Mantella Venture Partners Launches

Mantella VP & Basecamp Labs

Mantella Venture Partners launched today. It’s a $20MM early stage technology fund based in Toronto.

“Unlike most venture funds that are supported by institutional investors, this one is backed by Mantella Corporation, a family owned commercial and residential real estate developer who has been entrenched in the GTA market since 1946. The fund is also focused on the concept of ‘hands-on capital’, ensuring that early-stage entrepreneurs get the hands-on support they need at every stage of a company’s creation and growth to help facilitate”

The main investment partners are Robin Axon and Duncan Hill. Robin is ex-Ventures West and Ducan was an EiR at Ventures West and previously had founded Think Dynamics (acquired by IBM back in 2003). They also run Basecamp Partners/Labs where they have been incubating PushLife, Chango and a couple of other startups.

It’s interesting to see an emerging breed of Canadian incubators and small funds like Mantella VP, Extreme VP/Xtreme Labs, Bootup Labs, Flow Ventures, Montreal Startup, Wesley Clover, LeadtoWin, and others. All of these have very different models and motivations. But they exhibit the need many startups have in both getting to Product/Market Fit and then the business development and go-to-market efforts. Both of these efforts require capital, and it’s great to see VCs that traditionally don’t get their hands dirty with operational details down in the weeds.

Full press release below.

TORONTO—March 2, 2010—Mantella Venture Partners announced today the formation and launch of a $20M investment fund to support early stage technology ventures in Ontario. Mantella Venture Partners is a collaboration between Basecamp Labs, a private early stage technology accelerator, and Mantella Corporation, an established family-owned commercial and residential real estate developer in the Greater Toronto Area.

Mantella Venture Partners will invest in entrepreneurs who are building early stage mobile and Internet software companies, helping them to get their ideas from conception to market. Through the Basecamp Labs accelerator, Mantella Venture Partners will provide hands-on support at every stage of a company’s creation and growth – from business development and marketing to financing and team development – to help facilitate early market traction.

Mantella Venture Partners is managed by Robin Axon and Duncan Hill, the founding partners of Basecamp Labs, experienced venture investors and company creators who have been involved in multiple successful venture exits to companies like IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Siemens.

“For the past few years, we’ve seen a steady decline in Canadian venture capital deal flow, the number of VC-backed firms, and the average investment size,” says Axon.  “In fact, according to a recent CVCA report on the industry, investment levels in 2009 were the lowest they’ve been in 13 years.”

“But innovation is still thriving,” says Hill. “With the venture market in such a state of flux, the timing could not be better for the launch of a new fund that is focused on both early-stage investing and providing the hands-on support entrepreneurs need to ensure market success.”

The existing Basecamp Labs portfolio includes two companies: Chango, an ad buying platform for direct response advertisers; and Pushlife, a mobile entertainment platform for mobile operators.

“The value of combining capital with guidance and support from a team with extensive experience building companies, can be seen in the progress of our first portfolio companies,” says Robert Mantella, president and CEO of Mantella Corporation. “Robin and Duncan are experienced investors and entrepreneurs who are passionate about technology and know what it takes for a start-up to succeed. Together we can breathe new life into a changing venture industry.”

Duncan Hill was the Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Think Dynamics, a developer of data centre automation software that was acquired by IBM in May 2003. He spent two years at IBM driving strategy for early enterprise cloud computing. Most recently, Hill served as Entrepreneur in Residence at Ventures West; was an independent director for RapidMind (acq. by Intel August ’09); and was executive advisor to Opalis (acq. by Microsoft December ’09). He currently serves on the Chango board of directors and on executive advisory boards at Pushlife, ServiceMesh, Cirba, Embotics, and the Velocity program at the University of Waterloo.

Prior to founding Basecamp Labs with Duncan Hill, Robin Axon was a partner at Ventures West on the IT and communications team. Before that, Axon was at MD Robotics (formerly Spar Aerospace) and the Canadian Space Agency, where he helped to prepare the Canadarm2 for installation onto the International Space Station. Axon has served on the boards of a number of technology companies including: QuickPlay Media, RapidMind (acq. by Intel August ’09), AudienceView, Fortiva (acq. by Proofpoint ‘08), Chantry Networks (acq. by Seimens ‘03), Belair Networks and Instrumar.

About Mantella Venture Partners
Mantella Venture Partners is a $20M early stage investment fund with a hands-on approach to building technology companies in high growth markets.  The fund invests in founders focused on creating market-altering mobile and Internet software businesses, and surrounds them with an ecosystem of passionate, experienced operators that drive early market engagement into sustainable business success. Mantella Venture Partners will invest up to $500k at inception with the ability to support subsequent rounds as required. It is managed by Robin Axon and Duncan Hill, experienced venture investors and company creators who’ve been involved in multiple successful venture exits to companies like IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Siemens. Additional information is available at