Sometimes, good things don’t have to end
There’s a saying that “All good things must come to an end,” but perhaps that’s not always the case.
Over the past 17 years, I’ve had the good fortune to turn a hobby into an opportunity to work full-time with dozens of very talented entrepreneurs in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. Our tech-focused $7M debt fund launched in August of 2000, just as the dot-com bubble was bursting on the NASDAQ. Most of that original capital came from co-founder Clairvest Group Inc., and without the original vision and personal dedication of Ken and the late Joe Rotman, none of this would ever have come to pass.
After five deals, despite not having either staff, business cards or a website, Venturelink’s John Varghese encouraged me to “turn it into a real business” in 2003. With Clairvest’s lead commitment and Ken’s partnership and guidance at every step of the way, these two institutional groups got Fund II launched. Ken and I eventually raised $83 million, which closed on November 30,, 2004, at which point it was clear this would be a full-time responsibility. The first day came on December 1, and thanks to the hard work and commitment of our colleagues, we’ve had the pleasure of building a successful business. Across five different funds, our team has financed more than 100 exciting growth companies in 19 different States and Provinces. All told, our capital has given entrepreneurs the opportunity to create/preserve more than 14,750 jobs.
A professional joy it has been.
And, as of last week, we’ve joined the CIBC Innovation Banking group. With the support of a very successful 150 year-old institution, which thinks like a Start-up itself, we are now in a position to work with North American technology and innovation clients at each stage of their business cycle, from the business plan stage to IPO and beyond. Our group brings extensive experience and a strong, collaborative team that extends across commercial banking and capital markets in Canada and the U.S. As Roman Dubczak, Managing Director and Head of CIBC Global Investment Banking said in the launch news release:
“Developing, growing and implementing new technology is critical to driving the innovation economy. At CIBC, we are embracing the opportunity to help early and mid-stage technology companies compete and accelerate growth in this fast-evolving and growing sector. We’re committed to becoming one of North America’s leading client-focused banks in the innovation ecosystem.”
In addition to tailored advisory expertise and financing solutions, CIBC Innovation Banking clients will benefit from dedicated cash management, deposit, personal wealth and capital markets services to help grow their business and succeed in the North American innovation economy.
When CIBC approached us with the suggestion that it wanted to further deepen its Canadian capabilities and complement CIBC Bank USA’s existing commercial banking team via an acquisition of Wellington Financial Fund V, we quickly came to appreciate just how committed the institution was to the Innovation Economy. As nimble as we are, we never had a toolbox that could accommodate the needs of every good story we came across.
Jon Hountalas, CIBC’s Senior Executive Vice-President and Group Head, Canadian Commercial Banking and Wealth Management made it clear to us that he and his colleagues had a well-established and highly connected CIBC Innovation Banking team that spanned across the bank, including a U.S. Commercial Banking team in Chicago which specialized in servicing clients in our sector on both sides of the border. During our early discussions, it was obvious that Jon and his colleagues shared our client-focused mentality. What we brought to the table was a specialized experience and capabilities that had stood the test of time.
During our process, we also saw CIBC CEO Victor Dodig’s razor sharp focus on what is now a core sector of the North American economy. As large as banks are, every client will tell you that it’s still a relationship business. We see that in how Victor approaches our sector, and the fact that he’s personally engaged in our ecosystem spoke to the institution’s broader commitment. On a personal level, as I said in the news release, my colleagues and I are excited to join the CIBC team and look forward to continuing to serve the needs of entrepreneurs and venture capital funds with a broad range of capital solutions to grow their businesses and compete in a dynamic industry. CIBC represents the perfect partner for our team and the tech ecosystem as a whole.
In case you are wondering, yes, I’m “all-in” as they say, and energized about my new role as President and Executive Managing Director of CIBC Innovation Banking.
While our “Wellington” name might have come to an end, you will still be able to rely on us to be passionate supporters of the innovation ecosystem. But passion doesn’t put capital into your company, and we will do our utmost to provide a growth capital solution whenever possible. You can count on us to be as entrepreneurial as ever, and recognizing the importance of talent, we plan to continue to attract some of the best tech lending specialists in North America to our group. We certainly have a larger platform, which when combined with a lower cost of capital and more regional offices, we’ll have the opportunity to back more entrepreneurs than ever.
It’s an opportunity that we relish, and we are anxious to tell you all about it.
(disclosure: this post, as always, is an Opinion Piece, reflecting a personal view)