Export Development Canada (EDC), a Crown corporation that aims to help Canadian companies respond to international business opportunities, has been one of the key players in the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
”Services and technology are sectors growing fast in Canada. Although we’re going through a difficult period, they are sectors with a very strong future.”
The credit agency is one of the organizations tasked with bringing COVID-19 relief and support to Canadian businesses through the government’s new Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP).
The federal government granted EDC expanded capabilities until December 2021 to support and develop domestic businesses and small- to medium-sized enterprises in the face of COVID-19.
BetaKit recently spoke with Carl Burlock, EDC’s executive vice president and chief business officer, about how the agency is approaching its response to the pandemic.
“We know that companies are facing difficulties and that time is a key element in the response,” Burlock told BetaKit. “It’s both speed and scale, so that’s why we’ve had to be responsive to the needs of Canadian companies today. It’s really for a response that is rapid and that is at scale… because that’s what’s needed.”
Burlock pointed to several new relief programs for Canadian businesses EDC is in the process of implementing. Burlock confirmed to BetaKit that earlier this month EDC launched a trial program to match investment dollars for small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) that export their products from Canada.
According to The Logic’s reporting, that program would match investments of up to $5 million in funding from venture capital and private equity investors as well as corporate partners. Burlock told BetaKit EDC has “broadened the parameters” of its investment matching program, which he said can be used by “many high technology companies.”
“We got a lot of interest just in the week and a half that it’s been launched,” Burlock said. “We’re looking at what companies are telling us and seeing how we can optimize that program.”
While Burlock stated that the investment matching program has launched, an EDC spokesperson later claimed the agency is still finalizing the details and parameters of the program. They noted there have been no transactions thus far.
One of EDC’s key relief measures is its loan guarantee program, which is a pillar of BCAP. Through the EDC loan guarantee, the government aims to give eligible businesses access to up to $6.25 million CAD in short-term liquidity to cover “critical” expenses like rent, payroll, and other operational costs. The loan is issued through financial institutions, and became available through some banks starting in mid-April.
“What’s happened with this pandemic is that it’s affected all companies at the same time,” Burlock told BetaKit. “Rolling [the loan guarantee] out through financial institutions allows us scale and scope so we can tap the thousands of bank account managers that are there.”
In order to receive funding, applicants for both the Canada Emergency Business Account and the EDC loan guarantee must apply through their bank or a financial institution. The federal government says Canadian businesses in all sectors that were financially viable and revenue-generating prior to the COVID-19 outbreak are eligible to apply.
Some members of the tech community had expressed concern that Canadian software-as-a-service (SaaS) and other traditional tech companies with revenue below $4 or $5 million would not be able to take advantage of such programs as they may not often qualify for bank loans, or lines of credit.
Burlock said the loan guarantee criteria is “wide open,” as they are designed to make liquidity available, by providing 80 percent of the loan if a financial institution chooses to advance with an application.
“As these programs roll out, they’re targeted to be used by all companies,” he said. “We are interested to hear feedback if some companies are not eligible.”
Burlock said if some companies are not eligible, there are other programs that EDC is making available, however, they will run more along EDC’s traditional business lines.
Burlock said the loan guarantee criteria is “wide open,” as they are designed to make liquidity available.
EDC has made recent enhancements, Burlock said, to existing EDC solutions to better serve tech companies. This includes the percentage of a loan that is covered by the Export Guarantee Program, through which EDC shares the risk with a business’s financial institution by providing a guarantee on the money that business borrows.
The organization has also tailored its Accounts Receivable Insurance coverage to include SaaS companies, and is increasing collaboration with MaRS Discovery District and BDC to coordinate support to the tech ecosystem.
Burlock also pointed to the BDC Capital Bridge Financing Program for companies not eligible for the EDC loan guarantee, as well as the National Research Council of Canada’s $250 million COVID-19 Innovation Assistance Program.
“In the past two or three years, we’ve set up technology teams across Canada, so we understand the unique type of business structure they have,” he said.
Beyond providing quick credit access to businesses, Burlock noted the goal of many of the EDC and BDC programs is to encourage the private sector to step in and supplement for the current crisis. He added that for companies that are at different stages or are with diverse needs, he emphasized that there are a variety of offerings they can look at.
“We’ve always had a view, especially in the last few years, that services and technology are sectors growing fast in Canada,” Burlock said. “Although we’re going through a difficult period, they are sectors with a very strong future, and EDC certainly wants to be part of supporting those sectors, not just through this crisis, but in the future as well.”
Image source EDC via Facebook.