Top 10 Canadian Accelerator and Venture Capital Firms

• 9 min read
Top 10 Canadian Accelerator and Venture Capital Firms

Canada is the second largest country after Russia by land mass. It has a highly developed economy which is the 10th largest in the world, relying chiefly upon its abundant natural resources and well-developed international trade networks. Canada's long relationship with the United States has had a significant impact on its economy and culture. Canada’s population is approximately 38,000,000 which is roughly 1/10 that of its neighbor the United States which has  a significant impact on its economy and culture.

Canada’s tech industry is as advanced as any place in the world. Beginning with Canadian inventors Henry Woodward and Matthew Evans who patented an electric lamp that was sold to Thomas Edison in 1879 to early digital startups such as Research in Motion (RIM), developer of one of the first highly successful personal assistant cellphones. Innovation continues unabated in Canada today.

Private Equity and venture capital has extremely strong support in Canada from both federal and provincial governments. Venture capital is seen as a powerful means to help innovative companies and ideas flourish to diversify the Canadian economy. The Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association represents over 270 member firms and 1,800 individuals with research, insights, advocacy and events to ensure that venture capital continues to drive innovation and growth across the country. The following ten firms have the highest number of firms or the highest number of exits.

Creative Destruction Lab

https://www.creativedestructionlab.com

Creative Destruction Labs (CDL) is a nonprofit organization operating in 5 sites in Canada plus 2 in Europe and  in the United States. It began in 2012 at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto by Professor Agay Agrawal, Dennis Bennie, Christopher Bissonnette and Daniel Debow. The program has expanded to 11 other locations at major universities in Canada, France, England and the United States. The organization delivers an objectives-based program for massively scalable, seed-stage, science and technology-based companies.

Creative Destruction Labs operates 15 different areas of focus called “streams”:

  • Ag
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Blockchain
  • Climate
  • Commerce
  • Energy
  • Space
  • Supply Chain
  • FinTech
  • Health
  • Matter
  • Oceans
  • Prime
  • Quantum
  • Risk

Programs are operated at 9 locations globally and   involves intensive full-day sessions with the CDL Mentors (Fellows and Associates) and take place every eight weeks with the purpose of assessing a company’s progress and setting new short-term objectives. Participants meet with CDL Fellows and Associates, a group of exited entrepreneurs, angel investors, plus partners from leading venture capital firms who may invest in ventures that have demonstrated a track record of achieving their objectives. Founders will also meet with experts from associated academic institutions to obtain feedback and advise on objectives related to technology.

CDL operates the CDL Apprentice Program for young women ages 14 - 18 to address the gender gap in science and technology for women. CDL provides experiences to foster an entrepreneurial mindset and encourage individuals to challenge themselves and current statistics.

BDC Venture Capital

https://www.bdc.ca

The Business Development Bank of Canada is owned by the federal Canadian government and does a greater number of business deals in Canada than any other venture capital firm located in Canada. Founded in 1944 as the Industrial Development Bank, BDC was redefined in 1995 to facilitate and support the entrepreneurial eco-system in Canada.  It is not a commercial bank but a B-Corp financial institution devoted to approximately 64,000 small and medium sized Canadian entrepreneurs creating value for society.

The bank has invested over $36.5 billion to help Canadian startups. They support entrepreneurs in all industries and at all stages of their development. The bank supplies financing, advisory services and capital from locations across Canada. They supply indirect and syndicated financing with other private sector investors.  

The bank’s venture capital direct investment strategy operates through a series of targeted funds or portfolios:

  • Industrial, Clean and Energy Technology Venture Fund
  • Healthcare  Venture Fund
  • IT  Venture Fund
  • Co-investment Team
  • Strategic Investments
  • Go Capital Fund (now closed)

NEXT Canada

https://www.nextcanada.com

One of largest dedicated entrepreneurial networks in Canada with over 500 Canadian academics, entrepreneurs, investors and founders involved in supporting emerging and developing startup in all fields. NEXT Canada is a non-profit organization operating 3 independent programs:

  • Next 36
  • Next Founders
  • Next AI

Next Canada is supported by generous donations, grants and annual fund raising. It was founded in 2010 by Ajay Agrawal, Claudia Hepburn, Reza Satchu and Tim Hodgson at the Rotman School of Management in the University of Toronto to support Canada’s ecosystem of entrepreneurs and innovators. To date the organization has invested in more than 320 companies.

