Metro Morning

Tony Lacavera creates $100-million fund to keep startups Canadian

Tony Lacavera knows what it's like to start a business. Almost as important, he knows what it takes to grow a business, and it's the growing part that he wants to help with.

Wind Mobile founder sees a gap between seed and growth stages

Wind founder Tony Lacavera wants to help young businesses in Canada, so they can stay in Canada. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Tony Lacavera knows what it's like to start a business. Almost as important, he knows what it takes to grow a business.

And it's the growing part that he wants to help with.

Lacavera is the entrepreneur behind Canada's fourth-largest wireless carrier, Wind Mobile. He's in the process of raising up to $100 million to help new Canadian tech companies grow with a new venture capital fund.

He created his first business in 1998, and has spent about 15 years in venture capital.

Keeping companies in Canada

Through the years, he's invested in some companies that have succeeded, and some that have failed.

"I discovered that companies need a lot of growth capital," he told Metro Morning. "But there's not a lot available in Canada."

He noticed a gap in funding, after the launch and before the startup becomes a full-fledged business. He said the funding starts to dry up between year one and three.

That forces startups to go looking to foreign investors, or worse, he said, to leave Canada altogether.

"I'm trying to be a true Canadian alternative," he said. "I want to accelerate growth in Canada."

Lacavera said he finds Canadian investors to be risk-averse.

"It's just interesting because Toronto is full of incubators," he said, citing organizations like MARS and OneEleven, both of which he is a sponsor. But after the seed stage — seed is a period of early investment, meant to support the business until it can generate revenue — there are few options for young Canadian businesses.

How does a Canadian startup grow after it gets past the seed stage?

The investor used his own career as an example, starting Wind Mobile in 2008. Lacavera said he spent too much time and effort worrying about money. He said he could've used the help that a better startup ecosystem could provide.

The tech fund will only be around for this year. Lacavera plans to close the fund by the end of 2016, and concentrate on the companies it has funded. His firm, Globalive Capital, is looking to institutional investors to raise the capital for the $100-million fund.


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