On this day in 2007, Real Ventures closed an initial $3 million of what would become our first $5M seed fund. As a group of veteran entrepreneurs, the Real team saw both the need — and potential — for early stage investment in promising startups in Montreal. We questioned why Canadian entrepreneurs should have to head to New York or San Francisco for seed funding. As one of our founding partners, John Stokes, likes to say, “brains don’t stop at the border, but early-stage capital historically did.”
So the team rolled up its sleeves to fill that gap: not simply by financing and supporting visionary entrepreneurs, but by helping lay the foundations for the ecosystems in which they can thrive. We created FounderFuel, Canada’s first accelerator program; dreamed big with Notman House, Montreal’s 30,000 square foot entrepreneurial campus; and supported numerous other initiatives, from Startupfest to Startup Drinks and Startup Open House, from C100 to Innocité. Of course, we also spent countless hours working alongside the entrepreneurs whose companies have helped to put our cities on the global startup map, and are proud to have witnessed tech ecosystems across Canada enter the top-20 entrepreneurial hubs.
Today, on our 10th anniversary, we are thrilled to announce our intent to continue to grow and expand across Canada for greater impact over the next decade. The firm has raised new capital totalling $180 million to broaden and deepen its support for the most promising Canadian tech startups and entrepreneurial ecosystems. This brings our funds under management to over $330 million.
The founders we have been fortunate enough to back have built our reputation for us. That, combined with the rising strength of Canadian tech ecosystems, has underpinned investors’ belief in our firm’s ability to deploy this scale of capital. Our vision to build a world-leading venture fund that will help accelerate and elevate the greatest founders and their businesses is within sight. These new funds will enable us to work with a new set of world-class entrepreneurs, and invest at multiple stages of their companies’ lifecycles. Moreover, we can set our focus both broad and deep, looking across Canada for high-potential early stage companies, while also retaining close proximity to newly formed startups, that can then benefit from our stage-specific support.
Real will execute on three distinct investment strategies:
Newly launched companies can take advantage of our accelerator programs: FounderFuel, which is launching its 11th cohort in 2018, and Techstars Toronto — the world-renowned accelerator — which we helped bring to Canada, will run its first program starting in January.
Pre-seed companies can access funding and guidance from our newly formed Orbit strategy, which combines small investments, a tight geographic focus, and stage-specific support. This strategy is being launched today in Montreal — OrbitMTL — and will expand to other Canadian cities in due course.
Early-stage companies can also leverage Real’s significantly increased pool of capital, along with the connections and experience that our team has developed over the past decade. We have team members dedicated to each strategy, so our founders can count on getting the attention and timely help they deserve, whatever stage they are at, and wherever they are in Canada.
We will also continue to back promising founders across industries. While artificial intelligence and blockchain are certainly part of our focus, what we really look for in startup opportunities are solid ideas that can disrupt the status quo, using cutting-edge technology, and with massive growth potential. We look for founders who have strong vision and work ethic; people to whom we can offer backing and guidance, and enable them to soar.
Ten years of experience has also provided better insight into what founders need to succeed, including the vital role of startup ecosystems in helping achieve that success. For that reason, we have committed to donate 20 percent of our carried interest from our OrbitMTL investments to the OSMO Foundation, the not-for-profit initiative created in 2009 to nurture Montreal’s startup ecosystem, owner of Notman House, and organization behind TechAide for Centraide and many other community-building initiatives. As we expand our Orbit strategy into other cities, we will look for similar ecosystem-building organizations to support in a similar manner.
For Alan MacIntosh, founding partner at Real and President of the OSMO Foundation, this building mission is an essential aspect of what we do as a firm. “It starts with the desire to contribute to startup ecosystems in a manner that can benefit all active participants,” said Alan MacIntosh. “This collaborative mindset inspires us to launch initiatives that help rapidly growing tech communities across Canada, and wherever else we might go.”
Looking ahead to another decade of impact, we are excited to bring more visionary founders into our communities and help Canada to shine at this moment of international attention. As Janet Bannister, Toronto-based partner says, “Being part of the Real Family means being part of a collaborative community that understands that by helping each other, we make it better for everyone. It means following our passions and taking measured risks in order to do things that others did not think was possible.”