Next36 offers a program to 36 recent graduates across Canada with big ideas and an entrepreneurial mindset. Participants will take their ideas from beginning to fruition with an 8 month time frame. They are mentored with tactical education by a network of some of the strongest entrepreneurs in Canada.

Next Founders is a flexible program offering an a-la-carte education from some of North America’s top business leaders and educators to allow seed and growth stage founders access based on their individual knowledge needs and gaps.

Next AI a world-class program for artificial intelligence based ventures and artificial intelligence enabled commercial solutions. The goal is to provide capital, mentorship, and networks to idea and early-stage teams with ambitious concepts to leverage Canada’s position in the AI ecosystem.

Real Ventures

https://realventures.com

Real Ventures was founded in Montreal in 2007 by Alan MacIntosh, Jean-Sebastian Cournoyer and John Stokes, all founders of successful tech startups who are devoting time and resources to support world-class entrepreneurs building game-changing companies and help guide them through their stages of evolution. While Real Ventures is an early seed startup investor, they finance and support companies in their portfolio throughout their development up to their exit.  Through their 5 funds they have made to date 262 investments with 30 exits.

Real Ventures have a strong belief that for the tech startup ecosystem to thrive their must be collaboration which benefits all participants. To this end they have launched initiatives in the tech hubs where they operate.

  • Orbit Investment Strategy was launched in 2017 to benefit Quebec-based early-stage companies by providing facilities and support in close proximity to Real Ventures facilities and partners-  la Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), le fonds de solidarité FTQ (FSTQ), Desjardins capital de risque and Québec’s government via Investissement Québec.
  • FounderFuel was launched in 2011 and follows a standard accelerator model with early-stage startup founders coming together for a fixed length of time to share visions and skills supported by mentors, alumni participants, investors and industry leaders. The 2020  cohort participated remotely. The program ends in a Demo Day. This year over 1,000 people participated.
  • Front Row Ventures is Canada’s first student run accelerator began with a successful launch in 2017. Organized like a traditional accelerator, the program reaches more than 20 college campuses across Canada. At least one person on a team must be a registered student. Students with projects from visionary ideas to a minimum viable product are eligible for support including financing.    

DMZ Ventures - Zone Startups

https://dmzventures.com

DMZ Ventures (Digital Media Zone) was founded at the Ryerson University in 2010 by Hossein Rahnama and Sheldon Levy and operates a network of accelerator programs under the brand name “Zone Startups”. DMZ has been ranked number one in the world by UBI Global, a respected accelerator rating agency in Sweden. DMZ is based in Toronto and operates programs internationally. Their network includes DMZ Sandbox, Zone Startups Calgary, Zone Startups Sports + Media, Zone Startups India, Zone Startups Vietnam.

These programs follow well developed accelerator and incubator formats that last 16 weeks and focus on helping emerging entrepreneurs refine their business ideas and develop the skills needed to build and grow a competitive tech business. DMZ Ventures provides hands-on strategic and tactical guidance for startups to increase market validation and customer acquisition, as well as provide access to investors, corporate partners, and advisors. graduate. As of 2020, $1.07 billion in seed funding have been raised by 517 startups.

DMZ Virtual Basecamp program is an 8-week intensive high school and college student summer incubation program that assists young entrepreneurs create tech solutions solving the  social or economic gaps in society. Working with other young innovators, industry mentors and successful entrepreneurs, students learn to develop and market business ideas. Students have the opportunity to start real companies.  

Inovia Capital

https://www.inovia.vc

Inovia Capital was founded in Montreal by Chris Arnault along with Shawn Abbott and François Gauvin in 2007 as a full-stack venture capital firm to support audacious founders from early-stage through growth by providing multi-stage capital, resources, and coaching to support their rapid growth. Inovia supports entrepreneurs in applied services and legacy infrastructure industries, such as financial services, healthcare, commerce and transportation. They operate out of facilities inMontréal, Toronto, Calgary, London and Silicon Valley, California. Inovia Capital has made investments 230 firms involving 7 funds with 40 exits.  

Fonds de Solidarité

https://www.fondsftq.com

The Fonds de solidarité FTQ (Solidarity Fund) is a development capital network that invests for hundreds of thousands of shareholder-savers in Quebec. Its mission is to encourage the economic growth of Quebec through investments in companies in Quebec. Fonds de solidarité FTQ has net assets of $ 15.6 billion and has become a crossroads of knowledge and resources for Quebec businesses. Fonds de solidarité FTQ provides patient capital and services to seed-stage through growth stage companies to contribute to their creation, development  and maintenance to safeguard jobs creation.

