Sunday, February 25, 2007

Quebec, # 4 in worldwide VC rankings...

... behind California, Massachusetts and the UK. That's according to the Worldwide VC Rankings recently published by consulting firm Library House. Link to the complete table.

This ranking is certainly something I'll slip into cocktail conversations for a while, even though the methodology behind the rankings seems almost as debatable as the one behind the dreaded FIFA rankings.

Still, Venture Capital in Quebec is indeed an industry (more than just a community) and there's lots of deals made annually. Réseau Capital, Quebec's VC Association, has an ulgy-ass website and all the stats if you want to find out more (and if you can read numbers in French).

But, in general, the Quebec VC industry does a lot of deals, but with typically much smaller amounts invested than in the U.S. Lots of IT, lots of biotech and pharma, not enough cleantech, but also a large number of institutional VC investments in more traditional industries, including more and more sub-debt financings... deals that might not get categorized as venture capital in other countries/states.

I'll definitely write more about VC in la Belle Province in the near future, especially the IT side of it. In the meantime, let me stick out my tongue to Texas, New York, Washington State, Ontario, Israel, France and Germany. #4, baby.

APEX tradeshow feedback

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday of last week at the "IPC Printed Circuits Expo, APEX and the Designers Summit" with the fine young gentlemen of Cogiscan, one of our portfolio companies. I spent most of the 2 days on the APEX / electronics manufacturing side of the Expo, where Cogiscan's booth was neatly located between Siemens' and Panasonic's, two of our major OEM partners. Cogiscan's smart feeder RFID technology was also displayed in Juki's booth, giving them great visibility.

Some thoughts:
  • It was my first time attending, but everyone says the show is getting smaller every year, becoming more of a regional affair. A lot of the decision making still happens in North America, but the bulk of the production is now in China and a handfull of other developing countries. Asian and European tradeshows are getting more traffic. Productronica seems to be growing fast.
  • China has most of the high volume / low mix production, but the EMS there are also starting to offer more flexible, limited run, production.
  • North American (and Mexican, even, it seems) EMS plants are more and more focussed on highly specialized, verticalized, more complex, low volume / high mix, higher margins manufacturing.
  • Walt Custer's conference on industry trends and macro-data was a powerpoint slidefest like I hadn't seen in a while and if you e-mail him, you can probably get them. Bottom line: a small lull in growth this year, back at higher levels in 2008-9.
  • The tradeshow moved from Anaheim to L.A. and apparently this negatively affected attendance. From Cogiscan's booth, though, I have a feeling that attendance (and sales leads) was of better quality than before... less people in town to just browse and kick the tires before taking the kids to Disneyland. I saw a lot of people from EMS and OEMs looking for solutions to specific problems and they seemed to have budgets for new technology.
  • The area around the L.A. Convention Center is incedibly bland and boring. I guess I can recommend the Figueroa Hotel, 3 blocks away. Interesting decor and very affordable, but don't expect either luxury or friendly staff.
  • I am pretty much an outsider to the industry and don't get some of the subtleties in the different tech offerings but it looks to me like a lot small and larger guys offer very comparable products. There's probably going to be a wave of consolidation and acquisitions in the next few years, where the major players (Siemens, Panasonic, Fuji, Juki, Yamaha) acquire technologies left and right to try and give themselves an edge.
  • Finally, I didn't see one other VC in attendance. Low margin industries usually don't attract much VC money.

Friday, February 16, 2007

IPC Printed Circuits Expo, APEX and the Designers Summit

I'm leaving on Monday to spend a couple of days in L.A. at the APEX Expo with DVC portfolio company Cogiscan. Should be a good opportunity to get a feel of the industry, see the trends and observe the buzz around Cogiscan's booth. It'll be nice to take a brake from software and Web 2.0 business plans and spend a few hours gazing at actual machinery and learn about manufacturing innovations.

I'll try to update my blog from there and give my impressions.

Friday, February 9, 2007

A2M named one of Canada's 50 Best Managed Companies

Artificial Mind & Movement, one of our portfolio companies, and one of the first deals I got involved with when I came on board, was just named one the country's 50 best managed companies. Like founder and CEO Rémi Racine says in the press release, the A2M team have succeeded in creating and implementing a very structured approach within a usually chaotic industry. In other words, they're really good at what they do and they make a profit doing it. And they have been managing their fast-paced growth very well, consolidating Montreal's position as major hub in the video game development scene.
(Now, let's see the spectacular exit they're going to create for their investors)
Congratulations guys !

Geostationary Banana Over Texas

Yes indeed. I'll let you guys read this one by yourselves. Montreal creativity (and government spending, apparently) at its best.

In other (somehow related) news, I loved this post on the "Creating Passionate Users" blog, about passion for employer vs. passion for work. I can certainly relate. It's something I've observed in the organizations I've worked for and the companies I work with, and I feel that professionals from my generation definitely more often fall in the latter category.

"The company should behave just like a good user interface -- support people in doing what they're trying to do, and stay the hell out of their way. Applying the employer-as-UI model, the best company is one in which the employees are so engaged in their work that the company fades into the background."


Going further down my list of starred items in my Google Reader, Andrew Parker, after attending the Brave New Web conference in Boston, concludes with

"Overall, the conference was entertaining, but no more informative than a day of posts on the blogosphere. The information exchange going on everyday on the blogosphere is the cutting-edge of thought leadership today. That being said, I dig conferences for the value of getting out from behind a computer and meeting people. There’s no substitute for face-to-face conversation."

I have to agree and I feel that becoming a heavy RSS user and reading a long list of tech, finance and VC blogs every day is making me better at what I do. But what Andrew says about conferences is also how I've been feeling about books lately. Every time I finish reading a business or non-fiction book I have this overwhelming sensation that the few new and good ideas it contained, the actual value added of the book, could have been written in a few blog posts and taken me 20 min. to read instead of a week. Shortening attention span, I guess.

Finally, a song for your Friday morning, taken from the amazing upcoming album Dividing Opinions by Giardini Di Miro, an indie/post-rock band from Italy. They have 4 or 5 older albums under their belt, all wonderful.
Giardini Di Miro - Spectral Woman

Monday, February 5, 2007

Miro: X-treme Sledding

Here are 2 quick youtube videos, taken last week-end on Mont-Royal (on my birthday ! 31...). The star of these videos is young Miro, 4 years old, nephew of my childhood buddy Olivier. Younger brother Elliot was cheering on, trying to keep his feet warm.

Also worthy of mention is the very modern and risqué camera-style, reminiscent of the late 90's Danish Dogma cinema (at the risk of freezing my fingers and/or breaking my trusty Canon point-and-shooter in an horrible krazy karpet vs. sno-racer accident). Edgy, I know.

Technology Entrepreneurs Montreal Breakfast Meetup

Ben, at the aptly named Instigator Blog, has announced the launch of a monthly breakfast for tech entrepreneurs, next Tuesday (the 13th) at Cafétéria (3581 St-Laurent). Discussions started here.

I think it's a brilliant idea and I'm definitely forwarding the invite to a few people. Don't hesitate to do the same.
I plan to attend from time to time, even though I'm not sure I can make it next week.