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Small Business Briefing

Start-up funding gets a shot in the arm Add to ...

The latest news and information for entrepreneurs from across the web universe, brought to you by the Report on Small Business team. Follow us on Twitter @GlobeSmallBiz

Third quarter's the charm

Venture capital (VC) investments in Canadian start-ups went up 51 per cent in the third quarter as individual investors, pension administrators and government poured money into VC funds, Reuters is reporting.

Research by the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA) and its partner Thomson Reuters shows that in the three months leading up to October, $388-million was invested, more than seven times the $47-million raised a year earlier.

Most technology sectors saw higher levels of VC investment:

  • Information technology-related activity was $177-million, 31-per-cent above a year earlier.
  • Life sciences companies secured $106-million, an 83-per-cent increase.

Despite the encouraging figures, Canadian venture capital still lagged the United States. "Even with the growth in disbursements in the most recent quarter, Canadian innovative firms receive only 40 per cent of the dollars going to their competitors in the United States," CVCA president Gregory Smith said in a statement.

Deal making north of the border was highest in B.C., Alberta, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

With continued concerns about another looming economic downturn, and with regular hang-wringing over the state of Canada's VC industry, it's a welcome sign.

The financial view from Latin America

A majority of banks in Latin America and the Caribbean plan to increase the amount of available credit for small and medium-sized businesses in the next two years, according to a survey conducted by the IDB Group and the Latin American Banking Federation (FELABAN). Out of 190 banks surveyed in the region, 73 per cent expect an increase in their SMB portfolio, and 83 per cent expect the economic situation of these businesses to improve. Fifty-eight banks from South America, 46 banks from Central America and the Caribbean, and five Mexican banks were surveyed. The results indicate that banks primarily provide loans to SMBs to finance their working capital, and most banks, when approving or denying credit, take into account financial statements and an owner’s management and capital, but not the industry to which the client belongs. Direct contact with clients is the most important action for credit promotion.

It's like eBay, without the auctions

LingsCars and Go London founder Ling Valentine has some advice for entrepreneurs looking to harness the power of the web to do business in China: Use TaoBao. TaoBao, she writes in a post for British site Management Today, is a "controlled sales platform with massive buyer confidence thanks to its escrow money handling (like Paypal), protecting the buyer, which is unusual in China. It’s a massive marketplace – we are talking £40-billion ($65-billion) in sales this year - and is owned by the Alibaba Group." Best of all, she adds, it operates inside the Great Chinese Firewall, allowing business to be conducted (relatively) easily and cheaply. One sticking point is a "distinctive feature" of shopping on TaoBao, that being communication between buyer and seller prior to the purchase. Chinese online shoppers, Ms. Valentine says, like to chat with the sellers or their customer service team to ask questions and engage in bargaining. So, she points out, you need Chinese 'employees' in China, "usually girls," who chat all day and sell your products to shop visitors, who ask constant questions.


Money talk

Walter Good, CEO of CredSystems, will discuss during a free webinar how establishing and maintaining business credit can help entrepreneurs obtain new funding solutions. Topics include the keys to building a fundable business, four secrets to business funding, five reasons your business needs credit, why lenders care about credit, and common funding mistakes business owners make. The hour-long New Funding Solutions Driven by Business Credit, hosted by SCORE Association, takes place Nov. 17 at 2 pm ET. All registrants will receive a link to the recording and a copy of the presentation

Patent protected

Are you a researcher or entrepreneur? Do you want to better understand how to draft a patent? Become a better partner with your patent agent to produce better, more cost-effective patents at the How to Draft a Patent course at Toronto's MaRS Discovery District. It covers the following topics: An overview of intellectual property rights, updates on patent protection for business methods and genetic technologies, tips for commercializing intellectual property, patenting timelines and costs, and approaches to claim drafting. In teams and under the guidance of professional patent agents, participants will work on drafting a patent, led by Joan Van Zant, a senior partner with Ogilvy Renault’s patent team. Other Ogilvy Renault patent agents and lawyers will also participating in the session, which takes place Nov. 23 from 4 pm to 7 pm.


A return to courting the 'real customers?'

With trust in social influencers falling, and because technology is making marketing utopia a reality, brands will skip the influencers and come right to real customers, columnist Mark Healy writes. What is different now versus, say, 2005, when most customers had cellphones – and how will that impact marketing strategies and tactics? Beyond the obvious increase in smartphone and tablet penetration, three factors that are quite different, but when combined will be very powerful, will change how marketing is carried out. Click through to read more.


It's in the hands of government

Much has already been written about Canada's lacklustre venture capital market, including this piece by Tim Kiladze, in which some of the industry's most respected investors argued that if the country's VC market is ever to come back, the federal government will have to buck up and support it.

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