Calgary is on pace to shatter all previous venture capital investment records in the city and the province.
In October, Unreasonable Group launched a co-investment club for accredited investors to focus on Unreasonable alumni.
Called Unreasonable Collective, the club recently made its first investment—part of a $32 million Series A round in foodtech venture Air Protein, which uses microbe technology to produce meat from elements in the air. (The company describes it as “air-based” meat).
Unreasonable Group runs multiple venture accelerator/mentorship programs for growth-stage social enterprises.
CEO and co-founder Lisa Dyson participated in the 2017 Unreasonable Impact Americas program, a partnership between Unreasonable Group and Barclays aimed at backing growth-stage businesses likely to create new jobs in a green economy.
The idea behind the Collective is to create an avenue through which diverse investors can back impact enterprises run by diverse founders. At least 50% of members have to be women, people of color and/or identify as LGBTQ or from other diverse backgrounds. Companies are drawn from Unreasonable’s network of 250 alumni, called fellows.
According to Pratibha Vuppuluri, head of investments at Unreasonable Group, one big differentiator from other investment groups is that all syndicates are led by established VC firms, thereby giving members an unusual chance to invest alongside heavy-hitters. For Air Protein, the syndicate was led by ADM Ventures, Barclays and GV (formerly Google Ventures).
“We asked ourselves, what if we had a way of building community-driven investing where individual accredited investors could invest along with large institutional groups,” says Vuppuluri. “It’s one of a few times an individual investor gets to invest alongside places like GV.”
According to Vuppuluri, that effort is helped by the variety of connections Unreasonable already has with VCs. Also, since they stay in close touch with alumni, the folks at Unreasonable presumably have a thorough handle on each venture’s viability.
To create a community and educate members about issues relevant to their investments, the Collective runs such programs as monthly master classes, usually devoted to topics related to investments. There’s going to be one soon on circular economy issues and how they relate to Air Protein. “Jeffersonian dinners”, held every second month, allow members to connect around relevant subjects, like robotics in agriculture. The upshot: “When it’s time to deploy capital, members feel they’re part of a crowd and feel free to ask questions,” says Vuppuluri.
Also, building on a process called “brain trusts”, through which Unreasonable companies meet every month with a group of experts to address key challenges, 12 to 15 Collective members convene with ventures to address relevant issues and get to know the CEOs better.
Unreasonable always kicks off the process by finding VCs to back an investment. After that, the Collective showcases the deal to “anchor members”, who invest more than $250,000 and typically have expertise in particular areas. Then, the rest of the membership, which isn’t obligated to invest, sees the deal. Thus “when it comes down to individual members, the deal has gone through several levels to de-risk it,” says Vuppuluri. The minimum check size is $10,000.
As for the presentations, there’s a basic pitch and Q&A session for interested members and companies every month. After that, members have 10 days to evaluate the deal and ask more questions. There’s then a second call, with three more days to make a final decision. Members pay annual dues; there are no management fees.
So far, there are 45 members, with a waiting list of 75. According to Vuppuluri, the Collective has a few more food-related investments that members should be closing on soon.
Berkeley, Cal.-based Air Protein aims to address the climate-harming effects of meat production. To that end, it uses hydrogenotrophs, which are single-cell microorganisms that can turn carbon dioxide into protein, according to the company. The process, which taps NASA research from the 1960s, mixes carbon dioxide, oxygen and nitrogen with water and mineral nutrients, operating somewhat in the way yogurt is produced. Then the company adds elements to make the substance feel and taste like chicken, steak and the like. “It will look like the standard meat you see on shelves today,” says Dyson.
According to Dyson, Air Protein will use the funding to expand R&D, product development and hiring.
Conservative Party leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre has a personal financial interest in cryptocurrencies that he has promoted during his campaign as a hedge against inflation.
The Ottawa-area MP’s assets include units of Purpose Bitcoin, a Canadian-based, exchange-traded fund that holds cryptocurrencies, according to his May 4 disclosure to the federal ethics commissioner.
Poilievre’s campaign denied encouraging investment in crypto puts him in a conflict of interest.
“Mr. Poilievre spoke with the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner prior to publicly commenting on Bitcoin and Bitcoin related policies,” his spokesperson Anthony Koch said in an email.
“The Office cleared him to do so without issue.”
The campaign provided an email from the Office of the Ethics Commissioner from November that said the interest in Bitcoin “does not prevent you from commenting on cryptocurrencies in general, participating in debates and vote on public policies related to the regulation of cryptocurrencies.”
