dr. Balcom so they reached out and asked if we’d be interested in coming back home; we were open to the possibility.
We spent six months investigating the tech and Derrick had an opportunity to attend a conference in Toronto where one of the patents was being presented. It ended up being a standing room only event. The presenter was mobbed afterwards, and there was a lot of excitement about the technology.
That’s when it happened. Derrick was travelling on the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, and as he was stopped waiting to go through customs he called me and said “Honey, I think we really have to do this. We’ve got to make the move.”
ONB: Since much of your experience comes from work in the U.S., can you tell us a bit about what sets New Brunswick apart?
Green: Pace of life is a little slower, in a good way. It’s a fantastic place to raise children. They can play and I don’t ever feel the need to worry about them. The business community is extremely supportive as well. When we came back we had local business people offer to be part of an advisory board for us as we were in the process of getting off the ground. The University embraced us and made it possible for us to do this. The community is incredibly supportive across the board.
ONB: There’s a terrific network of mentors for entrepreneurs here. Outside of the University, are there other mentors or organizations that stepped up for you?
Green: Those aforementioned business advisors certainly did. As well there was ACOA, NRC, and NSERC. There’s a host of funding organizations out there to help you stretch your dollar further. They’re all very easy to work with. ONB has been there as well; we’ve accessed your organization and its network for things like growth grants and trade assistance, which really helped with our marketing efforts outside Canada.
ONB: What were some of the biggest obstacles you faced in getting to those export markets?
Green: One challenge was determining who you go to in order to ensure you’re meeting all export regulations appropriately. Export people in Canada know Canadian regulations, but you need to know U.S. import regulations, and those same import rules globally. That’s something we’re still learning.
Sometimes it’s a challenge to get out of Fredericton to locations beyond Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax. Our customers are in Russia, China, South America, etc. That’s a bit of a struggle.
With the global economy now, though, it’s not so much about where you’re located, it’s about whether or not you have the smartest, most innovative people. If you’re coming up with good innovative products people won’t care as much where you are, they’ll want to work with you regardless.
ONB: Are there any attributes of New Brunswick that helped you achieve success?
Green: One thing that helps is the fact that we have such smart people being educated at our universities. We have access to them, and so we get smart and capable people that want to be here, and are eager to work for us.
For example, at one point we posted a lab technician job and had over 80 people apply. I mentioned that in passing to one of our partners in Calgary and their jaws dropped. At that particular time they would post a similar position and get one applicant — and that applicant wasn’t even qualified. That speaks to our expertise here.
ONB: As GTI ramped up its export activities how important was understanding the culture of those target markets?
Green: It’s extremely important, and before we go into a new market we spend a lot of time researching the culture of those areas so we know what we’re getting into, and what not to do. We want to make sure we don’t accidentally insult anyone. We also take advantage of any opportunity to have local agents assist with things like that. Building strong partnerships with companies in those regions helps ease that transition into a new culture.
ONB: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a decision maker considering locating in New Brunswick?
Green: If developing an organization that values work-life balance is important, this is the place to be. This is an area where you easily navigate your way through that balance. You’ll have a team that has a healthy work environment and a healthy home environment, and will be able to balance both sides of that equation to be the best they can be.
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Cover image via Green Imaging Technologies