A new technology venture capital fund created by former Rogers Communications chief executive officer Nadir Mohamed and former Ryerson University president Sheldon Levy has hired a lead general partner and upped its initial $50-million fundraising target by 50 per cent.
ScaleUP Ventures Inc. will be led by Kent Thexton, a wireless telecom industry veteran who recently left OMERS Ventures as a managing director. Mr. Thexton, 53, was chief operating officer of Rogers Cantel Wireless from 1990 to 1998 and then served for six years as chief marketing officer and director of British wireless carrier O2 PLC before its sale to Telefonica. Mr. Thexton has since built up a large mobile virtual network operator in the United States called i-wireless and has served on the boards of Redknee Solutions, Sierra Wireless and Mobidia. He was also a university track star, running a sub-four-minute mile and on track to compete in the 1984 Olympics at 21 when he suffered a serious muscle injury. Instead of continuing in track, he earned an MBA.
Mr. Thexton said the plan is for his team "to help companies with more than just capital" by investing in early-stage companies at the seed and Series A stages, but also providing coaching and access to top names in business for guidance. This will ensure startups stay accountable and focused given that for many young companies "the urgent crowds out the important."
An all-star roster of executives and entrepreneurs have signed on with ScaleUP as advisers, including Mr. Mohamed, GE Canada CEO Elyse Allan, entrepreneurs Scott Bonham, Dan Debow, Mike McDerment, Joe Mimran and Christine Magee; big bank CEOs Brian Porter (Bank of Nova Scotia) and Bharat Masrani (Torotno-Dominion), financiers (Lawrence Bloomberg; Tim Hodgson, ex-CEO Goldman Sachs Canada; Edgestone Capital's Sam Duboc; and John Ruffolo of OMERS Ventures) and operators (Guy Laurence of Rogers Communications; Magna CEO Don Walker; Annette Verschuren, former president of Home Depot Canada; and retired Corus Entertainment CEO John Cassaday).
Mr. Thexton said Mr. Mohamed is "trying to exploit the corporate Canada connections he has and how it might impact the venture capital community [and] just wants to help build the tech industry in Canada."
Mr. Mohamed said in a statement that Mr. Thexton "brings a wealth of experience in developing high-growth technology companies and, coupled with his strategic mindset, he will provide the kind of energy and leadership that is needed in the venture capital space here in Canada."
More than a dozen investors have already committed more than $50-million – including $25-million from the Province of Ontario – so the new $75-million target "seems like a good number." The plan is to invest in about 25 companies, Mr. Thexton said. "We're hitting the ground running pretty quickly."