Canada’s venture capital crisis explored

Canadian Business's Economy of the Future series tackles Canada's innovation problems, one of which is VC funding.

(Photo: REB Images/Getty)

A couple months back, I couldn’t help but notice an editorial on Canada’s innovation problem in Canadian Business magazine. In it, James Cowan wrote about how Canadians like to talk about innovation providing the economy of the future, but we aren’t actually doing much to promote it.

Rather than dwell on the problems, however, the magazine launched a special “Economy of the Future” series that aims to spotlight case studies of people and companies who were doing things right, and how they could act as examples to others. Staff writer Rachel Mendleson kicked things off with a great story about how some teachers are bringing a different approach to the classroom.

Having observed and written about many of these problems for years, I knew I had to get in on the action. One of the big problems, I’ve found, is the dwindling amount of venture capital available to new Canadian companies. While it’s great for individuals to have ideas for innovative new products and services, they’re not likely to get anywhere unless they can get funding to turn them into inventions.

By many accounts, venture capital funding in Canada has been shrinking for years, which on the face of it is very bad news. With less and less money available to fund innovative businesses, there’s going to be fewer of them. Rather than coming up with the next Google or Amazon, Canadians will have to continue digging in the ground or chopping down trees for their prosperity.

I tackle this issue in the new issue of the magazine, out yesterday (here’s the online version). In the spirit of the series, rather than harping on the shrinking funding, I talked to a number of startup companies—Toronto-based Clickfree and SecureKey and Edmonton-based Empire Avenue—that have been successful in attracting venture capital money to find out how they did it. Executives from all three companies agreed that innovative Canadian startups can still find money, but unlike their American cousins—which often have such funds thrown at them—they have to work at building a proper business first.

Check out the story to discover why that’s not necessarily a bad thing.