When a Massive Opportunity Knocks!

Editors Note: This is a guest post by Chris Arsenault (LinkedIn@chrisarsenault) a tech entrepreneur turned venture capitalist. Chris is the Co-Chair of the Canadian Innovation Exchange (CIX), a board member at the Canadian Venture Capital Association (CVCA), a Supporter of the C100, among other things. Follow Chris at chrisarsenault.wordpress.com or on Twitter @chrisarsenault.

CC-BY-20 Some rights reserved by antmoose
Attribution Some rights reserved by antmoose

The last few weeks have certainly proven to be extremely promising for Canadian Tech Entrepreneurs. Almost $80M of equity financing has recently been secured from some of the top investors in the world to help build our next generation of massive tech companies. It’s even more exciting when you realize that these funds are going to three especially young, dynamic and opportunistic companies, all of which are in our backyard!

Beyond the Rack

Beyond the RackYona Shtern, Robert Gold and the team over at Montreal-based Beyond the Rack (“BTR”) lead the way with a whooping $37M financing round that should propel the company to new heights yet unseen on the Canadian eCommerce front. BTR has quickly established itself as an eCommerce leader by showing the market that Canadian companies really do know what a “hockey stick” revenue growth chart looks like. The teams’ ability to build such a big company in such a short time frame has earned them our utmost respect. We initially met the team and reviewed their business plan in late 2008; by 2011, they were already ranked as one of the fastest-growing online retailers in the entire world. Yona was also wise in choosing his investors, be it industry specific angels or great VCs such as Panorama Capital, iNovia Capital, Rho Canada, Tandem Expansion, BDC Venture Capital, Highland Capital Partners, EDC and Montreal Start Up. If you aren’t a Beyond the Rack member, don’t wait – register now, and you’ll be impressed!


Shopify - LogoJust down the road from Montreal is another world class eCommerce team. Ottawa-based Shopify recently closed a $15M second round of financing. Tobias Lutke, Cody Fauser, Daniel Weinand & Harley Finkelstein have developed an industry leading eCommerce platform that is already being used by thousands of leading online retailers around the world. The team, their vision and commitment to execution all combine to make Shopify one of Canada’s tech leaders in an extremely high growth global market. Unfortunately, we missed the boat on the opportunity to work with them, but our friends over at Bessemer Ventures, Firstmark Capital, Felicis Ventures and Georgian Partners were more than happy to come aboard. I’m expecting to see Shopify rise above the tide over the coming years and establish itself as a global leader in its space.


FixmoThe most recent team to announce a substantial equity-financing round is Toronto-based Fixmo. Led by its founders Rick Segal, Shyam Sheth and Joyce Janczyn, Fixmo just announced a $23M round. This investment round included both existing investors (iNovia Capital, Panorama Capital, Rho Canada and Extreme Venture Partners) and an impressive syndicate of new lead investors: Silicon Valley-based Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Washington-based Paladin Capital Group and Hong Kong-based Horizons Ventures. While the company’s core vision has not changed over the last two years, the product development road map has evolved at a rapid pace. Within an extremely short time frame, Fixmo launched a series of Government and Enterprise products, acquired two companies (Conceivium Business Solutions and Chocolate Chunk Apps), established a series of key partnerships and practically jumped ahead of every other Mobile Risk Management solution provider in the market. Obviously, the founders didn’t do it alone, but the sheer fact that Rick was successful in attracting some of the best talent out there (Bruce Gilley, Jonas Gyllensvaan, Tyler Lessard, Lee Cocking, John Yuen and others) speaks to the long term execution ability and potential of Fixmo.

Ambition coupled with Execution

The average tech financing round in Canada is under $4M. Therefore, the aforementioned three companies basically raised as much cash as 20 average Canadian tech startups combined. Obviously, I get nervous when I see a company (portfolio or not) raise such a large chunk of cash. Why? It’s not because I like the small size of the average Canadian financing rounds. Rather, it’s because I think that too much money for a young business can be as bad as or worse than not having enough. $15M-$40M rounds for Canadian tech companies are amongst the largest we have seen this side of the border in over 10 years. That being said, I do also think that Canadian Tech Entrepreneurs are now entering a phase of Ambition coupled with Execution. We have lived through too many years of “lack of ambition”, quickly followed by “lack of execution”, not to mention the much lamented “lack of capital”. However, we are now seeing deals done where massive amounts of ambition and execution converge, and capital is becoming available to build large tech companies right here in our own backyard. With more companies able to raise the amount of funding they truly need to generate hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue, not only we will stop selling our companies short, they won’t need to move down south. Hopefully other investors will note the phenomenon, and future startups won’t have as much trouble raising the capital both from Canada and into Canada. And that’s good for all of us.

