TandemLaunch secures $27-million first close of Fund IV to build more Montréal deep-tech startups

TandemLaunch managing partners, CEO Helge Seetzen and Émilie Boutros.
Montréal venture studio specializes in commercializing tech developed at universities.

Montréal-based venture studio TandemLaunch has secured more than $27 million CAD in the initial closing of its fourth fund to create and back more early-stage deep technology startups.

TandemLaunch’s Fund IV limited partners (LPs) include leads BDC Capital and Fonds de solidarité FTQ, as well as over 30 family offices and angels from across Canada and abroad. The company creation and venture capital (VC) firm aims to secure up to $40 million for Fund IV by September, with plans to fuel the launch of more than a dozen new Montréal startups.

“We’re like a reverse brain drain. We bring talent and [IP] to Montréal and keep it here.”

TandemLaunch builds and backs companies in artificial intelligence, computer vision, the Internet of things, sustainability, and advanced sensors, specializing in university tech transfers. In an interview with BetaKit, TandemLaunch managing partner and CEO Helge Seetzen noted that spinning companies out of universities is “hard—really, really hard.”

“There’s no infrastructure, no support, and there’s a lot of brilliant researchers doing a lot of really smart stuff,” he added. “You get this disconnect, where you have profound and incredible technology paired with a really weak method of getting it out of the university.” 

Seetzen said he founded TandemLaunch in 2010, “essentially, to capitalize on that arbitrage opportunity—find brilliant intellectual property [IP] that is underutilized and then find a way to get it into the commercial world.”

Led by Seetzen and longtime managing partner Émilie Boutros, TandemLaunch and its approximately 60-person team scouts interesting IP at universities, acquires that IP, builds a team, and then creates and incubates a startup to commercialize it, taking an equity stake in the company. Per Seetzen, the creation process typically costs $1 million apiece, and through its fourth fund, TandemLaunch has the capacity to invest up to $4 million per company.

To date, TandemLaunch claims it has created over 30 successful ventures collectively valued at over $700 million that employ a total of over 800 tech workers in Québec, amassing a portfolio including Sportlogiq, Wrnch, Soundskrit, Mirametrix, and HaiLa Technologies, among others.

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For its first, $10-million fund and second, $15-million fund, TandemLaunch’s sole focus was on creating companies, and the firm launched about a dozen companies apiece. 

“That’s all we did,” said Seetzen. With Fund III and now Fund IV, TandemLaunch has become “more of a traditional VC on top” with larger follow-on investment reserves. Otherwise, Seetzen described Fund IV as “a carbon copy of Fund III in almost every respect.”

In the beginning, Seetzen says that TandemLaunch’s approach required some explanation. “When we started this thing, it was the venture studio part, the venture builder part that was completely novel,” he said. “And I spent so many years trying to explain to people that this is possible, that this is viable.”

As the venture studio model has become more common in recent years, Seetzen argued that TandemLaunch’s real differentiator has become its international approach to intake and talent. According to Seetzen, TandemLaunch has made tech acquisition deals with close to 100 universities, hiring talent from around the globe.

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“Most Canadian incubators nurture talent and technology from one university and then, before they can blink, it goes to San Francisco,” said Seetzen. “We’re like a reverse brain drain. We bring talent and [IP] to Montréal and keep it here.”

TandemLaunch began fundraising for Fund IV in January amid a challenging VC environment. Aided by strong support from existing LPs, its initial closing took place two weeks ago. Seetzen said TandemLaunch’s returns from its early portfolio played in its favour this time around.

Seetzen has lived through a few market cycles, launching his first startup right after the Dot.com bubble burst and founding TandemLaunch following the 2008 financial crisis, which has informed his approach to building and financing companies during the current downturn.

“I’ve been through good and bad times in VC, and the short answer is if you build good companies, you will be fine,” said Seetzen. “I’ve seen this over and over again. It’s the hype stuff that gets hammered.”

Feature image courtesy TandemLaunch.

Josh Scott

Josh Scott

Josh Scott is a BetaKit reporter focused on telling in-depth Canadian tech stories and breaking news. His coverage is more complete than his moustache. He was also the winner of SABEW Canada’s 2023 Jeff Sanford Best Young Journalist award.

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