It was less than two years that regulators in Canada gave equity crowdfunding the greenlight, ushering in a new age of startup fundraising. Online equity crowdfunding platforms gave startups access to a new capital market, and it gave a whole new class of investors access to curated libraries of investment opportunities. Yet the investment space, like the tech sector that it supports, moves fast. There’s a new investment platform in town, and it has one foot positioned in the old world of LPs and funds, and its other foot in the current era of nimble, online financing portals.
Enter Fast Track VC, an online co-investment platform that recently completed its first successful campaign, raising $1.9 million CAD (€1.3 million) for Swiss biomedical firm Monarch Bioimplants.
While Fast Track’s platform operates globally, Fast Track VC founder and CEO Ruben Dias is keen to promote Whistler as the right place to be building his company.
Based in Whistler, BC, Fast Track VC is a private fund that hand-picks tech startups from around the world, invests its own capital, and then offers accredited investors the opportunity to invest alongside their fund. Founder and CEO Ruben Dias says the benefit for investors registered with the platform is that they’re getting access to opportunities that have been vetted, researched, and selected out of a global pool. “We curate opportunities… and our job, our added value, is to find the best ones,” says Dias. “We have a system in place and a team that can nose down one or two every one or two months, and we summarize the opportunity, and we do the due diligence.”
Co-investment opportunities like the ones Fast Track VC provides operate outside typical pooled fund structures, and appeal to investors in that they allow investment in single companies, rather than entire portfolios. What other factors make co-investments attractive? The returns. According to Preqin, a private equity data and intelligence service, many LPs report that their co-investments have outperformed their commingled funds.
Fast Track receives approximately 100 applications from startups a month, 10 percent of which get contacted for further consideration. For the startups that have made it through four stages of vetting and receive a term sheet, Fast Track VC provides startups more than just funding, according to Dias. They offer management, communication, and financial services, as well as expertise in the areas of M&A, due diligence readiness, IPO planning, corporate strategy, and legal.
The goal is to push the companies towards a liquidity event, to “grow it to a point where it is very attractive for an acquisition, or a decent return within on average two, three or four years,” says Dias.
While Fast Track operates globally, Dias is keen to promote Whistler as the right place to be building his company. He moved to Whistler to build a startup, BeAnywhere, which after several years had a “successful exit,” according to the company. The team members transitioned into Fast Track VC.
“You have professionals in Whistler who want to be in this environment, because you know they want to ski, they want the nature,” he says. “The partners and team members like the quality of life that Whistler offers; it’s the company culture. We could be running the company from anywhere; there are startups all over the world. We choose Whistler because it’s the best place for us to live, work, and have a balanced life, and we have organized ourselves to make it work.”
While the Monarch Bioimplants deal is the first to officially leverage the Fast Track VC platform, Dias has used the same investment process and approach for more than ten years, leading to exit-deals with companies including Spain-based Panda Security, US-based Tyco International, and US-based SolarWinds.
But it’s not for everyone, he explains. The startups that have the most success with Dias and his partners have aligned views and values, and most importantly, sales. “We really are extremely keen to see what the sales plan is,” Dias says. “And how you can generate revenue as soon as possible.”
“I’ve got to understand who the founders are,” he adds. “What is his personal objectives. Does it align with us? Is he really sales-focused, and what is the purpose of him doing this project? If those things are aligned, and if there’s a valuation and a huge opportunity in front, they’re number one.”