Does corporate VC have an advantage in AI investments?

Plus: Omnirobotic reborn and Flinks moves in for the kill.

Welcome to BetaKit’s startup stories of the week! Here, you will find the week’s most important news, features, and editorials published on BetaKit.

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“There’s more leverage from a dollar taken from a Microsoft or an AWS, specifically for these large language model [startups], than maybe taking money from a different type of fund.”

That’s from Joe Dormani, partner at Thomson Reuters Ventures, whose $100-million-USD corporate fund invested in nine companies last year—eight of them in AI and ML. In a recent conversation with BetaKit, he pointed to a trend of large firms investing in these startups—think Microsoft’s partnership with OpenAI and Amazon’s investment into Anthropic.

“For the corporation [itself], there’s a direct line to some revenue, a potential go-to-market partnership, where these models can sit on top of a cloud provider and drive consumption for them,” he said. “Down the road, these are obviously going to be key relationships for these companies.”

He added that the trend has emerged in the last 10 years, as traditional financiers and VCs take from the corporate investment playbook and vice versa. VCs are adding additional services to help startups scale, while big corporate investors chase startups that match their business strategy.

But as venture capitalists grow wary of backing young AI startups, will that allow well-capitalized corporate funders to corner the market? 

What do you make of the trend? My inbox is open.

Thanks for reading on and catch you next week, 

Bianca Bharti 

Newsletter Editor

After fundraising failure, Omnirobotic comes out of restructuring as a profitable robot builder

This time last year, the end was approaching for Omnirobotic. Technology market conditions were deteriorating and the venture-backed startup had failed to secure Series A financing. Even after laying off a third of its staff, the Laval, QC-based company was still running dangerously low on cash.

In an interview with BetaKit, Omnirobotic co-founder and CEO Francois Simard said it took three months to accept that he was not going to be able to raise new funding to fuel the company’s recurring revenue platform strategy and half a year for Omnirobotic to secure the buy-in required to restructure and reinvent itself as a maker of autonomous industrial robots.

Eight months later, the plan is working. “The Omnirobotic of 2024 is a totally different company,” said Simard.

(Read more)

With new president Sarah Miller Wright, Certn targets profitable growth over acquisitions

Victoria, BC-based background check technology provider Certn has brought on Sarah Miller Wright as its first president to lead global operations.

Miller Wright, who assumed the role earlier this month, brings over 20 years of executive leadership experience to Certn. She comes to the scaling tech firm from one of its investors, Inovia Capital, where she most recently worked as entrepreneur-in-residence after serving in senior roles at insurance giant Manulife and telecommunications firm Shaw Communications.

In an exclusive interview with BetaKit, Miller Wright acknowledged that her resume looks a bit different than that of the average tech exec. “The thing that makes me really excited about this role, at this stage where I’m at in my career, is being able to leverage being in at-scale organizations and really having a good understanding of … what great can be,” she said.

(Read more)

Middleware land grab: Flinks wants to kill screen-scraping and make APIs king

The federal government’s long-awaited legislation to formalize open banking will be a “massive milestone” for Canada’s FinTech startups like API developer Flinks. But even without it, the Montréal-based FinTech platform has spent the last few years quietly setting itself up to become the primary infrastructure for tech companies looking to offer financial services in the country.

Flinks is looking to cement what co-founder and CEO Yves-Gabriel Leboeuf told BetaKit is a unique position in Canadian FinTech.

“We think we sit at the very middle of the entire ecosystem, the same way Visa or Mastercard is at the middle of their very own ecosystem,” Leboeuf said. “Having that special position … enabled us to come up with a very bold strategy and vision to have the ability to deliver that infrastructure.”

(Read more)

Angel Investors Ontario’s long-term future is unclear as FedDev funding dries up

The angel investor group has brought on Mark Lawrence as its interim executive chair, replacing longtime president and executive director Jeffrey Steiner, who is stepping down. The change comes as AIO awaits word from the federal and provincial governments as to whether it can expect to receive more financial support.

In an interview with BetaKit, Lawrence said he was asked by AIO’s board of directors to take on the volunteer role on an interim basis after its board concluded it was “not the right time” to look for a new permanent leader given AIO’s presently precarious funding situation.

(Read more)

How money actually flows from VCs to startups

Speaking with BetaKit, Robert Rosen, Managing Director of Innovation Banking at CIBC, explained what capital call lines are, how they operate, and how liquidity instruments like these help keep Canada’s innovation economy moving.

(Read more)

OMERS Ventures’ Laura Lenz explains how startups can stand out when fundraising

VCs are paying more attention to company quality and pushing past what Laura Lenz, a partner at OMERS Ventures, called “ego-raising.” An investor for over 20 years, Lenz has prioritized in-depth diligence for companies regardless of economic cycle. And in her experience, one of the best ways a startup can stand out in the fundraising process is with a high-quality data room.

Speaking with BetaKit, Lenz explained the significance of a well-crafted data room and offered her three-step process for building one.

(Read more)

Funding, Acquisitions, and Layoffs

SFO – Power – $16.3M
VAN – Elevated Signals – $7.9M CAD
CGY – Helcim – $27M CAD
CGY – RetinaLogik  – $783K CAD
TOR – Bench IQ – $2.8M CAD
TOR – Ideogram – $80M
TOR – Figure 1 acquired by Physician’s Weekly
MTL – Tokidos – $1.35M CAD
MTL – QueerTech acquires Gradient Spaces 
HFX – Myomar Molecular $1.1M CAD

The BetaKit Podcast

How to fix SR&ED with CCI’s Ben Bergen. CCI president Ben Bergen walks through the #CDNtech lobbyist group’s proposed policy changes for the $4 billion Scientific Research and Experimental Development tax credit following Finance’s recent consultation kick-off (two years after it was promised).

“SR&ED’s big. SR&ED matters. But it’s also a value statement of where we as a country want to go.”

Bianca Bharti

Bianca Bharti

Bianca Bharti is the newsletter editor at BetaKit, where she spearheads coverage and analysis of tech news in related products. Before BetaKit, Bianca covered the nexus of markets, industries and policy in a variety of formats as a reporter for the Financial Post. There, she won silver in SABEW's 2021 Best in Business Journalism Awards in the personal finance category for one of her pieces. In her free time, she enjoys swapping her reporter hat for a baseball cap to hit up some hiking trails with her dog. She also weirdly loves debating monetary policy.

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