At iNovia, when a massive opportunity knocks, we answer! I’m expecting to be sharing a lot more stories about successful Canadian entrepreneurs, and how they’ve built hugely successful companies here as they compete globally for resources, capital and market share. There isn’t much stopping the entrepreneurs driving Canada’s next generation of large tech companies, and for the likes of Beyond the Rack, Shopify, Fixmo and many others, this is just the beginning.

Congratulations to all the teams mentioned in taking important steps on their paths to success!

Below some article worth reading with regards the above companies:

Editors Note: This is a guest post by Chris Arsenault (LinkedIn@chrisarsenault) a tech entrepreneur turned venture capitalist. Chris is the Co-Chair of the Canadian Innovation Exchange (CIX), a board member at the Canadian Venture Capital Association (CVCA), a Supporter of the C100, among other things. Follow Chris at chrisarsenault.wordpress.com or on Twitter @chrisarsenault.

DFAIT Technology Growth Initiative Business Bootcamps

Departement of Foreign Affairs and International TradeDFAIT is sponsoring the Technology Growth Initiative (TGI) Business Bootcamps Spring 2011 to help Canadian companies go-to-market in specific US markets (BostonDenverLos AngelesNew YorkPalo AltoSan DiegoSan Francisco/Silicon Valley and others). The program provides startups with access to webinars, a one day bootcamp session and direct connections with VCs and local entrepreneurs to share experiences and find funding.

The one day bootcamps are being help in April and May 2011 from Halifax to London. The bootcamps are interesting, they provide entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch and get feedback from trusted experts (yeah right I think I served as an “expert” in 2009 ;-). But it is a great opportunity to get a different set of eyes on your pitch. And it plays to the old adage, “how do you know when an entrepreneur is dead? he stops pitching”.

Registration for One Day Business Bootcamp

  • Halifax: April 27th, 2011 – Cleantech and ICT
  • Quebec City: April 28th, 2011 – ICT
  • London: April 29th, 2011 – Cleantech, ICT, Life Sciences
  • Toronto: May 2nd, 2011 – Cleantech, ICT, Life Sciences
  • Ottawa: May 3rd, 2011 – Cleantech, ICT, Life Sciences

There is also the upcoming April 6th, 2011 11:30EST seminar with Mike Grandinetti (he’s also a TechStars mentor) focusing on “Lean and Mean Startups”.

April 6th: 11:30 EST (Upcoming Webinar – Soon)

  1. Lean and Mean Start-ups – Presented by: Mike Grandinetti, Managing Director, Southboro Capital, Boston.
  2. So you think you are ready? – 10 things you need to know before presentation day – A candid talk on presentations gone horribly wrong and how you avoid that – Presented by: Coby Schneider – Miller Thomson & Others.

These are great opportunities to learn about expanding into specific US markets. The DFAIT team brings key players to local markets and makes it easy to establish relationships that allow companies to grow. There are lots of opportunity to criticize some of the efforts, but the team at DFAIT have run this program for the past few years with varied success. It’s worth the time of startups actively looking to expand their customer base (this means that you’re beyond seed stage, you probably have customers, you have a product, you’re looking for a scalable business model) to explore how DFAIT can help.

The event is co-hosted by our sponsors and friends at KPMG are corporate partners helping DFAIT and startups. There are a lot of cross-border issues concerning corporate structure, financing, taxation and other where KPMG can leverage their experience to help early and growth stage companies.

Shelter for startups in Ottawa

Mercury Grove offices

Catwalk at Mercury Grove/NetworkHippo offices

Scott Annan announced he was making available some of the space in the newly acquired NetworkHippo/Mercury Grove office space for startups. It is a raw space located in downtown Ottawa to enable startups and entrepreneurs to come together and share. It embraces the idea that great things come out of the collisions that happen in our communities.

“The idea behind opening up our space is that I think that Ottawa has some of the greatest entrepreneurs, talent, and ideas in the world. But we don’t spend enough time together collaborating on ideas, discussing technology opportunities, or discussing ways we’re changing the world. I think the more we can be surrounded by people who are facing similar challenges (trying to get launched, trying to get noticed, and trying to get paid) the more we can feed off each other’s successes and learn from each other’s experience.”

This is different than a coworking space. It’s an entrepreneur that values the collisions, differing view points and conversations that happen in larger offices. It’s Scott making sure that he and his staff have a unique experience by getting to interact with others in the Ottawa community. It speaks deeply to why we host events like DemoCamp and Founders & Funders. And you can see venture firms in Toronto and Vancouver taking advantage of the opportunities of having others drop in (BootupLabs during Grow Conference; and open door policy at Extreme Venture Partners and office hours with Year One Labs).

If you’re visiting Ottawa make sure that you stop by:

Mercury Grove Startup Shelter
Address: 738A Bank St. (map here)
Phone: 613-237-2071
Email: [email protected]