- Despite taking public money from government agencies such as ACOA (which gave FAN $1.1-million between 2006 and 2011), FAN charges $3,000 to present each startup to its investor network.
- Startups that present are also required to sign a consulting contract with a private company owned by Finlay and Lowe. These services normally include helping the company prepare its pitch, negotiate a deal, and ensure due diligence by legal experts.
- In return for these services, the companies normally pay Finlay and Lowe a percentage of the capital they raise. (Crow quotes a standard fee of 8%, although Finlay says the percentage varies, and has been as low as 4%.)
It also quotes responses from the FAN partners, which you can judge the validity of for yourself. Getting up to 8% of the investment raised is a sweet gig for them, I think. Too bad they don't let the startup know about their "consulting fees" till it's almost time to present to the investors.</s>
EDIT: To clarify, I mean modestly wealthy individuals attempting to take advantage of hopeful entrepreneurs is SOP in Canada. I've seen it on the west coast first hand, and have reports from the east coast about similar things.
EDIT (for your edit):
>To clarify, I mean modestly wealthy individuals attempting to take advantage of hopeful entrepreneurs is SOP in Canada. I've seen it on the west coast first hand, and have reports from the east coast about similar things.
Again, this is NOT the standard operating procedure in Canada. I'm sure there are individuals who have no qualms about squeezing entrepreneurs, but I can't imagine this is any different from US. The one problem I found is that, though Canada (Ontario at least) has a wonderful Angel network, and phenomenal government programs (e.g. FedDev, SRED), there is a lack of Series A (and later) VC money.
SRED is a dirty game where consultants will elaborate on your less than applicable research to boost your chances of getting grant money. And hey, the consultant will get paid, the company will get paid and the tax-payer with the actual developer who's SIN and identity is used gets chucked on the hook for it. It's absurd. Both of the programs you have mentioned get people that I know very rich, tax-payers poorer and regular workers adding to it by paying on average 33% - 37% taxes.
Sometimes, I wonder if playing by the rules without leeching off the system is worth my while. And as long as I have enough to keep a roof over my family's head, I just might stay on the right side of this debacle of a ruse.
It's as dirty as you want it to be. If you want to lie and cheat, you can try, and you may be able to get away with it. Or you can honestly approach the process, and sleep better at night.
>I wonder if playing by the rules without leeching off the system is worth my while
Playing by the rules? These are federal and provincial programs. There's nothing shady or illegal about them. I think the startups that qualify do benefit from them immensely.
Currently at a Canadian VC - we don't pay brokers for early stage deals.
I have written about this before, but in 2009 I was hired by a small startup in New York City. At that time I lived in Virginia but I had wanted to move to New York, and this job offer was the perfect chance. So I moved to New York. I had worked with startups in Virginia, and I had high hopes about the startup in New York.
All the same, what I saw at the startup was disturbing. The financing seemed questionable. The central figure ran what he called an investment firm. That meant he reached out to potential investors and he tried to get them to invest small amounts in his various projects. At any given time he had 10 to 12 projects that he was raising money for. He would raise $100,000 or more to get a startup going. Each project might have 10 investors.
I worked at that place for a few months, and then I was told that they had to close down because all the money was gone. The project manager/COO told me that they'd spent $80,000 of the $100,000. I was not clear why things were closing down. He told me to send in my final invoice. I did. They never paid me. 2 months later I was told there was no money to pay me. I had long (sometimes angry) conversations with the COO about the money. He gave me some reassurances about the money, how much had been spent, how much had been raised, how much there was. But he also said that the main figure had never granted him (the COO) access to any of the financial statements, so he was not able to speak with 100% confidence about how much money there had been, or still was.
It is possible that all of this can be put down to the normal chaos of startups. But it seemed like the main figure here was raising $x amount for a startup, spending 80% of the money, and then telling investors that, sadly, the project had failed, they had not gotten enough momentum, these things are very risky, etc.
Maybe he had an understanding with the investors, but I very much had the impression that he kept 20% of the money for himself. And he was doing this constantly for 10 to 12 projects. He went to dozens of events in New York and in Boston, he was constantly pitching, constantly raising money. He was very good at getting people to hand him money. But I have my doubts about whether the money was being spent the way the investors would assume it was spent.
The normal chaos of startups can hide a lot of corruption. You can use the riskiness of startups as a cover for fleecing investors and delivering very little. In the end, all you have to say is "I am very sorry, these things are very risky, I'm sure you knew this was risky, we did our best but we failed to get momentum." And of course, startups are risky, that part is true, but the investor has the reasonable expectation that if they give you money, then you did everything possible to make your startup a success.
Here is a bit of age old wisdom: let the invest beware. (And likewise, beware of the exploitive investor pitch.)
The fact that there are some famous investors whose integrity is well known should not distract anyone from the fact that there are scam artists in every walk of life.
It prays on desperate entrepreneurs that will do anything to keep their businesses alive. And it's wrong, for so many reasons.