If there are any clouds on the horizon, they relate to the disappearance of the US / Canadian border when it comes to VC. When I first entered the startup World, you had no choice but to raise seed and series A in Canada. Only then could you tap the US funding markets. That’s no longer the case.
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There is a perception (rightly or wrongly) that US investors are better than Canadian ones. And that given the choice, founders would raise in the US. Whether this is true or not is not the point. It’s the perception and with the borders coming down it represents a real risk to Canadian investors.
Mark did it in the nicest possible way, so a lot of people may not have noticed that he just condemned the entire Canadian VC model. It was something I didn’t even have the guts to do lately, so I was surprised to see Mark call the spade a Spade and get on with the conversation.
The border is gone and the game has changed. Mark argues that Canadian VCs need to pay up more, build their brands and build their networks. That’s a great start.
Canadian entrepreneurs have been told for years to step up and build global companies. It was hard and confusing to hear at first, but I think we’ve managed to do it. Whether it is Tobi in Ottawa, Kirk in Toronto, Ryan in Vancouver, Oleg in Toronto, Mike in Toronto, Kenshi Wilkins and Eric in Vancouver, Yona in Montreal, Temo in Montreal etc etc etc [I’ve missed so many here — more to come on David’s Hot Shit List] — I would argue that Canada is producing more world-class entrepreneurs more quickly than ever before.
We’ve spent the last 10 years being told we weren’t bold enough and need to think bigger. The argument has shifted and our startups now know what it means to be world class and they are doing it.
It’s time for the Canadian VCs to step up and do the same.
It doesn’t take nearly as much to get a US based VC to take a look at a Canadian deal anymore. If they have never done a deal in Canada before they usually have a friend who is just a call away who has and it can be demystified pretty quickly. The legal headaches are gone as well.
If you are a VC in Canada, focused on the Canadian market, then you have far more competition for deals now than you did even a few years ago and the job is more thankless than it has ever been.
Entrepreneurs are going to start telling a story about under-paying, small thinking and isolated VCs. As US VCs roll off the redeyes in to Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and elsewhere it should be you who is bringing them to town to see great deals which are priced right and which are built to succeed from right here in Canada.
The challenge is that you, like the entrepreneurs you fund, now have to be world class. That probably means being on a plane more often and pulling the trigger on deals within days, not months.
Nobody should start a VC fund in Canada today unless they want to work as hard or harder than any startup founder they will fund. It is no longer a job for ex-bankers and management consulting dropouts. The job is hard, mostly thankless, and more competitive than ever.
That’s why I love this shakeout we have undergone and the one that is continuing today. VC in Canada had to go through the wringer so that we could end up with a handful of the best and most capable operators who can help springboard Canada further on to the world stage. We aren’t going to do it through myopic provincial funds, big corporate funds or economic development agencies.
It’s going to happen through hungry hustler GPs who have something to prove and only a little time to do it in.
Canadian VCs need to be startups themselves, because in the end only Startups can save venture capital in Canada.