Desmarais-backed venture capital platform closes new $55-million tech fund

A venture capital platform with the backing of Quebec’s Desmarais family has closed a second fund to finance technology startups primarily in financial services, this time with $55 million to invest.

Francois Lafortune, chief executive of Diagram Ventures, said the first $30-million fund has already invested in or co-founded five companies since it launched in 2017 with a target of seven investments, and the plan is for the second fund to back about a dozen more.

The portfolio companies already up and running have grown to a combined enterprise value of $175 million in less than three years, and have created 250 full-time jobs, Lafortune said, adding that the value is based in part on what third parties have been willing to invest in the companies.

“We’ve proven that this is possible, our model has a place,” he said.

The strategy is to find early-stage technology companies and partner with their management financially, provide support services, and give them access to a network of limited partners and large incumbent players within Power Corp.

Portag3, the venture capital arm of three companies within the Desmarais family’s Power Corp., is the “anchor” investor in both Diagram funds, the second of which salso boasts 75 angel investors.

“They have a global view on the trends in fintech and it helps us be smart when we create companies … to learn what’s happening globally and to create the right type of company,” said Lafortune. “And also to validate investor appetite early, which we couldn’t do if we were just on our own.”

Paul Desmarais III, Diagram’s co-founder and chairman who is also a senior vice president at Power Corp., said the funds are a “key” component of the family’s strategy of investing in “the next generation of global financial services platforms.”

Millions of dollars in investments have been made through Portag3 already, in companies including robo-advisor Wealthsimple, online lender Borrowell, and Koho, a mobile payments and banking startup.

I have full confidence in the team and that the model works     

In a statement about the latest Diagram fund, Desmarais highlighted the participation international investors, which more than doubled from the first fund.

“We expect this will create substantive benefits for our portfolio companies as they expand internationally,” Desmarais said.

“My personal commitment to Diagram is unwavering because I have full confidence in the team and that the model works.”

The first fund’s portfolio companies include Dialogue, a Montreal-based virtual health platform for employees, and Toronto-based Collage, a developer of a cloud-based software application for companies to automate human resources, benefits, and payroll administration.

An investor in Diagram’s first fund, Montreal entrepreneur and investor Hamnett Hill, has joined the venture platform as a partner.

Hill co-founded TotalNet, one of Canada’s largest early Internet Service Providers, Zero-Knowledge Systems, a pioneer in online privacy and security, and Smooch, a messaging software provider, which was sold to San Francisco-based Zendesk in May.

“Diagram’s unique, entrepreneur-focused model and the success it has enjoyed so far drew me to the platform,” Hill said in a statement. “I have yet to see anything else like it and I believe this formula represents the way forward to create the next generation of Canadian-based global businesses in the financial technology sector.”

Limited partners in Diagram’s second fund include Bruce Heyman, former United States Ambassador to Canada and a former partner at Goldman Sachs, Mark Britto, executive vice president of global sales and credit at PayPal, and Anatol von Hahn, the former group head of Canadian banking at Bank of Nova Scotia.

Published at Tue, 11 Jun 2019 04:01:59 +0000