The Fund has set up a large investment network  made up of 87 local funds, 16 regional funds and 94 sector funds located throughout Canada.  Fonds de solidarité FTQ relies on the strength of a network of 3,329 partner companies on the solidarity of more than  705,606  shareholder-savers. The Fund is more than ever looking to the future by investing in determined and innovative startup founders.

Sustainable Development Technology

https://www.sdtc.ca

Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) is an independent government office, venture capital firm that supports Canadian companies that develop competitive, clean technology solutions solving some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges: climate change, clean air, clean water and clean soil. Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Ottawa, they fund Canadian cleantech projects plus coach companies that employ them to quickly take ground-breaking technologies to market. Since inception, SDTC has invested over CA$ 1.28 billion in 209 startups and 450 companies across Canada. Over 19 companies have exited. They are currently funding a portfolio of 140 companies working in the following sectors:

  • Agriculture
  • Energy Exploration
  • Energy utilization
  • Forestry
  • Agricultural Seed
  • Transportation
  • Waste Management
  • Power Generation

SDTC receives funding from the Government of Canada but operates at arm’s length. They are an independent federal foundation but do not work alone. A big part of their role is building and sustaining networks of investor partners and participants from private industry, academia and governments in Canada and abroad.

MaRS IAF

https://www.marsiaf.com
MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund (IAF) is a leading seed-stage venture capital firm  investing in high-potential IT, health and clean-tech companies in based in Toronto. They provide innovative Canadian firms with the capital, mentorship, and networks needed to validate ideas and bring products to market. MaRS began as the brainchild of Dr. John Evans to bring funding and support to medtech startups in an innovation life-sciences hub in Ontario initially named Medical and Related Sciences (MaRS). To encourage growth in the startup portfolios at MaRS, the organization took over the Investment Accelerator Fund (IAF), an Ontario government seed funding program.  

Since 2008, MaRS IAF has partnered with over 150 companies built by extraordinary founders. MARS IAF focuses on IT, Health and Cleantech, with a minimum addressable market size of CA$100M.  They invest in approximately 15 early-stage technology companies a year that are close to commercialization. Ideally, a product has been built and there is some early market traction with no significant revenue, assets or institutional investment. They invest at the seed stage, with investments of CA$500K . More than 50 companies have exited.

InNOVAcorp

https://innovacorp.ca

Innovacorp, based in Halifax, Canada, was established in 1995 by Jon Saari. It is an early-stage venture capital firm that helps Nova Scotia entrepreneurs create  knowledge-based startups to commercialize their technologies for the global marketplace.  InNOVAcorpcontinues to make a significant contribution to the rapidly expanding technology and life sciences industries of Nova Scotia. InNOVAcorp manages the Nova Scotia First Fund, a venture capital fund for companies in the information, technology and life science sectors.

Their activities consist of capital investment, mentoring, and incubation facilities and services. The operate 3 incubator sites in the Halifax Innovation District:

  • Start-up Yard at the COVE (Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurshop) is an incubator space for early stage companies interested in commercializing their ocean technologies with wharf access. InNOVAcorp assists with accelerator programs, coaching, services and funding.
  • Labs at InNOVAcorp opened in 2011 as a state-of-the-art facility with specialized scientific infrastructure for use by early stage start-up companies. The building is connected to the Life Sciences Research Institute and Halifax’s knowledge hub of universities, hospitals, the Brain Repair Centre, and the National Research Council.
  • Bays at InNOVAcorp is a co-working and incubator hub with state-of-the-art enterprise-grade integrated voice and data network and services.  The world class facilities provide technology entrepreneurs a place to work at reasonable rates and a place to share ideas, experiences and knowledge. InNOVAcorp  offers hands-on business advisory services, and access to a network of mentors and service providers that complements their in-house expertise.

InNOVAcorp supports 14 initiatives for start-ups beyond risk capital and incubation infrastructure and services. These include: Innovacorp Accelerate, AscendBio, Global Blue Inonovation ChallengeStart-up Visa Program, Entrepreneurs-in-Residence and Expert Advisors, Greenshoots, EarlyStage Commercialization Fund, Perks Program, MentorFirst, Market Intelligence Services Innovacorp in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia Power Makerspace, and TecSocial Cape Breton.

Top 25 Cleantech Startup Accelerator Programs for Climate Tech Founders →
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