Canadian tech leaders back new venture studio Simple Ventures

Simple Ventures
Wealthsimple, Shopify, Ada, Knix execs part of contingent backing studio run by CEO Rachel Zimmer.

Leaders from across Canadian tech, including executives from Wealthsimple, Shopify, and Ada, have joined forces to launch and back a new Canadian venture studio.

Toronto-based Simple Ventures has launched today with a mission to bring “innovation home to Canada.” The studio specifically looks to identify products and services that aren’t available in Canada, then partners with founders and its network of investors to bring those products to market.

Simple Ventures CEO Rachel Zimmer told BetaKit that the studio has “structured the economics so that it’s a win-win-win for our investors, founders, and the studio.”

Simple Ventures was co-founded by CEO Rachel Zimmer, former partner at Entrepreneur First and co-founder of 5Crowd, as well as Michael Katchen, CEO and co-founder of Wealthsimple (Katchen will act as Simple Ventures’ board chair). 

The venture studio is backed by over 30 Canadian entrepreneurs, including Shopify president Harley Finkelstein, Knix CEO and founder Joanna Griffiths, and Ada CEO Mike Murchison, as well as corporate investors like Sobeys Inc. and individual co-founders from HaloHealth.

A 2023 report from the Business Development Bank of Canada found that the country has 100,000 fewer entrepreneurs than in the year 2000. “When I read statistics like this, it makes me deeply worried for Canada’s future. And I know a lot of other entrepreneurs and leaders who feel the same way,” Katchen told BetaKit.

Zimmer added that due to Canada’s complexity, regulatory hurdles, and market size, many companies often bypass the country, which leaves Canadians without access to a host of products and services. “We want to build home-grown businesses to fill that void,” she said.

Simple Ventures claims its operating model is the first of its kind in the country. Zimmer explained that the startup first identifies product ideas and determines whether a market may exist for that product through development and testing, following which it finds founders to partner with and grow the businesses.

“Canadian entrepreneurs are some of the best on the planet,” Finkelstein told BetaKit. “Anything that helps create more Canadian-headquartered global companies, count me in.”

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As is typical with venture studios, Simple Ventures will take an ownership stake in each of its portfolio companies. Zimmer said the studio has “structured the economics so that it’s a win-win-win for our investors, founders, and the studio.”

Simple Ventures is currently incubating businesses in wellness, digital health, vertical SaaS, and fresh, local food. Its first announced venture is Alma Care, a postnatal care retreat designed to offer accommodations and support for new mothers and families. Zimmer said the studio is incubating “several more” startups, which it plans to reveal in the coming months.

The studio plans to build and launch 10 companies through its first fund, though Zimmer declined to disclose the fund’s current or target size to BetaKit.

The venture studio model has become increasingly popular in recent years. Essentially starting from day zero, studios are often responsible for creating a startup’s initial team, leading the growth strategy, and providing capital to scale a company. A few notable Canadian tech companies have been either the direct result of the venture studio model, such as Dialogue and Nesto, or inspired the launch of new studios, such as Neo Financial.

Feature image source Simple Ventures.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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