Friday, May 08, 2009

Venture Capital Breakdown (in Canada)

Here is a cross-post of my comments on today's article from Matt Hartley on "Venture Capital Breakdown" (read first) in Canada on the Globe and Mail... thought a few of my readers here might be interested...
In the early morning the comment system here ate my comment, which has now apparently disappeared into the ether. Since that comment took way too long to post/edit, I'm posting my 2 cents in point form below:  
- Matt, thanks for the very TIMELY article, this is an extremely important issue for the future of Canada  
- Two comments in the article that particularly resonated with me were: 
(1) Kevin's comments about students from UofT that lack the entrepreneurial attitudes compared to Stanford's - albeit an extreme case (in favor of Stanford as a representation of a typical US university) - I absolutely agree with his point. We do not even come CLOSE to doing enough to foster and support entrepreneurial spirit in our culture and education system;  
(2) Rick's comment is spot on - we do not embrace failure as a necessary ingredient of *breakthrough* success. While I have had a couple of small successes, I've had many more failures/learning-experiences (thankfully coming out of them net positive). However, my peers and I know that this is a necessary path (as is the risk capital required to do so at the right time!) to achieving great innovations  
- We took our very first investment money from silicon valley, as that is where we ended up setting up our HQ (and it resulted in us being able to get access to our very early and aggressive investor/fund that ENABLED the venture to get started)  
- That being said, I want to clarify that we DO have a (very unique and fantastic) follow on investor from Canada that came on board several months later that we met in the course of operating our business. They are in the very small minority in Canada, as they have been quietly making some very aggressive and very early stage (i.e. high risk/reward) investments  
- There are glimmers of hope, eg. new incubator initiatives like BootUp Labs in Vancouver, and some very smart & connected early stage investors like Extreme Venture Partners in Toronto. (update: and also things like founders and funders and democamp ... stuff that wasn't around when I was working in the web1.0 startup world in Canada, which has obviously been critical to fostering more innovation and entreprenurial thinking in the region -- and more support for the startup community coming from what would have eariler been much less likely entities such as larger corps. via internal champions like David Crow, Evangalist at Microsoft and less publically via folks such as Mike Lee, Chief Strategist at Rogers).


  1. It's always you -n- me bud. Thanks for the commentary, I appreciate it.

  2. Hi Albert -- thanks for the shout out to Bootup. I'd also add Austin and John Stokes' Montreal Startup fund in Montreal.

    We're a bit more flexible in where in Canada we can do some work - I'm hoping we can do some cross Canada initiatives to help.

    Common themes around celebrating failure and goosing people's attitudes are good to hear - I think we can work together to send that same message.