The commissioner’s office also said Poilievre was free to host conversations with other MPs “on this subject matter as any policies or regulations would apply to you as one of a broad class.”
Poilievre has proposed barring the Bank of Canada from developing its own digital currency and said Canadians should be free to use alternative currencies for payments.
“We need sound money again—and also the freedom for buyers and sellers to choose #bitcoin and other technology,” he tweeted on April 1.
In March, he held an event at a London, Ont., restaurant and paid for a shawarma using Bitcoin. And at an event in April in BC, he made a Bitcoin donation to the BC SPCA, accompanied by a dog wearing a Bitcoin logo.
“A Poilievre government would welcome this new, decentralized, bottom-up economy and allow people to take control of their money from bankers and politicians,” his campaign said in a press release.
Since then, the value of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has plunged, exposing Poilievre to criticism from opponents who say encouraging Canadians to invest in something so volatile is reckless.
The value of the Purpose Bitcoin ETF has fallen nearly 40 per cent over the past six months.
The Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons requires MPs to report assets and liabilities in excess of $10,000. But it does not require them to reveal the value of their assets or when they were acquired.
Poilievre’s campaign said his holdings in Bitcoin were right around the disclosure threshold.
In his disclosure, Poilievre also reported holding exchange-traded funds based on the stock indexes of Singapore and Switzerland. His campaign said he was required under the conflict-of-interest Code to publicly disclose these ETFs, but not his holdings in a Canadian stock index fund.
“Mr. Poilievre’s largest investment by far is in Canadian Index Fund that tracks the TSX,” the campaign said.
The co-founder of ethics advocacy group Democracy Watch said MPs should be prevented from holding assets like Bitcoin.
“It’s clearly unethical for MPs or party leadership candidates to advocate for changes that will help businesses they are invested in, and the best way to stop this is to prohibit MPs from having investments,” Duff Conacher, said in an email.
During last week’s leadership debate in Edmonton, Poilievre was challenged over his past comments on Bitcoin. He should not be encouraging investment in “magic internet money,” said Brampton, Ont., mayor and leadership candidate Patrick Brown.
“People can make their own investment decisions,” Poilievre said in response to a question from Leslyn Lewis, an Ontario Conservative MP and leadership candidate.
“I simply said they should be free to decide whether they want to use Bitcoin. I don’t want to be like communist China and ban Bitcoin or other technologies.”
Canadian investors are already free to invest in cryptocurrencies. Indeed, Poilievre is not the only MP with investments in crypto. At least seven others declared Bitcoin or other digital currency assets in their disclosures, including:
Ben Lobb (Conservative, Ontario): Bitcoin.
Chandra Arya (Liberal, Ontario): Stock options of Coinbase Global Inc.
Taleeb Noormohamed (Liberal, BC): Bitcoin, Ethereum, Stacks and Coinbase Global Inc.
Joël Lightbound (Liberal, Quebec): Purpose Bitcoin ETF, Purpose Ether ETF, Bitcoin and Solana.
Scot Davidson (Conservative, Ontario): Evolve Cryptocurrencies ETF, held by spouse.
Tony Van Bynen (Liberal, Ontario): Ethereum.
Terry Beech (Liberal, BC): Ethereum.
Calgary is on pace to shatter all previous venture capital investment records in the city and the province.
Alberta attracted $466 million worth of investment in the first quarter of 2022, $433 million of which was in Calgary, according to the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association Q1 report on Tuesday. In all of 2021, there was $561 million worth of venture capital investment in Alberta, $500 million of which was in Calgary.
“We knew it was going to be a significant quarter for the province of Alberta, but we weren’t expecting this much activity this fast in 2022,” said Economy, Jobs and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer. “It really is a testament to the growth of the industry and also the maturity of the industry in Alberta.”
In 2020, the province had a record year of venture capital growth over 12 months at about $450 million worth of investment.
Kim Furlong, CEO of CVCA, credited investments made by the province years ago to make Alberta’s risk-tolerant environment more appealing to startups and investors.
The numbers were boosted across the board due to record investment in Canada, but Calgary is starting to take a bigger piece of the pie. Calgary still trails Toronto ($2.19 billion), Montreal ($928 million) and Vancouver ($454 million) in total dollars, but it is closing the gap, especially in Western Canada.
Over the past several years, Calgary has seen rapid growth in the startup sector and venture capital investment, setting records every year.
Brett Colvin, CEO of Calgary startup Goodlawyer, said there has been a dramatic shift in the approach to the sector. When he was originally looking at launching his company he was considering Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, but three years ago the environment began to change in his hometown.
