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Exemplary alumni

A Q&A with the 2021 Luminus Award recipients

Campus and Community

By Ryan Howell

When Jamie King (Dip.Tech.(MI)’94, B.Eng.’99), Brendan Brothers (B.Eng. ’02) and Raymond Pretty (B.Eng.’01) joined the Genesis Centre, they couldn’t have imagined what was to come.

Jamie King, Raymond Pretty and Brendan Brothers sit on a red couch and side chair in the middle distance.
From left are Luminus Award recipients Jamie King, Raymond Pretty and Brendan Brothers.
Photo: Submitted

The trio started their company Verafin while studying artificial intelligence and decision-making systems in graduate school.

They shifted gears after their first customer, the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union, helped steer them towards building the world’s most effective financial fraud fighting company. The decision paid off, literally.

In 2019 Verafin raised the largest venture capital deal in Canadian history at $515 million. In November 2020 Verafin was sold to NASDAQ for $2.75 billion.

For their contributions and success, the Verafin founders have been awarded the prestigious Luminus Award, which is only given to exemplary candidates or groups under special circumstances. Team Gushue was the last recipient in 2006.

In this Q&A, Mr. Brothers shares how Verafin plans to benefit from NASDAQ, offers words of advice to budding entreprenurs and thanks the Genesis Centre and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science for helping make Verafin a reality.

RH: How do you hope your success inspires other Newfoundlanders and Labradorians?

BB: When we started Verafin in 2003 there weren’t very many companies like us to look up to.

I think one of the things we’re most proud of is the fact that there are is now a great example of a business making a great product solving a hard problem right here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We’re proud to work with the Genesis Centre to continue sharing our experience with other entrepreneurs as they start their journey.

RH: How has the sale to NASDAQ changed operations?

BB: Since the acquisition not much has changed on a day-to-day basis, but what we’ve been really exploring is the possibility of this new partnership helping us bring our product into larger institutions and more broadly internationally.

“Our advice to entrepreneurs in Newfoundland and Labrador is to start — starting is the hardest part.”

NASDAQ has a tremendous reach globally and that’s one of the things that was most exciting to us as we were negotiating the agreement.

That’s something that we think we’ll be able to take full advantage of in the coming years.

RH: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs in the province?

BB: I think our advice to entrepreneurs in Newfoundland and Labrador is to start — starting is the hardest part.

We also think it’s really important to think about getting that first customer.

“Verafin has truly been a team success story and it’s been a success story about the ecosystem of support that we’ve had here in N.L.”

When we started our business, we built what we thought was an excellent solution to money laundering and fraud until we met our very first customer, the Newfoundland Labrador Credit Union, and in our first conversation with them we realized that we had built completely the wrong thing!

That first customer and the partnership that you have with them is a critical component of success.

RH: Can you comment on what it means to be the first Luminus Award winners since Team Gushue?

BB: It’s certainly a hard act to follow!

We’re generally quite shy when it comes to individual recognition because Verafin has truly been a team success story and it’s been a success story about the ecosystem of support that we’ve had here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We are quite honored to receive this recognition but excited also to be able to share with the rest of our team.

RH: Are there experiences from your time at Memorial that have stuck with you throughout your career?

BB: One thing that we’ll all look back at in our engineering program was the co-op placements.

Their ability to give you great experiences figuring out the things that you want to do but probably more importantly figuring out things that you don’t want to do.

We’re excited to continue that at Verafin, hiring dozens of co-op students each year from Engineering and Computer Science.

The 2021 Alumni Tribute Awards will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 27, at the Emera Innovation Exchange and will be live-streamed.

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