Sorry, Canada’s Startup Landscape Isn’t Sexy….Yet

It must have been quite the party last week at the Canadian Venture Capital Association’s annual meeting in Montreal.

In stark contrast to previous years, it seems attendees were downright giddy about the venture capital landscape and where it’s heading. It may be that after several years of bad news, a glimmer of good news was enough to spark a wave of optimism and high-fives.

What seemed to send everyone over the top was a comment by Jit Sinha, a senior partner of JMI Equity in Baltimore, who declared Canada to be “sexy” on a panel aptly title “Is Canada Sexy Now?”. You know nothing gets people more excited than be called “sexy”.

But is Canada really “sexy”, or just starting to look good after everyone has got caught up in the excitement after a few drinks? Compared with a few years ago, Canada is definitely more alluring but I’m not so sure about the “sexy”.

Here’s the thing: The Canadian VC landscape is looking more promising. A couple of new funds were launched last week by Rho Ventures and Celtic House, and there seems to be more interest from U.S. investors. At the same time, however, there are holes in the ecosystem that can’t be papered over by bubbly enthusiasm.

While there is definitely more support for early-stage startups (Thank you, FounderFuel, GrowLab, Extreme Venture Partners, et al), there’s a still dearth of growth capital. After the dozens of startups graduate from the accelerators and incubators, how much capital will there be domestically to help them thrive and realize their potential? Without growth capital, the growth market will be similar to what the seed landscape was like a few years ago.

For more thoughts on the Canadian VC landscape, check out Jevon MacDonald’s post on StartupNorth about how Canadian VCs better get their acts together to stay competitive with U.S. counterparts. Mark MacLeod kicked things off with a great post about the state of the VC landscape, and how it’s time to take things to the next level.

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  • Abdallah Al-Hakim


    Very good post to counteract the overhype about the Canadian startup scene. I think Mark McLeod’s piece was well balanced. Also, during Eric Ries visit to Toronto, he was asked what Silicon Valley thought of Canadian startups and he admitted that we don’t have much traction in the valley (much like anyone else from outside valley).

    Still, I see many positive signs for the future of Canadian startups but defintely entrepreneurs, investors and Canadian business schools will need to raise their game.

  • Jesse Rodgers

    Why is it sexy? A dozen startups raise capital from US VCs and the country gets sexy? I think there is a lot of talent to build something sexy but there is work to do. 

    It is kinda like saying sales are looking good when you have no idea what the funnel looks like. Is there a funnel of promising startups? Maybe. There is certainly a lot of noise.

    • Mark Evans

      You’re right, there is still lots of work to be done, and there are still holes in the ecosystem. Canadian startups are “sexy” when put in context given it wasn’t that long ago the startup scene was far from vibrant. Thanks for the comment.


  • Mark Evans

    Jay: Apologies for the late reply. I think programs that can bolster and nurture Canadian startups is a good thing. In an ideal world, it would be great if Canadian startups could get everything need in Canada but, for the time being, going to Silicon Valley can help in many ways. Thanks for the comment.

  • jordan heels

    Ah, thanks for the peek. I don’t get as much time to post these days. Always nice to know others are

    reading. Happy Spring :)