Posts tagged Venture Capital

Explaining the ‘lack of’ Venture Capital in Toronto

I figured it would be appropriate to write about the lack of a growing and robust venture capital community in Toronto since it cropped up in three places over the last 2 days  – once with several folks at Startup Drinks last night, today over coffee with Jeremy Laurin of OCE’s Investment Accelerator Fund and on Quora (the new social network launched by the ex-CTO of Facebook). On a side note, Quora is actually pretty snazzy with super-high-quality people.

Back to the main point of this thread — I’ve been talking about this situation for roughly 3.5 years now — first in the biotech/life science VC community in Toronto and now with the ICT community. I believe there is one problem at the root of both sectors — we need a kick-start in Canada.

What does that mean, a kick-start? Well, most people believe that there is a fundamental funding gap in Toronto’s venture community between pioneering research (in universities, by startups, etc…) and venture capital finance-able deals. That may be the case, but that is a different argument for a different day. I believe there is a more substantial funding gap that exists once a ’successful Canadian company’ reaches the point of raising a round of capital greater than $15 million. The existing VCs in the community (generally) just can’t get those kinds of deals done. It’s not in our Canadian cards (given the average fund size, risk thresholds, etc…). Canadians need later-stage financing options (or Government money) to back those deals and to create a better later-stage ecosystem.

So, what happens instead? Great Canadian companies knock on the doors of VCs South of the border who are flushed with cash and willing to invest larger amounts in later rounds. For the record, I love US VCs. However, for the purpose of this discussion, or monologue rather, they have tended to bring companies close to home to minimize their geographical risk with the investment. Now, as companies continue to grow and are eventually sold, the successful founders and key employees of those companies often (not always) stay South of the border to further progress their careers — joining US companies, or launching other companies in those locales. Worse for Canada, those successful folks often reinvest in US VC funds or Angel invest in other local US companies rather than Canadian startups.

Envision that cycle reoccurring over and over for the last 30 years. The trend becomes large enough that a substantial amount of capital, and human capital for that matter, gets lost from the Canadian startup ecosystem.

Some say that there is a lack of venture capital in Toronto because there just aren’t great deals. I disagree. I think that there is a lot of talent in Toronto and in the surrounding areas, like Waterloo for example.

Now, the scenario I’ve described may not be the only reason for the lack of capital in Toronto (or Canada), but I feel that it is a significant part of the problem. What are your thoughts?

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Larry Cheng Updates Global VC Blog List

Larry Cheng updated his Global VC Blog list today (originally posted in May 2009 as top-100 in Google Reader subscriptions) and has re-ranked the global top VC blogs by average monthly unique visitors on compete.com for Q4 2009 (oct+nov+dec)/3.

As per the latest global VC blog listing, Fred Wilson from Union Square Ventures (Blog: A VC) took the top spot, shifting Guy Kawasaki from Garage Technology Ventures (Blog: How To Change The World) into second place.

Here’s the top 1012 for Q4 2009:

  1. Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures, A VC (100,279)
  2. Guy Kawasaki, Garage Technology Ventures, How To Change The World (82,838)
  3. Paul Graham, YCombinator, Essays (71,924)
  4. Brad Feld, Foundry Group, Feld Thoughts (45,633)
  5. Mark Suster, GRP Partners, Both Sides of the Table (39,389)
  6. Bill Gurley, Benchmark Capital, Above The Crowd (23,084)
  7. Dave McClure, Founders Fund, Master of 500 Hats (21,462)
  8. Josh Kopelman, First Round Capital, Redeye VC (12,972)
  9. Bijan Sabet, Spark Capital, Bijan Sabet (12,451)
  10. Jeremy Liew, Lightspeed Ventures Partners, LSVP (12,097)
  11. Mark Peter Davis, DFJ Gotham Ventures, Venture Made Transparent (12,010)
  12. Larry Cheng, Volition Capital, Thinking About Thinking (11,851)

I kept 12 for obvious reasons. Check out the full list.

Larry, thanks for keeping tabs on all these metrics — it’s a great service to everyone looking to find knowledge in the VC and startup domains. The only problem with this methodology is that compete.com tracks only US traffic, while the blog listing is global in scope. Perhaps your next update in April 2010 can use Alexa rankings or some other novel solution.

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ExtremeU Pitch Day

Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend ExtremeU Pitch Day, put on by Extreme Venture Partners (EVP). The attendance was filled with VCs, Angels, media and members of the EVP team to listen to pitches from the 3 graduates of their first class at Extreme University. Those graduates were Assetize, Uken Games and Locationary.

ExtremeU was a summer technology start-up program that focuses on industry networking, technology mentoring and delivering a product to potential investors after only 12 weeks. The intensive program was led by Farhan Thawar (Dean of ExtremeU), who is also the VP Engineering at Xtreme Labs.

Assetize

Assetize helps Twitter users monetize their content stream by displaying ads from Google AdSense and other ad networks into your Twitter stream. They are hoping to be the AdSense of blogs, but on Twitter. Assetize will share revenue with content publishers (content publishers receive 60%). The company has a content analysis and targeting algorithm as well as an ad-matching algorithm that helps advertisers reach targeted audiences. Since they began coding 3 months ago, Assetize already publishes 15,000 messages per day across all channels and has published approximately 56 million ads to-date. Some early competitors in this space include Sponsored Tweets, Ad.ly and Magpie.

Uken Games

Uken Games, founded by Chris Ye and Mark Lampert, creates social games. Their first game is called SuperHeroes Alliance and is based on the Facebook platform, they have also recently launched an iPhone version of the application (with data synced on the server-side so that you can play the same game across platforms). Since their launch in March 2009, they have amassed 130,000 total users and over 50,000 monthly active users (MAUs). Even in their early days, they have found that people will pay for virtual goods for a whole host of reasons, and that a couple of users even spent over $2,000 to compete against others in the system. So far, they have been working hard to build their “Adaptive Game Engine” and they plan to use this the churn out more game in more verticals (that will remain nameless due to confidentiality). Look out for some more interesting games from Uken.

Locationary

Locationary is an interesting and massive undertaking, taken-on by Grant Ritchie, to create “The World’s Place Database … Created by You.” Essentially, the company is trying to create the Wikipedia of the YellowPages by crowdsourcing the information and subsequent updates and generating incentive through game mechanics and point-scoring systems.  So far the company has cataloged over 100,000 places. Locationary has ambitious goals (I like to see that) of having 15 million placed indexed within the next 12 months and 100 million places indexed within 2 years. This is a very difficult space and I wish the company good luck in getting the public to be their puppeteer!

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Top 100 Networked VCs

As a follow-up to a prior post, Global VC Blog Directory (blogs written/managed by over 100 VCs), I found an excellent on TechCrunch that discusses the Top-100 Networked VCs.

If you’re fundraising, or thinking of fundraising, I highly suggest that you take a look at these firms.

Here are the top 10:
1. Draper Fisher Jurvetson
2. Sequoia Capital
3. Accel Partners
4. Intel Capital
5. First Round Capital
6. Dag Ventures
7. New Enterprise Associates
8. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
9. Benchmark Capital
10. Ron Conway

(via TechCrunch; full article here.)

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