Ontario’s Emerging Technologies Fund: Progress Report

Suzie Dingwall Williams is a Techvibes Guest Contributor and this post was published yesterday on Venture Law Lines.

With a mandate to spend $50 million a year, Ontario’s Emerging Technologies Fund should be the busiest tech investor in the province right now. And after a slow start, it looks like things might be picking up.

On June 10 the OETF quietly announced two matching investments: first, in b5 Media, long-time portfolio company of Brightspark Capital and JA Albright Ventures, and a second investment in Energate, a clean-tech play backed by Montreal-based Cycle Capital Management. These matching investments brings to 6 the total number of announced deals by OETF since its inception in 2009. The Fund notes on its website that it has 9 conditionally committed co-investments deals that will result in $16.77 million being invested this year.

The list of qualified investors who wish to access matching money now stands at 13, with all but two of them local players. The public record suggests that OETF has not yet succeeded in attracting new foreign investors to Ontario. I don’t think this is the case, but regardless, it needs to change, and soon. Roughly half of the qualified investors are at the end of their current funds. Given the current LP market, they are not likely to raise new funds anytime soon, which menas that while their status with OETF is good news for existing VC portfolio companies, it does not do much for new start-ups.

Now, those of you who know me know that I am now a big fan of OETF, which has participated in matching investments for some of my clients. Right now, John Marshall is my personal Elvis. But I think we as a community need to consider how to lever OETF’s spending success to date to aggressively seek additional qualified investors.