The tide is finally turning for Canada’s early stage companies who are in desperate need of funding.
As has been well documented, over the past few years Canadian venture capital has severely dried up, particularly in life sciences and clean tech. These industries just don’t have the same buzz as plain vanilla technology right now, and small companies who need private capital to commercialize their research have, for the most part, been left out in the cold.
But over the past few weeks, there have been some very encouraging signs that things are starting to turn around. On Monday, Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District, the city’s big innovation hub, announced it has launched a new $30-million clean tech fund in collaboration with the private sector.
That announcement came on the same day that Merck invested $35-million in a new Quebec biosciences fund, working alongside Lumira Capital and Teralys Capital in hopes of raising $50-million in total.
“Finding that first million or two has always been a challenge in Canada, and we intend to fill that gap,” said Dr. Tom Rand, managing director of the MaRS fund. Mr. Rand will work with Murray McCaig to deploy the new capital, some of which has already been invested. Along with the announcement of the new fund, MaRS also disclosed that it has used some of the new money to invest in GreenMantra, which aims to convert plastics into chemicals and other fuels, and in Smart Energy Instruments, which is creating low-cost energy sensors.
On top of these new funds, a few weeks back the Globe announced that Ann Hanham, an influential venture capital player in Silicon Valley, is heading back to Canada to launch a $200-million fund that will invest in Canadian life sciences and biotech.
A few very good weeks for Canada’s startup ecosystem, indeed.