Another successful Canadian tech entrepreneur is taking on a key role with a Silicon Valley venture fund, vowing to link up promising home-grown startups with big-league U.S. venture money.
Harley Finkelstein, chief platform officer with Ottawa retail software firm Shopify, is joining the founder advisory council of Palo Alto-based Felicis Ventures, a boutique venture capital firm founded in 2006 by early Google executive Aydin Senkut.
Mr. Finkelstein, 31, a lawyer and entrepreneur who ran his own online t-shirt company before joining Shopify in 2010, will be one of three advisers to Felicis' $120-million (U.S.) Fund IV, along with Facebook executive John Anderson and Jack Abraham, who sold his startup, Milo.com, to eBay Inc. in 2010. Felicis is one of the top early stage California VC firms, backing more than 55 companies that have either been sold or gone public. Its roster of current investments includes Shopify, Angry Birds maker Rovio Mobile, Dollar Shave Club, and four other Canadian startups, including Top Hat and Interaxon.
Mr. Finkelstein will focus on finding promising tech startup investment opportunities for Felicis in Canada and helping Canadian entrepreneurs build better relationships with Silicon Valley players. "Felicis is deliberately long on Canada," Mr. Senkut said in a blog post, noting that Felicis has backed companies based in 10 countries. "We look forward to having Harley as our eyes and ears for the best Canadian companies yet to come." He described the fast-talking Mr. Finkelstein as "warm and personable…a great hustler, community builder and operator."
Mr. Finkelstein said in an interview, "five years ago an investor like Aydin wouldn't have said, 'Let's go deep in Canada.' That's happening now. We're building some incredible startups [in Canada] these days. To have Aydin in your corner means you have access" to capital and the Silicon Valley network, he said. "It may help us push more early stage Canadian investors to write these cheques and take these chances."
Shopify has emerged as one of the most successful tech startups in Canada, supporting online and in-store sales operations of more than 150,000 merchants. It is one of the country's largest "software-as-a-service" firms, charging regular monthly fees for use of its software, and raised $100-million in its last venture financing in late 2013. The company has been identified as one of the likeliest Canadian tech companies to go public in the next year, expected to fetch a valuation well north of $1-billion.
Mr. Finkelstein follows Vancouver entrepreneur and angel investor Boris Wertz, who last year joined renowned Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz as a board partner.