Inovia’s first Discovery Fund backs the next generation of VC funds in their mission to identify and nurture high-potential startups at the pre-seed and seed stages. We sat down with these emerging managers to discuss their vision, their approach, and what they look for in a pitch.
Alex is not a newcomer to the startup and investment arena, boasting credentials like co-founding TechTO and leading the Canadian debut of AngelList Ventures. His early days in the venture space took him through startups in San Francisco, New York and London, eventually making significant strides in Canada. With notable endeavors such as co-founding HomeSav and playing a pivotal role at Simply Business in London, Alex brings a uniquely informed perspective to the table.
Armed with a BCom from McGill University and an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Alex’s journey spans over two decades, covering operations, advisory roles, and investments.
Join us as Alex shares his vision, methodology, and knowledge from his time in venture capital.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO FOCUS ON THE EARLY STAGES OF INVESTMENT?
It’s fundamentally a mix of three elements:
- Investment Opportunity: Early-stage VC in Canada represents an unparalleled value- creation opportunity in the market. Given the historically conservative nature of the Canadian investment ecosystem, there’s a unique chance to support overlooked sectors and champion unconventional founders.
- Adding Value: Having been a McKinsey consultant and understanding early-stage dynamics, I can genuinely help founders, especially those in the initial stages of their entrepreneurial journey.
- Personal Joy: I’ve always enjoyed being part of the startup ecosystem. It’s an intellectual journey where I can share valuable insights and continue learning.
TELL US ONE OR TWO THINGS THAT MAKE YOUR FUND UNIQUE
We pride ourselves on a proactive approach to deal sourcing. Relying on platforms like TechTO and AngelList, we initiate conversations with founders long before they’re set to pitch, granting us a vantage point into emerging startups. This proactive stance is complemented by our expansive network in the startup domain, ensuring rigorous and prompt due diligence. And while we’re always looking for the next big thing, our dedication extends beyond just investing. We perceive ourselves as silent partners, offering relentless support and leveraging our vast network to steer our investments toward sustained growth.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED THROUGH FAILURES OR TRIALS AND ERRORS?
As disheartening as it may seem, every setback serves as a guidepost. These lessons have highlighted the necessity of seeing beyond the immediate, ensuring our short-term actions align with our overarching vision. More so, fostering a culture that’s open to taking calculated risks is paramount. Embracing challenges, even if it means occasional missteps, is better than playing it safe.
WHAT GETS YOUR ATTENTION IN A PITCH?
For a pitch to stand out, it needs more than just a solid idea. What truly grabs my attention includes the following:
- Clarity: A well-defined problem statement and vision.
- Self-awareness: Founders who candidly assess their team’s strengths and gaps.
- Agility: Demonstrated capacity to swiftly learn and pivot.
- Market Insight: Comprehensive understanding of the competitive landscape.
- Definition of Success: The ability to lucidly outline what success looks like for them.
On the other hand, pitches that come across as purely transactional or confrontational raise alarms. The essence lies in genuine interaction and a palpable eagerness to evolve based on feedback.
WHAT IS THE ADVICE YOU MOST OFTEN GIVE TO FOUNDERS?
Founders should maintain a strategic vision that extends beyond immediate financial goals. Understand who you’re raising money from and their underlying incentives to ensure alignment. It’s not merely about the present-day cash requirements but how you envisage your business evolving over the next 2-5 years. With this vision in mind, remember that rapid learning and adaptability are paramount. Expand your team thoughtfully, emphasizing quality and fit. Every decision should prioritize the unique problem you’re solving and how best to address it in the evolving landscape.
TELL US SOMETHING MOST PEOPLE MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU
Many recognize me for my role in venture capital. However, my initial foray into startups was as an operator. In fact, I once showcased a company I co-founded, HomeSav, on Dragon’s Den in 2013. On a lighter note, I was an avid comic book collector during my younger years. Trading comics funded my college education and sparked my fascination with business.
Visit our website to learn more about the mission and leaders of other exceptional emerging managers in our portfolio: Boon, Front Row Ventures, Garage Capital, Luge, Maple, Northside Ventures, Roar Ventures, The51, and Two Small Fish Ventures.