David Dufresne, Mike Cegelski and Patrick Lor have been named partners of the new 500 Startups Canada fund, as MTLinTECH has exclusively learned.
Sanjay Singhal will be the nation lead based in Toronto, as previously announced, while Cegelski and Dufresne will now head up the Montreal office with Lor running Calgary’s office.
The $30 million regional fund for Canadian startups to be headquartered in Ontario was first announced in late March.
“Were already up and running and I think within a month we’ll start announcing new deals here in Montreal, Toronto and all across Canada,” Dufresne told MTLinTECH at Montreal’s Startupfest Thursday. “We’re probably going to do 100 deals in our fund, so almost one a week.”
Dufresne is from Trois-Rivières, Quebec. He’s held senior roles at Desjardins Capital, Relay Ventures and Bandzoogle. Last year he joined Bandcamp. Cegelski, a serial entrepreneur and angel investor, hails from Montreal’s South Shore.
Meanwhile, Lor has built an accomplished career within the stock photography space. He helped pioneer the “microstock” industry, joining the world’s first microstock agency in 2001. Upon his departure, the company was selling over 12 million images annually, and was sold to Getty Images for US $50 million in 2006. Now he’s cofounder at Sparrow.ai and a limited partner in iNovia Capital and Version One Ventures.
The Canadian fund will only write cheques. It won’t run an accelerator program like the organization’s headquarters does, said Dufresne, but those startups it does invest in will head to the 500 Startups accelerator in California. The startups will have access to a network of 1,500 startups across 60 countries, 400 mentors in the United States and “connections to the right VC funds.”
“We have close ties with the 500 Startups group worldwide and there’s probably 20 companies a year in Canada that we’re going to invest in and send to the accelerator in Canada. But we’re going to do a lot more. 500 Startups has other education programs that our companies will be part of,” Dufresne added.
One of those education programs will be a growth marketing program called “500 Distro Dojo”, a three-month growth intensive program for Pre-Series A companies.
The investor said a typical venture capital fund has to say “no” to startups on a regular basis. With 500 Startups Canada, he’ll get to experience the joy of funding companies more often than usual.
“I think it’s going to be extremely fun because we’re going to be saying yes to a lot of people. We’re still going to have to say no 95 per cent of the time but we’ll get to say yes probably once a week,” said Dufresne. “It’s super exciting.”
Dave McClure, the founder of 500 Startups, was asked on stage at Startupfest why the fund chose to expand to Canada. McClure was clear on his intent.
“I think we’ve done about 40 investment in Canada over the past years but we want to do 20-30 per year. We want to make a lot of investments in Canadian entrepreneurs,” he said.
The new fund will focus investments on “capital-efficient businesses that can achieve profitability with less than $1 million in total investment.” The fund will have partners or associates in “each major innovation centre,” including Vancouver, Waterloo, Toronto, Montreal, and Fredericton.