Ottawa has taken another small step in the slow process of rolling out the hundreds of millions of dollars it has promised to support Canada’s venture capital community over the last couple of years.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on Monday announced a plan where business incubators and accelerators will be able to apply for a total of $60-million for the work they do to support promising entrepreneurs and start-ups. At this point, however, it is a request for proposals, and the money – first announced in the 2013 federal budget – will be meted out over five years.
Ottawa has just begun to dole out the $400-million in venture capital support that was first unveiled 18 months ago, in the March, 2012 federal budget.
Last Friday the first tranche of $50-million was slated for four existing venture capital funds that Ottawa said have already demonstrated strong investment performance. Two of the four funds focus on life sciences, while the other two are involved with information and communications technologies.
Mr. Flaherty said Monday that the slow progress in getting Ottawa’s money in to hands of the venture capital community is due to the time it has taken to arrange for government funds to be rolled into larger packages that will include private-sector money.
That “leverage” is crucial, he said at a news conference held at Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone incubator in Toronto, because it will mean a much larger resource for early stage Canadian companies.
Mr. Flaherty said he has received positive responses from those private firms asked to participate, and “we will make an announcement soon about how much money there is and how soon it will roll out.”
Richard Remillard, executive director of Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA) said “it is very welcome” that the federal support is finally starting to roll out the money.
Getting private-sector leverage for that taxpayer money is crucial, he added, because “the more money that can be attracted to the program, the better it is.”
Mr. Remillard said he understands the government hopes the total amount to be made available for venture capital – from public and private sources – will be as high as $1.2-billion. “They are inching up there, as far as we can tell,” he said.
He said it is understandable that it has taken so long to get the money out the door, because “this is complex stuff” and it takes time to get the process right. But it will be worth while “to get a dose of capital into the industry after years and years of penury,” he said.