Left to right: Roula Zaarour, Lauren Jane Heller, Sam Haffar and Isaac Souweine.

Real Ventures aims to make greater impact with new team members and promotions

Since Real Ventures launched its first $5M fund in November 2007, the focus of the firm — and basis of our reputation and success — has been on our ability to serve entrepreneurs, and help build the ecosystems in which they thrive. When we first launched, the startup scene in Canada’s major cities was dispersed and fledgling, and funding for early-stage companies was predominantly found south of the border. We wanted to change that. We wanted to help fund innovative companies from the outset, and develop the latent potential we saw in Canada’s entrepreneurial communities.

Now, almost ten years into our evolution, we have reached a scale where we can both continue to impact visionary founders, their companies, and the startup ecosystems across Canada, and also improve our operational efficiency and communications, to the benefit of our stakeholders, and (we hope!) the entire Canadian startup community.

Today, we are thrilled to announce the addition of Roula Zaarour, our inaugural Chief Operating Officer, and Lauren Jane Heller, our first Director of Communications, to the Real team.

Roula has a background in organizational effectiveness and restructuring, and we brought her in to help grow the firm and lay the groundwork and platforms for further success. We needed someone with insight to the goals and objectives of a fund manager, as well as strong operational experience. Roula has both in spades.

Her time at the CBC/Radio-Canada as VP People & Culture under a major restructuring plan, and leading the implementation of the transformation plan at Aerolineas Argentinas, showed us that she is a strong and effective leader, with an understanding of how to align and motivate people to the benefit of the entire organization. She is a joy to work with, and also believes strongly in our commitment to growing and nurturing tech entrepreneurs and the Canadian tech ecosystem.

As well as expanding our team and cementing our internal culture, we feel it’s vital to share our initiatives and beliefs with those outside the companies and startup communities we touch. We want to have an impact on people’s mindset about ecosystem development, and without improving the quality of messaging and exposure we provide, our philosophy would be unheard.

Lauren’s experience as a journalist, specifically at Betakit, writing about the happenings in the world of tech startups, meant that she understood how our work can impact entrepreneurs and their companies. Her work as a writer at Transit, one of our portfolio companies, and time as a community organizer for HackerNest, a global tech-community-focused non-profit, indicated to us that she not only knows the startup community and mindset, but also the value of ecosystem development. Most importantly, Lauren already understood how to effectively communicate with our primary audience, and we hope that this role will give her a bigger platform with which to make an impact.

In addition to these two new hires, we have also promoted two of our current team, Sam Haffar and Isaac Souweine, from Principal and EIR (respectively), to Partner. Both have proved themselves as passionate and effective mentors and investment professionals, and with the growth of our firm, we felt the timing was right for their titles to reflect their level of commitment and expertise.

Sam came to Montreal with experience at multiple high growth startups in Silicon Valley. Moving with his girlfriend (now wife) to her hometown, he instantly inserted himself into the the Montreal startup ecosystem as a volunteer, mentoring startups and FounderFuel companies for free. We recognized immediately that his skill set and experience would be valuable to any company he worked with, and brought him on as a Principal. He’s led numerous deals, been active on multiple boards, and has built a strong reputation for being fiercely passionate, insightful, and willing to roll up his sleeves and provide networks and relationships to the companies he works with. Though based in Montreal, Sam will be looking at deals across Canada.

Isaac likewise came to Montreal with strong startup experience, gained mainly in Asia Pacific. Like Sam, he came here because of his wife, who was offered a professorship at McGill. When we met, we could immediately tell that he had a lot of energy and would add significant value to any startup. We introduced him to Frank And Oak, where he led their product team. He then helped Sonder through one of its growth periods, and was simultaneously involved as a mentor at FounderFuel, where he was consistently ranked in the top-three most valuable mentors. When we were looking for a new General Manager for FounderFuel, Isaac was the clear choice. He joined as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence with a particular focus on running FounderFuel. With the experience he gained, we felt he was teed up to focus on our pre-seed stage investing. As Partner, Isaac will now lead deals in addition to his continued role as General Manager of FounderFuel.

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