Exploring the forgotten history of Canadian venture capital

Matt Roberts CMD Capital BetaKit Podcast
CMD Capital’s Matt Roberts investigates the curious case of the missing Canadian dotcom crash.

The current venture market is “weird.”

Don’t take my word for it. I got that from a VC.

One Matt Roberts, general partner at CMD Capital, who lays out why on this podcast. It’s what prompted him to go on a journey to track the last 20-plus years of venture capital in this country, and then write about it.

The results may shock and surprise you. It turns out that there’s this whole era of Canadian venture capital investments into tech that’s mostly forgotten, featuring a whole dotcom crash of our own presaging a Canadian LP market collapse, a venture liquidity crisis, and the death of several hard tech innovators.

“There are good things about the state of the market today compared to where we were in the 2000s. There are things that are not as good, and then you have fundamental issues that occurred in the aftermath of the dotcom era that never got solved.”

Why has it been forgotten? Well, the institutional memory of our ecosystem is quite poor (mirroring the rest of society) and, frankly, the data is bad. As Roberts notes on his Substack, even BDC struggles with collecting accurate data between 2000 and 2010, oftentimes missing billions of dollars in funding per annum.

Now, this didn’t really shock Roberts, but he’s a weird guy and despite being just a few years older than I am has somehow been venture investing since the mid-90s. So apologies for any old man Canadian Tech Heritage Moment tangents on companies that might have been dead before you were born, but the point is that maybe this lost history is important, and setting it in context today is valuable in a lot of ways beyond just understanding the current weirdness.

At the very least, revisiting this history has been useful in informing CMD’s approach to investing as it looks to close its $50-million early-stage fund. How much was Roberts willing to speak to that? Why is our venture data so bad? And how much is 2023 like 2003 (or perhaps, how much worse)?

Let’s dig in.

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The BetaKit Podcast is hosted by Douglas Soltys & Rob Kenedi. Produced & edited by Kattie Laur. Sponsored by Dynabook and Cisco Secure Firewall.

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys is the Editor-in-Chief of BetaKit and founder of BetaKit Incorporated. He has worked for a few failed companies and written about many more. He spends too much time on the Internet.

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