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Top CEOs

Memorial entrepreneurship leaders recognized by Atlantic Business Magazine

By Susan White

Two entrepreneurship leaders at Memorial University are being recognized as among the best in Atlantic Canada.

Florian Villaumé, director of the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship (MCE), and Michelle Simms (BBA 2000), president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Genesis, have been named to Atlantic Business Magazine’s 2020 list of Top 50 CEOs in Atlantic Canada.

The awards recognize senior executives who demonstrate leadership excellence.

Florian Villaumé is pictured seated with hands lightly grasped in front.
Florian Villaumé
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

High-quality teams

Mr. Villaumé says being recognized as a top CEO reflects the high quality of the MCE team.

“Beyond my personal recognition, this is the recognition of a dedicated and hard-working team at MCE, as well as many others who have helped MCE achieve our successes to date. I feel honoured to accept this award on their behalf,” he said.

“This recognition is truly an honour,” added Ms. Simms. “Surrounding myself with the Genesis team, clients, alumni, partners and wider community is a privilege, and this nomination is a reflection of the collaborative effort of the technology sector in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Mr. Villaumé joined Memorial to help launch MCE in 2016. Under his leadership, the centre has grown from an initial intake of 20 students to more than 300 engaging in MCE programming each year.

In 2019 MCE was named as one of the top five emerging entrepreneurship centres in the world.

“What we have accomplished in the last four years confirms that the entrepreneurial potential of Memorial is very strong …” — Florian Villaumé

Prior to joining Memorial, Mr. Villaumé spent nine years working with Engineers Without Borders Canada in Canada and sub-Saharan Africa, where he helped design and manage five impactful international programs, one of which helped prepare small- and medium-sized enterprises for large-scale investment.

Another focused on developing local leaders and resulted in three participants being officially recognized by former United States President Barack Obama in 2014 and 2015.

“What we have accomplished in the last four years confirms that the entrepreneurial potential of Memorial is very strong, and the acceleration of the impact of student entrepreneurs is starting to be noticed in the region and beyond,” he said. “We will continue to cultivate and expand high-growth entrepreneurship at Memorial — no snowstorms or pandemics will slow us down!”

Passion for entrepreneurs and technology

Ms. Simms joined Genesis in 2002 as a business analyst. After almost 15 years of advising technology companies, she was promoted to vice-president in 2015. The following year she became the centre’s president and CEO.

Michelle Simms
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

With a passion for entrepreneurs and technology, Ms. Simms has brought her skills and experience to such organizations as Oceans Advance, where she served on the board of directors, and the provincial chapter of Ladies Learning Code.

She’s also served on the boards of the Canadian Digital Media Network, the Canadian Association of Business Incubation and Canada’s Centre of Excellence for Next Generation Networks.

At Memorial, Ms. Simms has been on the advisory boards for the Innovation Steering Committee, MCE, Cold Ocean and Arctic Science, Technology and Society (COASTS) and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science’s Industry Advisory Council.

She currently sits on Genesis’ board of directors and is the St. John’s hub lead for Genesis’ women in technology peer group and CEO peer group.

“Memorial is a leader in creating a world-class entrepreneurial community in this province.” — Michelle Simms

Ms. Simms says that having two entrepreneurship leaders win the Top CEO awards demonstrates the important impact that Memorial is having on the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Memorial is a leader in creating a world-class entrepreneurial community in this province,” she said. “Memorial’s collective efforts to support startups resulted in hundreds of companies, thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue directly into our economy.”

Atlantic Business Magazine’s Top 50 CEO Awards ceremony will be held virtually on Sept. 15. Tickets are available here.

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