ENTREVESTOR: Armoyan wants more participation in new economy


George Armoyan feels like he’s gone back to school every time he attends a Creative Destruction Lab session.

Armoyan was trained as an engineer and has made his fortune in real estate development. Yet he is now one of the fellows at CDL-Atlantic and is becoming more involved with the program in Toronto. That means this developer is getting more involved in innovation, and he’s part of a trend.

Armoyan would like to see more participation in the new economy from people in industries that have been around for generations.

“They should be looking at it more,” Armoyan said in an interview.

“Most of us traditional industry guys are technology laggards so you have to have the desire and willingness to look at new things, to expand beyond your own experience. For me, it’s like going back to school again. You learn a lot.”

Armoyan is best known as the executive chairman of Clarke Inc. and the president of GeoSam Capital. Though he cut his teeth in development in the Halifax area, he said he now spends about 20 per cent of his time throughout the East Coast as his companies are involved in projects in Toronto and Montreal. During the interview, he was at one of his job sites in Montreal, where a few hundred workers are erecting one of his projects.

Armoyan’s involvement with new technologies includes investments in 35 young companies in Atlantic Canada and other parts of the world. He’s also spending more time mentoring entrepreneurs.

He was coy about what companies he is backing, but one is Harbr. The Halifax company is developing mobile technology that uses artificial intelligence to help construction companies perfect such tasks as scheduling. Harbr raised $1.75 million this year in a funding round that Armoyran co-led.

As well as bringing capital, which is a blessing for most startups, Armoyan and his team are able to work with Harbr by using its platform on their construction projects and providing invaluable feedback.

Armoyan said he enjoys meeting the bright young people heading these companies, and he was surprised to learn how advanced the ecosystem is in developing these companies.

Given that he’s involved in CDL cohorts in Halifax and Toronto, he’s starting to see different entrepreneurs working on the same idea. But, overall, he said he’s impressed with the array and depth of innovation he’s witnessed.

One thing he enjoys bringing to discussions with young entrepreneurs is real experience in moving projects forward. The entrepreneurs who launch startups are often approaching their ventures with an appreciation of the potential of technology, but they need help in understanding what it takes to get into the market. For a product targeting construction, for example, they have to understand that projects are complicated by finances, engineering challenges and NIMBYism.

“By working with them, it allows them to come into our offices and see how can they practise some of their theories,” said Armoyan.

Disclosure: CDL-Atlantic is a client of Entrevestor.