“There is this palpable energy within government, business and the wider community that startups and technology will be key drivers to our city’s future and long-term success,” he said. “Fundamentally, the attitudes have shifted and the opportunity — that it seems like a lot of people are in agreement with — for the long-term success of our city lies in startups, lies in tech. It’s an incredible time to be a startup founder in Calgary.”
Still, he would like to see the return of the Alberta Investor Tax Credit, which he said was critical to early-stage investment for his company. The credit was phased out by the government beginning in 2019.
Schweitzer pointed to other initiatives the province has put its weight behind to stimulate growth, acting on the advice of the Innovation Capital Working Group. These moves include injecting $175 million into the Alberta Enterprise Corp. to increase liquidity in the sector and attract outside investment, efforts to improve the talent pool and improve mentorship through accelerator projects.
Edmonton was the beneficiary of just $18 million in venture capital investment in the first quarter. Schweitzer said Calgary began its pursuit of these dollars and startups before the provincial capital. He pointed to organizations such as Calgary Economic Development pushing this mission, noting Innovate Edmonton is attempting to do the same.
Furlong, however, warned there are some signs of potential slowdown in the next few quarters due to factors such as inflation and wage pressures, geopolitical pressures including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and an overheated market. She said it is important for people to continue pushing for growth in the sector.
“Let’s celebrate the success that we saw,” she said. “Regardless of what’s on the horizon, let’s stay the course, because the types of companies and what it produces — jobs, exports — the talent that it attracts, all of it put together is essential for us thinking about how we transform Canada into an innovative economy.”
(Bloomberg) — US and European businesses are reconsidering their investments in China after the lockdown in Shanghai and restrictions in other cities caused major disruption to their operations.
The American and European Union chambers of commerce in separate briefings said their members are rethinking their supply chains and whether to expand investment in the face of China’s zero tolerance approach to combating Covid-19.
“The Covid lockdowns this year and the restrictions over the past two years are going to mean that three, four, five years from now, we will most likely see investment decline,” Michael Hart, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said Tuesday in Beijing.
While this doesn’t mean an immediate shift outside of China, Hart said that many firms that source from China are asking where else they can get supplies, and whether they should be building or sourcing from somewhere else.
The outlook is shared by European companies. Many members of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China are putting investment plans on pause and starting to consider whether to leave the country, the business group’s representatives said at a briefing Monday. Uncertainties about a potential next wave of outbreaks are taking a heavy toll on business confidence, they said.
“Uncertainty is really the keyword, because there’s no view, no outlook about how long this could last, and what will be next after Shanghai,” said Massimo Bagnasco, vice president of the European chamber.
Read More: China Vows to Ease Supply Chain Woes in Foreign Chamber Meeting
Profits of foreign firms in China are falling, and companies have become increasingly vocal about the impact on their businesses from Covid lockdowns and restrictions. Earlier this month, more than half of US firms said they were reducing or delaying investment plans and expected lower revenue due to the economic fallout from extended lockdowns, which have clogged the world’s biggest port, closed highways and shuttered factories and businesses.
And last week, respondents to a survey by the German Chamber of Commerce in China reported that nearly 30% of their foreign employees had plans to leave China because of Covid. The chamber surveyed 460 companies.
The restrictions that began in March in Shanghai and elsewhere come on top of existing travel controls, which have made it hard for employees of foreign firms to travel to China or visit headquarters overseas.
The travel restrictions have left AmCham “very concerned” about US and other foreign investment into China, Hart said at a press conference to launch the chamber’s 2022 White Paper.
China usually ranks among the top three destinations for investment among AmCham’s member companies, but “it is falling in preference,” Hart said, adding that if people can’t travel to the country, it will “decline as an investment destination.”
European businesses continue to face challenges including lost production days, labor shortages and supply chain and logistics disruptions due to lockdown measures. The pressure to leave China will rise significantly if the obstacles don’t improve by the end of the year, said Joerg Wuttke, president of the chamber.
The economy is also unlikely to rebound this time around as sharply as it did in 2020 because of ongoing headwinds from the crackdown on the technology sector, a persistent property market slump, and capital flowing out of China as the China-US interest rate differential diminishes, according to Wuttke.
Read more: China’s Covid Exit Hinges on Seniors Who Don’t Want Vaccines
Wuttke urged China to accelerate its vaccination efforts, as the vaccine uptake among those older than 65 has slowed in recent months.
“You cannot hold an economy hostage by 150-to-160 million people that are insufficiently vaccinated,” he said. “This has to change, it can’t go on forever.”
(Updates with details about a survey by the German chamber of commerce in paragraph eight.)
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.
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