By investing in VC funds that finance early-stage, technology startups in Alberta, we create access to a much larger pool of capital than the $175 million Alberta Enterprise Fund, while also creating access to external markets and the expertise of these funds.
We have targeted three types of funds for investment:
A key strategy behind Alberta Enterprise’s fund approach is to pull VCs from outside Alberta so we can leverage their industry and network of experts. It is important to attract established fund managers with startup experience, industry connections and network, because beyond money, this is what Alberta startups lack.
Alberta-based funds – internal knowledge:
Equally important to attracting outside expertise, it is necessary to grow and develop Alberta based funds. Alberta Enterprise has supported locally-based funds, such as Avrio, and we are developing home-grown VC talent through the local representatives of the funds headquartered outside Alberta. We continuously meet with potential new local teams, knowing that it takes time to build a local VC fund presence.
It is imperative to ensure that Alberta Enterprise invests in funds that complement the available deal flow in the province. In 2016, Alberta Enterprise conducted a deal flow study which showed a large portion of the technology companies in Alberta are early stage. It is therefore vital to continue focusing on this stage of investments.
Our strategy is to ensure that funds representing each investment objective are integrated, so that each type can syndicate deals and leverage the networks of the other types. For example, we are encouraging VCs from out-of-province to co-operate with local investors to leverage the local deal flow networks, so local investors can take advantage of the global networks that external VCs bring. It is all about networks, relationships and who Alberta entrepreneurs can leverage to compete globally.
The key to developing a self-sustaining Alberta-based VC industry is cultivating the industry ecosystem surrounding technology startups, technology investors and related networks. This means bringing together and supporting investors, startups and management talent. We have seen continued revitalization in Alberta’s technology ecosystem over the past year, and Alberta Enterprise has been at the forefront of this success.
Alberta Enterprise works to fill the gaps in the ecosystem and to create links between existing organizations. We have been successful in supporting the creation of industry-driven, grassroots organizations that play a meaningful role in the technology and VC ecosystems. These groups connect Alberta entrepreneurs, startups, investors and mentors within Alberta and outside the province. Some of our initiatives to support the tech companies and the industry ecosystem include:
Alberta Enterprise relies on building strong relationships and partnerships to ensure that the technology sector grows both in terms of the quality and number of tech companies. This strong deal flow ensures continued investor interest and activity in Alberta, stimulating further growth.
In 2017-2018, Alberta Enterprise supported 20 organizations and high impact programs, which in turn provided valuable support for tech companies. These organizations and programs included:
One of Alberta Enterprise’s core objectives is ensuring the collection and dissemination of accurate data on the tech ecosystem in Alberta. This is obtained through our various data resources and our strong, relationship-based network of investors, entrepreneurs and supporting organizations. Our network includes the A100, San Francisco based C100, the Canadian Venture Capital Association (CVCA), the Venture
Capital Association of Alberta (VCAA), the Trade Commission Service offices in San Francisco and Palo Alto, the various Government of Alberta divisions, the hundreds of tech founders we interact with each year both within and outside of Alberta, and our investor network. These trusted relationships allow us access to a vast amount of information and data which we use to support Alberta’s tech ecosystem.
In 2016, we identified the need for a central data and information resource about and for the Alberta tech ecosystem. One which would also better connect Alberta’s tech companies and investors. In 2017, we partnered with the VCAA to build a prototype version for this resource and launched it in December of 2017 at StartAlberta.com.
For the first time there is now a central data resource which anyone can use freely to see which tech companies exist in Alberta. It allows Alberta tech entrepreneurs to connect with investors. Keeping with our philosophy of turning initiatives back to the ecosystem, the VCAA is now the steward for the portal. The VCAA will ensure that it remains a useful and open resource for the ecosystem.
A second gap identified in 2017 was the need for experienced sales and marketing teams to support the growth of tech companies in Alberta. Without the sales and marketing expertise, companies on average tend to grow much slower than their peers. We partnered with the 321 Growth Academy to pilot a cohort-based education program to scale up this knowledge base and grow home based teams.
Since the Academy’s launch in March 2017, they have had 6 cohorts of 321 Growth Academy programs between Calgary and Edmonton, helping 59 participants from 44 companies to accelerate their sales. The average participant rating has been consistently 9.2/10, reflecting the value entrepreneurs have been getting from the program.