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ScaleUP Ventures surpasses $100-million, adds big-name B.C. investors

Former Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed, left, and now chairman of ScaleUP Ventures, poses with company board member Sheldon Levy and general partner Kent Thexton on Nov. 28, 2016.

Glenn Lowson/The Globe and Mail

A technology venture-capital firm co-founded by former Rogers Communications Inc. chief executive Nadir Mohamed and backed by the Ontario government and some of Canada's largest companies has more than doubled its initial $50-million fundraising target.

ScaleUP Ventures is announcing on Wednesday that it has closed its first fund after raising $103-million. New investors include Grouse Mountain Resorts owner Stuart McLaughlin; Highland West Capital managing director Dave Mullen; Vancouver real estate mogul Kevin Mahon; and the BC Tech Fund, financed by the provincial government and managed by Toronto's Kensington Capital. With the infusion of B.C. capital, ScaleUP has also hired serial entrepreneur Derek Spratt of Vancouver as a partner and managing director to focus on investment opportunities in western Canada.

While Toronto-based ScaleUP previously secured $25-million from the Ontario government and seven-figure pledges from Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Nova Scotia, Toronto-Dominion Bank, BCE Inc., Telus Corp., and Rogers among others, much of the latest surge of money has come from the West Coast.

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"We are excited about the opportunities presented by the ScaleUP fund, with its unique investor base and strong entrepreneurial team," said Kensington managing director Gerri Sinclair, who manages the BC Tech Fund, which contributed $5-million to ScaleUP.

ScaleUP, chaired by Mr. Mohammed and managed by general partner Kent Thexton, a former telecom executive and entrepreneur, also said its unique model for helping startups is bearing fruit.

According to Mr. Mohamed's vision, corporate Canada was not only expected to invest but to open doors for the young companies backed by ScaleUP through its "leadership council," populated by past and present CEOs of banks, telecoms and other giant Canadian companies such as George Weston Ltd., Magna International Inc. and Goldman Sachs Canada, as well as several prominent Canadian startup entrepreneurs.

ScaleUP says that after it invested $1.7-million in Toronto-based artificial intelligence-powered customer-service software firm Crowdcare Inc., the startup expanded its deployment with Rogers, which helped it secure contracts with other carriers globally, including BT and Sprint.

"It's terrific to see the ScaleUP model working, and how leading Canadian corporates have embraced the need for innovation," Mr. Mohamed said.

ScaleUP has backed 10 companies so far, including Ottawa billing software firm Fusebill Inc. and Toronto-based small-business lender FundThrough Inc. Mr. Thexton said ScaleUP plans to make 30 investments through its first fund, with "strong reserves to invest further in our businesses reaching global scale." ScaleUP has invested $13-million to date.

The fund's original fundraising goal of $50-million was bumped up to $75-million in 2016. It reached the $70-million mark last spring.

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The Globe chats with entrepreneurs Ben Zifkin, Sharn Kandola and Ben Zlotnick to get tips on raising venture capital. Produced by Sean Liliani. Globe and Mail Update
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