According to a report from Compass as part of the Startup Genome Project, Waterloo Region has the second-highest density of startups in the world. The Toronto-Waterloo corridor employs 200,000 people across 15,000 tech companies, 5,200 of which are startups. The ecosystem is highly educated, diverse, and filled with top talent pursuing bold technology innovations. The region is also home to one of the world’s leading undergraduate Engineering and Computer Science universities (the University of Waterloo), and serves as a major development hub for companies such as Google, OpenText, BlackBerry, NetSuite, SAP, Oracle, Adobe, Intel, Shopify, NCR, MapleSoft, MKS, Dalsa, Sandvine, Descartes, COM DEV and Christie Digital. This has fostered an ecosystem that has produced notable iNovia portfolio companies, including Vidyard, Well.ca, BufferBox and Clearpath Robotics, that have attracted top tier US-based co-investors to their cap tables and board rooms.
In January, iNovia announced that it had raised a new $175 million fund to invest in early stage opportunities across North America that have the capacity to emerge as category-defining digital platforms and services. Maintaining a full-time presence in Waterloo is a cornerstone of that strategy. In light of the region’s indisputable role as one of North America’s top tech clusters, iNovia Capital is increasing its presence in the region. The Montreal-headquartered venture capital firm has expanded its Waterloo office with the addition of Sarah Marion to its investment team.
Sarah has a distinctive understanding of the local and Canadian startup environment that is carried over from her Master’s degree research work at the Balsillie School of International Affairs. That expertise is already being put to work on behalf of the iNovia portfolio companies, many of which continue to attract significant outside interest from both customers and investors.
Prior to iNovia, Sarah was the Senior Researcher at the Lazaridis Institute for the Management of Technology Enterprises. As a member of the founding team of the Lazaridis Institute, she interviewed 125 Canadian technology thought leaders to analyze key barriers to growth facing Canadian startups. The primary inhibitor? A shortage of experience management and executive talent.
“Canada has an abundance of skilled science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related talent. I’ve witnessed this first-hand growing up and working in Waterloo. Graduates from the University of Waterloo have an exceptional reputation at an international level, and there is no shortage of audacious and high-potential technologies emerging from the region. The challenge arises in commercializing and scaling those technologies into billion-dollar businesses. Between 2003 and 2012, the number of technology firms in the billion-dollar revenue cohort remained stagnant at four. Emerging hundred-million-dollar companies, both within the iNovia portfolio and outside, are making gains, but the ecosystem still lacks a critical mass of anchor tenants, and the ensuing talent that has experience growing firms to these high revenues.” – Sarah Marion, Analyst @ iNovia Capital
This is an issue that iNovia’s Managing Partner, Chris Arsenault, keenly understands. When Sarah interviewed him for her research at the Lazaridis Institute, he expanded on the importance of this experienced talent, highlighting that “there is no road map for how to scale a high-growth organization in a dynamic and quickly changing technology market”.
Amidst this challenge facing Canadian technology companies, venture capital not only provides startups with a needed injection of risk financing, but also expertise that may be missing in a young founding team.
“The iNovia team is a group of experienced entrepreneurs and investors who have been through the trenches. Our goal is to transfer that knowledge to our portfolio companies, in order to ensure that they benefit from those accumulated learnings and don’t repeat any mistakes. Sarah’s research has equipped her with an unrivalled insight into the minds of today’s founders and successful CEOs, and we’re excited to share that with our portfolio companies.” – Karamdeep Nijjar, Partner @ iNovia Capital
Sarah Marion joins iNovia as an Analyst for the Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto ecosystems.