Janet Bannister, one of the few women to head a major Canadian venture capital fund, is leaving Real Ventures after the company struggled to raise a new fund.
Ms. Bannister joined Real in 2014 after overseeing the development and launch of eBay Inc. EBAY-Q . website Kijiji classifieds service when she was a manager at the leading e-commerce giant. Became the managing partner of Montreal-based Real Corporation in early 2020 amid a period of internal turmoil that saw two of its three founding partners, JS Cournoyer and Alan MacIntosh, return to part-time roles.
“It has been a pleasure to lead the Real Ventures team for the past two years,” Ms Bannister said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work with the team, my portfolio companies, our investors, and the technology community” as she transitions into a part-time job before leaving the company.
She will be replaced by Real’s latest co-founder, John Stokes, who said in an interview that he was “disappointed and saddened” that she was leaving.
Ms Bannister, a two-time winner of the Canadian National Triathlon Championship, has been one of the most prominent names in Canada’s early stage technology sector and a mentor to startups, including many of the companies he runs Entrepreneurs. Her departure leaves questions about Real Madrid’s future, because without a new fund, it lacks fresh capital to invest in start-ups.
Mr. Stokes said that Real’s focus now is to manage its 60 investments and continue the company’s efforts to build society. He said Real Madrid’s plan to try to raise another fund depends on various factors, including “ensuring we have enough momentum”, adding that it could take months or quarters. “The message is definitely that Real Ventures will not end.”
Real Madrid emerged as an early force in Canada’s tech renaissance in the wake of the 2008-2009 credit crunch, having set up shop in Montreal in 2007 when the scenes of venture capital and startups in Canada were dying. Real played a major role in revitalizing the sector, not only as a financier but also by creating acceleration and support programs in Montreal and Toronto.
The company raised $5 million and $50 million for its first two funds in 2007 and 2010, respectively, to support several successful startups including PasswordBox, which was sold in 2014 to Intel, and online merchants Frank & Oak and Beyond the Rack.
The company raised a third fund of $89 million in 2015 and a total of $180 million for two funds in 2017, backed by global investors Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings Private Ltd.
Along the way, Real has backed some of Canada’s most valuable tech startups, including Paper, Blockstream, Xanadu Quantum Technologies, Tenstorrent, and League. It has $800 million in assets under management.
But Reale also faced a setback when AI startup Element AI Inc. Cournoyer, co-founded, lives up to the early hype. Sold in early 2021 to ServiceNow Inc. After the money runs out.
A source familiar with the situation said that behind the scenes some Real supporters were frustrated. The source said his limited partners felt that the riyal was spreading itself too thinly by investing in too many companies and not holding enough capital to invest in subsequent financing operations. While Real Madrid’s returns on paper were strong, some felt that the company also did not reduce its positions as much as it should have, which would have enabled it to reap the gains and return money to backers.
“We have confidence that over time our limited partners’ concerns about monetizing our high-performance funds will subside,” said Mr. Stokes.
According to another source, the trading volume at the summit also irked some Quebec investors, as the two Montreal-based co-founders and the third Montreal-based partner who later left have been replaced by a Toronto-based partner they didn’t know, the chief technology officer. Hamza Nassif. While Ms Bannister was held in high esteem by investors and lauded for improving the internal management of the real, the leadership shift from Montreal to Toronto has not played well with at least one of its backers, the Quebec government’s Quebec Investment Agency.
The Globe and Mail did not identify any of the two sources because they are not authorized to handle the matter publicly.
Ms. Bannister took much of the summer to reflect on her future after more than a year of failed fundraising efforts. In a brief interview, she said “I am 100 percent committed to the Canadian tech ecosystem and will remain engaged” and working with the founders. “I am so excited about these things, they bring me so much joy and satisfaction, but I want to find a different way to do it.”
When asked if she plans to launch a new venture capital firm, Ms. Bannister only said, “As soon as I have something to share, I’ll let you know.”
Canadian news website to start up BetaKit first reported on Wednesday about Ms. Bannister’s role change.