Conversations With Leadership Volunteers - GRIT Ed. 8 | The Relentless Pursuit - Magazine - Page 28
Conversations With Leadership Volunteers
You were both recent speakers at our Alumni Event “All Things Venture Capital”
which was highly appreciated by our alumni. What would you say was the key
takeaway from your presentation?
Darian: We really enjoyed the opportunity to share our “VC perspective” to the Next Alumni, and it has been nice
to hear from a few people afterwards with follow up questions. The key messages we were hoping to convey were:
1. Do your homework before reaching out to an investor. Most investors are focused in certain ways – typically by stage
of investment, or sector of interest, or geography – so make sure you are speaking to the right VCs for your stage and
venture. It optimizes your time and provides the highest chance of success and/or receiving helpful/timely feedback.
2. Selling shares in your company is a sales process. The opening meeting and initial pitch is just the start, but the
follow-up is even more important. VCs can miss your email, get wrapped up in a live deal, or simply wait for you
to move the ball forward. It’s up to you to keep on top of them to understand where you are in their priorities.
OF WITTINGTON VENTURES
JIM ORLANDO, MANAGING PARTNER, WITTINGTON VENTURES
DARIAN ZIGANTE, SENIOR ASSOCIATE, WITTINGTON VENTURES
JIM AND DARIAN, TO START, CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT WITTINGTON
Jim: Wittington Ventures was created 2.5 years ago as a venture fund focused in the retail, healthcare and
food verticals. The investors in our fund include Wittington Investments, George Weston Limited and Loblaw
Companies Limited, which owns Shoppers Drug Mart, so it was natural that we focus in areas where we have
deep knowledge and ability to add value beyond just investment. Fast-forward to now, and WV consists of an
investment team of 7 people and we have a growing portfolio of companies in all of these areas.
Darian: As an aside, Wittington Ventures has a number of touch points to NEXT Canada! For example, Next
36 founder Claudia Hepburn is affiliated with our parent Wittington Investments. Jim is involved as an investor
with the Next 36 Young Founders Fund (YFF2), and through other funds has led investments in a couple of
companies that came out of Next36.
Jim: And don’t leave out that Darian is a Next 36 Alumni, and remains actively engaged via the Alumni Growth
MARCH 2022 | NEXTCANADA.COM
3. Make information (decks and data rooms) clean and easily downloadable. Make financial model spreadsheets
dynamic. During the fundraising process, your time as a founder is valuable, so anything you can do to make
things easier for investors in their analysis should be done so that you can get to a decision as quickly as
possible. Hopefully that decision is a “yes”, but a definitive “no” is also better than a long, drawn-out “maybe.”
4. When you do land an investor, you are at the start of a relationship that could last many years. Pick your
investors properly, and get to know them well during the diligence stage. It’s ok to ask for references for
your investor, and in fact it will show them that you are treating this like a long-term business relationship.
Jim, you have talked about a rise in telehealth technology, social commerce,
dark kitchens, and an increased focus on local or experience driven retail. Out
of all your predictions for Venture Capital you’ve made over the years, which
would you consider most promising and why?
Jim: Several years ago I started a blog post series that made predictions for the upcoming year within Canadian
technology. About midway through the year I would have a look to see how I was doing and then at the end
of the year I would score myself. I got a lot wrong – sometimes on how much money would be invested in
Canadian start-ups in any given year, sometimes about the price of bitcoin, and other times about what new
technologies would emerge to be popular. Some things I got right though included the rise of AI, the backlash
against big tech as it relates to data privacy and the importance of “hard tech” such as semiconductors
which had largely fallen out of favor from the investment community. On the next frontier, I think in 5 years
we’ll be talking about synthetic biology and climate tech the same way we talk about crypto and AI today.
WV currently supports a number of very promising startups in fields ranging
from autonomous vehicles to healthcare. What does WV look for in a venture,
and how does WV bring value to your portfolio companies?
Jim: Much of what we look for are the “classic” venture-backed start-up attributes. This includes seeking founders
and companies who are developing unique technology to drive innovation in their field, that are tackling large and
high growth markets, and/or that have the potential to impact a lot of people. Then we look through our own lens
to understand how we can bring a strong and unique value-add to the founders and their mission.
Darian: Once we’ve made an investment, we’re constantly working to develop our relationship with the founder,
and trying to help from any angle – be it through customer introductions, regulatory guidance, connecting them
with our network of industry leaders, or simply reviewing their financial model in time for the next raise.
You are obviously very passionate about investing. What is it about the field
that most excites you? What, according to you, does the future look like for
startups and investors?
Jim: The most promising aspect that I continually call out in all of this is the persistence of entrepreneurs – some
people are simply driven to create something new, to make a difference, and to persevere in that no matter what.
That’s really what brings all of these technologies together.
Darian: As a founder, I always loved the chance to wear a dozen hats at any given time. As an investor, that
opportunity still exists, except we also have the chance to explore a dozen different industries any given week. This
excites me as it’s not only a chance to learn about the world and new technologies, but also to work with a wide
range of entrepreneurs, and bring cross-discipline perspectives to each project.
GRIT | THE RELENTLESS PURSUIT