Opportunities NB (ONB) recently had occasion to speak with Robert Quirion, Founder and CEO of DealerMine in Saint John, New Brunswick. The interview was so good we expanded it into two parts.
Be sure to read part one, where we discussed the many benefits Quirion has experienced from operating in New Brunswick.
Today, Robert discusses the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the province. Spoiler alert; he’s optimistic about it.
ONB: What role has ONB played with DealerMine?
Quirion: They were there for us on the financial side of course. The forgivable loan, which was based on the promise to hit our job targets, was big. It’s nice to get that investment in the company for growth.
The publicity was nice too, however. Raising awareness of the company is important for growth. When the media picks up news of that type of investment it gets seen outside New Brunswick. That’s crucial since we’re going after the entire North American market.
ONB continues to play a role with us now. They’re helping me with inroads into the U.S. Consulates since that’s where a huge chunk of our market is. They’re helping us establish the best contacts within those consulates. The advantage there is to be able to rub shoulders with people who are promoting Canada inside the U.S. Hopefully we’ll generate solid contacts with people in our space from that.
ONB: How did you first connect with ONB?
Quirion: Gerry Pond made the initial introductions, actually. He’s a terrific champion of New Brunswick. Gerry loves to promote entrepreneurship in the province, and he helped connect the dots for us.
ONB: Mr. Pond is certainly no stranger to entrepreneurs in the region. We write a lot about the entrepreneurial spirit of New Brunswick. Would you agree it’s alive and well here, and that we have the resources in place for entrepreneurial success?
Quirion: Yes. I come from a small town in Ontario and when I compare the economy of that town to that of Saint John, they’re quite similar. The amount of people here in New Brunswick helping the province succeed is incredible. Despite the province’s size when compared to Ontario or Quebec the resources are completely there.
With people like Gerry, and others in the tech community, and companies like his own Mariner Partners as well as Cirrus9—both here in Saint John—an entire ecosystem has been created. There’s good money, talent and vision here to create great companies. If you have the right entrepreneurial mindset, the resources are here to succeed.
The sad thing is that negative thinking can often scare people to leave, and the grass isn’t always greener. I left Ontario to come here, and people said to me “Bob, what are you doing?” You don’t really see it until you’re here. DealerMine may have been a lost soul in Toronto; a face in the crowd. But here, people know us and want to see us become a success.
People are genuinely ready to help in New Brunswick so I do get a little frustrated sometimes with negativity.
ONB: We get to speak to a lot of successful companies and entrepreneurs like yourself, so we agree that the resources here are quite sound.
Quirion: I just met with Cirrus9, Fred Bullock is their CEO; great guy. He started the company with the help of John Harrison and Gerry Pond among others. They’re a hosting company, and we love them. We’re a client of theirs, they host all of DealerMine. It’s all hosted here in Saint John. Through Fred I was introduced to Wayne Chamberlain, who has a lead generation company, Atlantic Growth Solutions (AGS).
We have ACOA, working with—AGS a New Brunswick company—to help other NB companies create leads for their businesses. It’s mostly all export dollars too. Now I’m working with AGS for lead generation, and they’re helping us create more sales opportunities in the U.S.
I won’t pretend to know how close that ecosystem is everywhere, but here in New Brunswick it’s a tightly-knit community.
We’ve also partnered with another Atlantic Canadian business called Leadsift. Another company Gerry introduced me to, by the way. We’re a customer of theirs now. They’ve got a great product and we pay for their data to be integrated with DealerMine.
So are the right measures and resources in place for young companies? Yes, they’re completely there. It just takes the right entrepreneur to take the risk and then they’ll see, the money is there and the investors are here.
ONB: You mentioned that you came to New Brunswick from Ontario. What brought you here?
Quirion: There was a dealership in town, Brett Chev Olds, founded by Lorne Brett. He was moving to a new facility and needed someone to help them maximize the use of the systems they had in-house. I came and worked here for them as Manager of Information Systems to help them improve their efficiency.
It was nice here in New Brunswick, the people were friendly, and land was priced reasonably. I took the risk, came to work for Lorne in 1998, and I’ve been here ever since. I built DealerMine and incorporated it in 2001, and I’m proud that it’s New Brunswick made. I was quite happy working in Toronto for Reynolds and Reynolds (auto dealership software), but I’m glad I made the move.
I’m an implant. I came here from outside and now I employ 170 people, and offer what we think is a cool product. I couldn’t have done it alone, there’s so many smart people around here that helped grow this thing.
Cover image via Flickr.