R. Stewart (Randy) Thompson, chief executive officer and chairman of Valhalla Private Capital. Wil Andruschak © 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.
Joel Schlesinger © 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.
Calgary isn’t Silicon Valley.
And that’s just fine for the chief executive officer of one Canada’s leading and most innovative private capital investment firms that brings together entrepreneurs with bright ideas and investors seeking the next big thing.
But it’s not about finding the Apples and Googles of tomorrow — “though that would be great,” says R. Stewart (Randy) Thompson, CEO and chairman of Valhalla Private Capital based in Calgary.
Those big initial public offerings (IPOs) of much-vaunted tech stocks such as LinkedIn or Twitter “are more a Silicon Valley story, and it’s not the Canadian — especially Western Canadian — story,” he adds. “We have to create our own formula for success, and we think we have found it.”
To that end Valhalla Private Capital is more than an investment firm that helps high-net-worth individuals and families discover investment opportunities not listed on the stock market.
It also helps entrepreneurs turn their burgeoning ideas into investment-worthy companies. Since its formation a couple of years ago, Valhalla has helped 190 fledgling companies find $55 million in funding from its network of 100 angel investors in Calgary, Edmonton and Kelowna.
Valhalla has also led the private capital industry in Canada, launching a family of four private capital funds for high-net-worth investors seeking a less time-consuming way to invest in startups and early-stage companies.
While the Canadian market has plenty of investors and entrepreneurs with good ideas, uniting the two groups has been an ongoing challenge.
Thompson should know.
He and his team at Valhalla are among the most experienced private capital investment advisers in Alberta, and Canada for that matter.
“We were one of the first-ever ‘Dragons’ Dens,’” he says. “Back in 2003, the whole concept of private investing in tech companies was pretty new.”
In fact, Thompson worked with the popular CBC program in its early days in 2005 and 2006 to find Alberta entrepreneurs with exciting business ideas for the show.
But what he and others at Valhalla found over the years is that entrepreneurs often need support to be able to withstand the fire of the dragons.
“We had to spend time with the companies often to get them investment-grade ready,” he says. “So Valhalla Private Capital has moved from having just formal angel meetings to becoming a cradle-to-exit financing shop for Canadian companies.”
Valhalla finds the opportunities and helps these entrepreneurs develop their ideas into viable business concepts for its network of angel investors. But there’s more.
“We also teach them how to be fundable, and then we bring them to our angel groups.”
The private investment company has taken its innovative model a step further — it created a suite of investment funds that allow high-net-worth investors to become involved without all the legwork.
Among the four offerings is the Seed Global Fund that allows investors to put their capital to work in innovative startups in emerging markets. Or with the VA Angels Fund 1 and 2, they can invest alongside the VA Angels, one of Canada’s oldest and most active angel investment groups. The OKR Financial Fund provides bridge funding to up-and-coming companies.
“So investors now have a choice,” Thompson says. “They can either come to our meetings as angels and directly invest in startups, or they say, ‘Whoa! This is too intense. I’d rather not be this involved and put my money into a fund supporting a variety of opportunities.’”
Essentially, Valhalla has created an in-house ecosystem where startups are groomed, and investors are introduced to potentially great opportunities to support the next generation of innovative business.
And it’s been so successful that it’s now being emulated around the world.
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Calgary Economic Development.