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Bull Power 50: VC Firms

The Power 50 is a collection of Canada’s top people, places and things of 2016. Our list is filled with game changers from all corners of the nation that are inspiring, innovating and influencing the way we live and work from the top. Giving you the best from every city, industry, office and home, The Bull’s Canadian Power 50 is not your typical list and instead is the definitive guide to who and what is changing the way Canada lives, works and plays. 

Slowly, but surely, Canada is establishing itself as a tech mecca. With the Canadian arms of both Google and Facebook recently investing heavily in new and updated spaces, it’s safe to say that the world is taking notice of our brewing industry. Amidst this area, there exists a handful of venture capitalist firms who are backing some of today’s most exciting startup companies. Here are a few that you should know about:

13. Real Ventures 

by Brendan Louis

Getting a company started, let alone funded, in Canada isn’t easy. Enter Real Ventures, Canada’s most active and successful early-stage seed capital investor. Taking risks on ideas and people, Real Ventures has made a habit of spotting the next big thing and providing funds as well as guidance to make entrepreneur’s dreams realities. 

Founded in Montreal in 2007 by a group of business founders, engineers and operators, the Real Ventures team has since grown to 16 and expanded across the country. With a focus on investing in early-stage companies that are redefining and distrupting markets, Real likes to get into business with entrepreneurs early in order utilize their team and network to help that company experience rapid growth. 

With successes already in various industries like health (League), retail (Frank & Oak) and Fintech (Fundthrough), expect Real to continue to put founders first in 2016 while continuing to grow their portfolio.

Trust us, Real Ventures Fund III, raised last year to the tune of $89 million dollars, will ensure their relevance, and a strong start up community for years to come.

14. BDC Capital

by Sissi Wang

Canada’s only financial institution dedicated to helping Canadian entrepreneurs is also a major venture capital investor. Since 2000, BDC Venture Capital, a subsidiary of the Business Development Bank of Canada, has made 258 investments in 175 companies of various stages in the IT, healthcare, industrial and energy sectors, and helped two companies go to market and 41 exit through acquisition. With more than $1.6 billion under management, BDC Capital takes a patient approach to investing, and aims to guide a company’s development over the long term.

In February, BDC Capital launched its second IT Venture Fund aimed to support mature startups in the the mobile, Internet, cloud computer and financial technology space that have grown out of their seed round funding and are looking to secure additional capital for the next stage of growth. It has already made 11 investments upon its announcement in companies like Waterloo’s Axonify, Vancouver’s Cymax and Montreal’s Hopper.

BDC Capital not only invests in Canadian tech companies, but also other private sector fund managers, who in turn invest in Canadian technology. It’s also working closely with the Government of Canada to deploy another $400 million through the Venture Capital Action Plan to back the sector. The firm’s sole purpose, as stated in its mission statement, is to help create and develop strong Canadian businesses.

14. JLABS

by Brendan Louis

Johnson & Johnson is a nearly 130 year-old American company that has brought science and innovation to the forefront of the modern economy as we know it today. As one of the biggest companies in the world, their commitment to innovation has always been applauded throughout the entrepreneurial community and this has manifested itself quite nicely in JLABS.

Originally launched in the US to provide early stage investment to companies, JLABS is primed to innovate in the health and technology fields by providing them with capital and some of the key advantages of being at a big company, all while preserving an entrepreneur’s vision.


Why is this so important to the Canadian landscape? Because Johnson & Johnson recently launched JLABS Toronto in the MaRS Discovery District to provide Canadian startups the opportunity to leverage all the advantages and resources JLAB companies have come to expect.  As the first JLABS to open outside of the US, up to 50 startups will have the opportunity to benefit from the immense amount of talent, mentors, resources and suppliers that no VC in Canada can today boast.

16. OMERS Ventures

by Sissi Wang

Canadian entrepreneurs have a lot to thank OMERS Ventures for. After the recession, venture capital spending had dropped to its lowest point since 2003, leaving Canadian startups with little hope of making it. OMERS Ventures was founded in 2011 in Toronto to jumpstart the startup scene. The venture capital arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, sixth largest pension fund in the country, was seeded with $210 million to invest in promising startups that can eventually be listed on stock markets. So far, it has only listed one of the 26 companies in its portfolio. Ottawa-based e-commerce firm Shopify was listed in Toronto and New York last year, and became one of a handful of companies in Canada that have reached a billion dollar valuation.

According to market sources, social media software provider Hootsuite, educational software provider D2L and online building materials retailer BuildDirect are seen among those closest to listing, and are postulated to reach a billion dollar in valuation soon. Vision Critical and Wattpad are also getting there.

Since OMERS Ventures’ success, foreign investors have started to turn their attention to Canadian startups, and injected much-needed capital into the sector helping Canadian entrepreneurs all around. In 2015, Canadian startups raised a total of $2.25 billion, almost four times more than the amount in 2010, and the highest since before the financial crisis, according to figures from the Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association.