Student-run venture fund Front Row Ventures is expanding across Canada.
Founded in Montreal, the fund received $600,000 in October from Real Ventures to invest in 24 student-led startups over the next four years. Since September, they’ve been focused on Quebec, having established a presence in eight universities in Montreal as well as the Université de Sherbrooke and Université Laval. The fund has a team of about 20 students.
Thrilled to announce the expansion of @FrontRowvc across Canada at the investor breakfast today! Backing Front Row Ventures is an initiative that has reinforced Real’s commitment to early-stage entrepreneurs in Canada. Congratulations FRV! 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/gNdvO2RgZY
— Real Ventures (@realventures) July 13, 2018
As they eye expansion, co-founder Raphael Christian-Roy said the fund is also looking to raise $10 million from limited partners. He indicated that they would hit $5 million in a few weeks. “Since we did our launch in September, just in Montreal we’ve met more than 350 companies and we invested in six,” Christian-Roy said. “I needed to validate that there was a need for a model like Front Row Ventures across Canada, but I also needed to validate if there was a deal flow that would be interested in Front Row. There’s an enormous interest from all the accelerators and incubators who want to work with us, but also entrepreneurs.”
The fund plans to expand in BC and Ontario first, and move into the Prairies and Maritimes following that. Speaking with BetaKit, Christian-Roy spoke about the importance of funded student startups, saying that many of the largest tech companies in the US began building while founders were still in university, such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Google.
“It’s not that we invest in startups that are not good compared to other VCs, we just invest in entrepreneurs that happen to be students at the same time.”
“We took that idea and adapted it to Canada, because we understood one thing, which is that there’s nothing better than finding students to fund student entrepreneurs. There’s a lot of untapped potential on university campuses, but being able to find entrepreneurs who are struggling and that are developing their startup, and not usually able to have financing because they are full-time students,” he said. “We invest in those students and exist for the reason that most VCs and accelerators are not focused on universities and are not able to invest in full-time students, because they’re not optimized for that.”
The fund follows a similar thesis as Real in that it is sector-agnostic, and invests $25,000 in each startup. For companies in sectors like hardware that require more funding, Christian-Roy said that they will “find other ways to help,” such as investing in a round with other VCs.
“We have investment processes that are optimized for students. So it’s not that we invest in startups that are not good compared to other VCs, we just invest in entrepreneurs that happen to be students at the same time and we have processes that help them to raise the money while being at school while running their startup.”