CBGF’s CEO, George Rossolatos discusses the future of Canadian entrepreneurship in this video orignally published at TheFutureEnconomy.ca. This interview was recorded in early 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
SMEs represent 99% of all Canadian companies, 90% of jobs in the private sector, and account for 85% of new jobs created in Canada last year.
The Canadian Business Growth Fund provides a growth capital solution, in the form of an evergreen fund that can back companies for a number of years.
The Canadian Business Growth Fund also provides the guidance, support and mentorship to help these young companies grow and succeed.
Entrepreneurship is more important today than it was 10, 15, 20 years ago.
The percentage of new employment created by SMEs is higher, it seems that a lot of our innovation now is coming from our SMEs.
The ease of starting a new firm in Canada is one of the highest in the world and our job at the Canadian Business Growth Fund is to back ones that have scaled— the ones that can rise to the top of that start up group that now are ready to scale nationally and internationally – those are the companies that we really need to scale in Canada for maximum impact.
CHALLENGES AND SUPPORT FOR CANADA’S ENTREPRENEURS
There is absolutely a gap for our entrepreneurs in scaling their companies, and at the Canadian Business Growth Fund we see the gap—we call it the growth capital gap—but it has several components: Capital, Guidance, Mentorship, Talent, Made-In-Canada Solution
CBGF offers a “Made in Canada” solution, an option for entrepreneurs who are thinking of expanding—whether its nationally or internationally—a Canadian partner who understands the challenges they are facing here.
The advisory council created several reports which alluded to the fact that the number of Canadian global leaders was down 40% in the last quarter century. That economic council recommended a growth capital solution and they asked the Canadian banks to come together in an evergreen fund that does not have an end, that can back companies for 10, 15 years or longer.
Although the government helped with our initial mandate and fund formation, we are not a government institution.
CBGF has invested across the country in Kelowna, in Victoria, in Saskatoon, in Burlington… we are working on transactions in Halifax, Edmonton, Calgary. Eventually we would like to have an investment in every province, to distribute entrepreneurship across the country and back great entrepreneurs that we are meeting across every province.
We can add value, we can help, and I think that if we keep doing this in the form of eight to 10 investments in great entrepreneurs every single year—year in and year out in an evergreen format—we are going to make an impact and we are going to see a number of companies that become national and international successes that would not have grown in Canada been had we not been the investor, and that is our ultimate goal.
The Canadian Business Growth Fund is a sector agnostic fund. We look at any sector that is growing—whether that growth is 15% or 50% it is still a growth part of our economy and can be fostered and will create jobs and will create opportunity for people.
there are companies and industries that are growing at 15% to 20% every year that are constantly adding and constantly creating, constantly innovating that I think are underserved and our goal is to equally serve both ends of that spectrum.
We are investing in all of those business from retail to distribution, to manufacturing, to media, to auto collision repair—those are companies that are growing, that are the lifeblood of our economy, and those SMEs are creating 85% of our jobs and the vast majority of them are not the ones that you read about every day.
ADVANTAGES FOR CANADA’S ENTREPRENEURS AND ECONOMY
A lot of investors in the venture capital world have three- to five-year horizons sometimes. To take their company from a certain level to the next level and then they sell to a strategic, and often 80% of the time venture capital firms are selling to foreign buyers.
We, on the other hand, would like to see them grow for 10 years or 15 years and create the next great Canadian company that stay here, that are headquartered here, that build from here.
I think it is important we have Canadian business headquarter here. We do not want to be a branch plant economy where decisions are made elsewhere, and we have workers reporting to those in other countries.
It is easy for someone to say there is a talent gap in Canada, but it is a lot harder to create the right pipeline of people with the capabilities to fill those positions right here in Canada. And the way we do that is to keep more companies here longer and have them grow over the longer term.
HOW CANADIANS MUST SUPPORT ENTREPRENEURS
As a society, we do need to help foster entrepreneurship and often, those of us that are not entrepreneurs are not as supportive of entrepreneurs as we should be.
Being an entrepreneur is very difficult, there are many sleepless nights, the hours are long, there are a lot of uncertainty. Family members can suffer because as a result there is huge commitment—there is travel, there is fundraising, there is making payroll—and sometimes you do not appreciate what a challenge that is.
It is on all of us to foster that and to encourage the entrepreneurs that we know in our lives to push forward and to work through their challenges and listen to them when they are having issues and encourage them.
Not everyone can be an entrepreneur, but everyone can be an intrapreneur, thinking about entrepreneurship and the organizations and fostering that spirit of furthering innovation and making ourselves better and making our companies better.
I do think we need to raise our awareness of the importance of entrepreneurship and raise the level in which we encourage them to pursue their path.