During his nearly six years at Montréal-based VC firm Real Ventures, Souweine invested in over 30 early-stage startups, including Spark Microsystems, Botpress, Nomic Bio, Nord Quantique, Valence Discovery, and My Intelligent Machines. He also spent some time running the FounderFuel accelerator as general manager.
“We wanted to build out that bench strength across the country.”
Prior to joining Real Ventures in 2016—first as entrepreneur-in-residence and then as a partner—Souweine worked at Sonder (then Flatbook) as VP of product, and Frank & Oak as director of product management.
In an interview with BetaKit, Pender Ventures Managing Partner Maria Pacella said the VC firm was attracted to Souweine’s experience serving early-stage companies and working as a product manager. Pacella also cited Souweine’s work building and connections within the Montréal tech ecosystem, which she described as “crucial to dealflow” for Pender Ventures.
After focusing primarily on British Columbia and Western Canada with Fund I, Pender Ventures plans to expand its presence in other parts of Canada through its second fund.
“We wanted to build out that bench strength across the country, in Ontario [and] Québec in particular,” said Pacella, adding that Pender Ventures plans to bring on another team member in the near future to support this strategy, but declined to share further details.
Souweine, who left Real Ventures earlier this month to join Pender Ventures, hopes to help aid this expansion. In an interview with BetaKit, Souweine said that his decision to leave Real Ventures and join Pender Ventures was about “growth and personal development.” He will remain based in Montréal.
“Real [Ventures], I mean, it’s just an amazing place,” said Souweine. “I have only good things to say about Real Ventures. I learned a ton, loved the people, loved the mission. But after six years—no matter what you’re doing—the learning curve kind of decreases a bit.”
Founded in 2007, Real Ventures is one of the most active early-stage VC firms in Canada.
A focus on Québec has long been integral to Real Ventures’ seed stage-focused investment thesis.
Souweine’s departure from Real Ventures is the latest in a series of personnel changes to Real Ventures’ investment team that have taken place since 2020. Over the past two and half years, Real Ventures founding partners Alan MacIntosh and JS Cournoyer have transitioned to board partner roles, Janet Bannister was named managing partner, Hamzah Nassif joined as the firm’s second Toronto partner, and former venture partner Sylvain Carle left the firm.
For his part, Souweine expressed excitement about the chance to tap into his Québec network while also expanding his focus to cover Eastern Canada more broadly, and invest more at the Series A stage with Pender Ventures.
“When I met the team—in particular Maria and [principal] Kenndal [McArdle]—they’re solid people who know their stuff, they hustle, they have a vision for what the firm is going to be,” said Souweine. “It’s a firm that’s on the way up.”
Launched in 2019 with a $25 million CAD first fund, Pender Ventures is the private technology VC arm of Vancouver-based public and private asset manager PenderFund Capital Management. Pender Ventures focuses on B2B enterprise and healthtech startups at what Pacella describes as the “inflection stage.” This often equates to the Series A level, and includes companies with product-market fit and early customers generating revenue roughly between $1 million and $3 million.
Souweine said his decision to leave Real and join Pender was about “growth and personal development.”
“Pender Ventures is a little bit more focused on fundamentals and looking for value, and companies that have kind of reached product-market fit and have clear paths to profitability, which is a lot different than Real’s approach—I’ll call it maybe kind of ‘momentum-based’ investing,” said Souweine.
To date, Pender Ventures has amassed a portfolio of nine companies that includes Edmonton-based drug data provider DrugBank, Toronto wound care management startup Swift Medical, Vancouver-based clinic management software company Jane, Winnipeg collaboration software firm Librestream, Vancouver-based real estate tech startup Spark, and Vancouver enterprise analytics software provider Copperleaf, which went public last year and currently trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Now, Pender Ventures is finished making new investments out of Fund I, and is in the process of raising its second fund. Pacella said Pender Ventures has set a target of $100 million CAD for Fund II, and expects its first close to come this fall.
Feature image courtesy Isaac Souweine.