Graphite Ventures has announced the addition of Omi Velasco as a principal based in Calgary, focusing on Alberta and Western Canada deals.
Velasco has been an active member of Alberta’s tech ecosystem for about five years, both as an entrepreneur and investor. Early in her career, she co-founded Sandpearl Spa, which was later sold in 2016.
Graphite says its appointment of Velasco signals a commitment to “build capacity and bench strength in Western Canada.”
In 2019, Velasco also co-founded Aventrock Ventures, a family office that has invested in the likes of Symend, Circle Cardiovascular, Beatdapp, Chata, Surf, Wize, and Ownly, among others. In August, Velasco became the executive director for Venture Capital Association of Alberta.
Craig Leonard, managing director of Graphite, said that Velasco’s sense of community building aligns well with the firm’s model of having a “hyper-local” presence in support of its deal activity.
“While investing is core to our approach, we feel it’s also critical to help grow the tech ecosystem through mentoring, partnering, and education events,” Leonard said. With Velasco’s addition, Graphite now has local investment team members in Calgary, Waterloo, Ottawa, and Toronto.
Graphite is an early-stage $100 million fund that sprung out of the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund (IAF) at the beginning of this year. At launch, Graphite announced that it had already reached $77 million in a first close.
The Ontario government invested $25 million of its returns on past MaRS IAF investments to help launch Graphite. The fund also received a $25 million investment from Canadian pension fund Ontario Municipal Employees’ Retirement System (OMERS), as well as contributions by entrepreneurs from past IAF investments.
Since launching its Fund IV in November 2021, Graphite claims that it has invested in more than 17 Canadian startups to date, operating in the B2B SaaS, FinTech, proptech, digital health sectors.
According to Graphite, its appointment of Velasco signals its commitment to “build capacity and bench strength in Western Canada,” which the VC firm said has been seeing an increase in demand for seed financing.
As the economic downturn continues to hit the public and private markets, Canada has seen venture funding lag behind the breakneck pace of 2021. Despite the headwinds, Alberta managed to set a new record for venture funding, according to briefed.in’s Q2 2022 report.
“Alberta is a relatively nascent market for startups, with a lot of early-stage companies maturing into Series A [and higher] companies,” said Zack Storms, founder and chief organizer at Prairies-focused tech non-profit Startup TNT, told BetaKit in response to the report. “Because of this, there weren’t a lot of mega-deals in 2021. We’re starting to see some, and so the comparison year-over-year is still positive because the companies are still maturing.”
Featured image courtesy of Graphite Ventures.