John Ruffolo joins OMERS to manage new Venture Capital arm

Some great news for Ontario, and the national startup community, today. We are hearing from multiple sources that John Ruffolo will be joining OMERS as Senior Vice President of Knowledge Investing. He will start in the position on January 3rd 2011.

This position, which is focused on managing direct Venture Capital investments, has been the subject of speculation since OMERS announced that they planned to take a similar direct investment model with Venture Capital as they have with Private Equity deals, which has been a successful model for them so far. Pension and other labour sponsored funds like OMERS have historically taken Limited Partner positions in third-party funds (the VC funds you know and love already) and this hands-on approach is unique in Canada.

John Ruffolo was previously a Managing Partner at Deloitte’s Toronto office and he conducted the survey of Canadian VC GPs that we wrote about earlier.

John’s reputation is positive and his knowledge of both the past and current startup and Venture Capital environment in Canada is unique. It is great to see things moving ahead in the development of a new capital source for startups in Canada.

Has KIK finally arrived?

I have been using kik pretty much since it launched last April. It was particularly useful for me because I was spending most of my week in the US at that time and kik allowed me to TXT back home while avoiding Rogers/Fido/Telus/Bell’s atrocious $1/message TXT roaming fees.

The kik app was always very solid and rarely crashed, but there were often delivery problems, even on kik-to-kik messaging. It also seemed to eat up a lot of battery on the IPhone and Blackberry. Those problems seem to be in the past however and it doesn’t seem to affect my battery life anymore.

kik seems to have finally taken off. So much so that they are signing up an average of 3 users per second and the team is struggling just to keep their servers online. They have published a few graphs showing their signup volume and it is impressive. The sudden drop resulted from kik having to take their servers offline and their app out of the app store.

As it stands, kik is Blackberry Messenger, but it works on Blackberry, IPhone and Android. I have tried it on all platforms, and they all seem to be equally good.

There are a handful of other multi-device messengers, such as whatsapp, and it is hard to figure out exactly what the kik business model might be in the end. They originally talked about some sort of music streaming/sales business, but it is hard to tell if that is still the plan, and frankly I am not sure that my private messaging and music worlds should be mixed up like that.

Whatever model kik does eventually settle on, it is probably worthwhile for them to focus on continuing the growth they are now achieving.

Kik came out of Velocity at The University of Waterloo, which we have covered in the past.