Student-led Front Row Ventures launching in Ontario

Front Row Ventures (FRV), a student-run Canadian venture capital fund, will be launching in Ontario this spring, and is now accepting applications for student-led Ontario startups.

Founded in Montreal, FRV announced last year, its plans to expand across Canada with the goal of raising a $10 million fund.

“We need to inject the VC mindset so that they don’t just create businesses, but the next Google of the world.”

To help gets its Ontario chapter off the ground FRV has been traveling to local universities over the past week, hosting info sessions in hopes of finding both student founders and potential recruits to join its teams.

When the firm originally announced its plans to expand outside of Quebec FRV said was looking to raise $10 million from limited partners. At the time FRV indicated it would hit at least $5 million of that within a few weeks in July 2018.

Now, FRV has revealed to BetaKit, that it has yet to secure the money, and is now expecting between $5 to $10 million in funding before the end of this summer. The final amount has yet to be confirmed.

FRV received $600,000 in October of last year from Real Ventures, an early-stage VC firm based in Montreal, to invest in 24 student-led startups over the next four years. Since then, the firm has invested close to $200,000 in six companies in Quebec.

The firm funds student startups through an initial $25,000 early investment, followed by a second investment of $50,000. The time between the first investment and the second may vary from company to company, Christian-Roy explained, noting there is usually a gap of about a year between two investments. FRV currently provides all startups with the same structure of funding.

FRV made its first $25,000 investment, in January 2018, in Pelcro, a startup founded by a student from McGill University. Pelcro allows publishers to monetize readership through subscription instead of advertising.

The student-run fund is now extending its reach to the rest of Canada, with plans move into BC next, and the Prairies, and the Atlantic regions, later this year. FRV co-founder Raphael Christian-Roy said the firm will be focusing primarily on Québec and Ontario for the following two to three months.

It plans to have student community and investment associates on campuses to help expand its outreach and close venture deals. Starting in August, teams will be on campuses, working with entrepreneurs. The VC fund is holding its final info session on March 5 at Ryerson University’s DMZ.

This past summer, FRV joined with Real Ventures. Christian-Roy said, in the beginning, they had a partnership but have decided to go beyond, and reintegrate FRV with Real Ventures.

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Christian-Roy explains, though they’ve integrated, FRV is keeping its own branding, and will still be focused on funding student-led startups in a wide range of industries.

“We are what we call sector-agnostic,” Christian-Roy said. “We can invest in many industries as long as there’s a tech component in it.”

He went on to note, “We believe there is an enormous amount of entrepreneurial talent on campuses…we need to inject the VC mindset into these people so that they don’t just create businesses, but huge tech companies like the next Google of the world.”

Christian-Roy stated FRV believes that through training students to become investors and community leaders, and by putting real VCs on campus, it can successfully inject the VC mindset into university ecosystems.

Featured image courtesy Front Row Ventures.

This story has been updated to reflect that FRV will be closing funding in the summer not fall 2019


Sera Wong

Heyo, Sera here. I love infographics, organizing data, and making lists. I’m an avid lover of cats. Please send cat pics my way at @Sera_wong on Twitter.

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