27 members from five Angel Groups Invest Alongside the Ontario Government in Toronto Venture, Viafoura
Members of Golden Triangle Angel Network (GTAN), the Sudbury chapter of Northern Ontario Angels (NOA), York Angel Investors (YAI), Niagara Angel Network (NAN), and Angel One Investor Network (Angel One) united to make a substantial undisclosed investment in the Toronto-based start-up, Viafoura. This is the most geographically extensive syndication to date among organized Ontario Angels.
Viafoura was brought to the attention of Angel investor and entrepreneur Marc Castel through Communitech, an innovation hub in Waterloo. “They had made quite a bit of progress and had built an impressive team bootstrapping the business with their own money,” said Castel. As a member of GTAN, Marc offered them an opportunity to present to GTAN’s selection committee where they ultimately attracted multiple individual investors from the Waterloo region. The word spread and the company attracted further interest from NOEG, YAI, Angel One and NAN members, arriving at the involvement of 27 investors, in total.
“The pursuit of start-up capital is quite akin to dating. Many entrepreneurs start raising money when they need money. The probability of meeting someone casually who is willing to write you a suitable cheque to help grow your business is slim. Having known that we were going to raise capital, I engaged potential investors from inception. When it was time for a commitment, they were fully informed of our development process and achievements. Making the time for an extended courtship to ensure a level of trust and intimacy exists between the parties is well worth the effort,” said Jesse Moeinifar, CEO of Viafoura.
The company presented to each group and each group’s members performed separate due diligence research. Alongside the Angels, the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE)’s Centre for Commercialization of Research completed their own due diligence on the company and co-invested, making this one of the broadest syndicated investments the province has seen. “As Angels and government partners continue to work more closely together, good companies are more likely to attract sufficient funding, and the process of locating and closing quality investments will become a much more efficient process,” said Castel.
Putting together a syndicate requires significant organizational and logistical effort. “Castel played a key role in facilitating dialogue and activities between the members of the various groups, which was critical to syndication,” said Nick DiPietro, Executive Director of NAN.
Angel investors also bring a wealth of experience to start-ups and, in this case, lead investors Benton Leong and Steve Gilpin of GTAN made a positional impact on the company’s go-to-market strategy, accelerating the milestones they were able to achieve. Both Angels have a seat on the company’s Board of Directors, thus making themselves available beyond what is typically afforded to entrepreneurs. “If we needed their business insight or access to their networks, they stepped up right away,” says Moeinifar. “Their passion for the team and entrepreneurship, in general, is an asset we’ve been very fortunate to have.”
Last year, Viafoura was chosen from 50 companies at Canada 3.0 to attend the Banff Venture Forum. The company has since grown to 17 employees, and has paying customers. “We were very excited that we managed to attract enough Angels and government funding to complete a major all-Ontario financing round, and are looking forward to contributing to Southern Ontario’s economic base and Canada, as a whole,” said Moeinifar.
Viafoura is the leading audience engagement platform for premier digital publishers. The platform adds advanced social functionality to large news and entertainment websites and mobile applications. Through the power of conversation, curation and reward mechanics, Viafoura builds community and drives key business objectives such as page views, length of visit, social shares, return visits, user contributions and revenues. The Viafoura platform runs as a series of widgets that integrate seamlessly into publishers’ websites, accessorizing their premium content with enhanced social functionality. Viafoura is offered as a hosted software-as-a-service solution available through a set of flexible subscription plans.