First, the good news about Canada’s venture capital landscape. In 2011, investment activity climbed to the highest level in four years ($1.5-billion), a 34% increase from 2010, although it is still significantly below the record activity ($2.1-billion) reached in 2007.
The bad news is there’s still not enough supply to meet rising demand, plagued by “continued weakness” when it comes to fund-raising.
The good news-bad news scenario was spelled out in the Canadian Venture Capital Association’s annual report. For those of us in the glass half-full camp, the increase in investment and the number of deal is cause for optimism.
As well, 2011 saw a spike in M&A activity with 34 deals, including two each by Google, Facebook, Zynga and Salesforce.com. And there was a flurry of incubators and accelerators established, including Extreme Startups last week.
Before anyone gets carried away, Canada’s venture capital landscape is a long, long way from being solid, let alone robust. There’s still not enough venture capital for seed, series A or major rounds. And don’t expect U.S. investors to pick up the slack.
In a press release, CVCA president Gregory Smith said there is concern about whether enough fund-raising can be dong to support the demand for investments. This situation was illustrated by the fact new commitments to Canadian VCs were flat last year at $1-billion.
“Canada has a historic opportunity to become an innovation leader,” Smith said, adding that “in order to act decisively on this opportunity, we must first overcome challenges to supplying VC funds that, in turn, supply entrepreneurs.”
So what’s the solution? How can Canada’s venture capital community do a better job of supporting the startup community? There is not easy answer to a problem that has been around a long time and doesn’t look to be changing any time soon. It’s not going to be an easy fix from government or U.S. investors or institutional investors waking up to the idea of venture capital investing.
Perhaps the answer to the problem is this: success. If more startups and mature high-tech companies are acquired, that could (emphasis on “could”) encourage investors (angels, VCs and institutional) to get more involved. Success has a strange way of helping people to see the light or new opportunities that they otherwise would have dismissed or not seriously considered.
That said, success is a double-edged sword. Without enough financial support, it is hard for startups to have enough powder to become acquisition targets. If they’re not interesting targets, there’s no acquisitions and, likely, less interest from investors.
So which side of the fence do you sit on? Are you bull or a bear about Canada’s VC landscape?