Keiretsu Forum, the world’s largest angel investor network, is offering an opportunity for area entrepreneurs to gain valuable support, according to the leader of the Toronto chapter.
“Part of what our membership brings is not only capital, but also connections. That is really the secret sauce,” said Kevin Sterling, president of Keiretsu’s Toronto chapter. “If you're going to enter a new market, wouldn’t it be great to have even a small investor onside to make the inroads into your new distribution channels.”
On Feb. 11, TechAlliance hosted the official launch of the Keiretsu Forum in London with an event at Windermere Manor. Joining Sterling for the launch event was officials from TechAlliance, along with Ozan Isinak, president of Keiretsu Forum Central Canada.
Keiretsu Forum was founded in 2000 in East Bay of San Francisco, CA.
Today, members on three continents typically provide capital in the range of $500,000 to $6 million to high-quality, diverse investment opportunities. In addition, they collaborate in the due diligence, but make their own individual investment decisions.
“It's our ability to take an opportunity and share it amongst our 36 chapters globally and our 1,400 members,” Sterling said. “It allows companies to raise large amounts of capital, but also access new markets and distribution channels.”
Keiretsu started up in Toronto in 2013 before moving on to Waterloo in 2014. London, Sterling said, is a natural extension of the 401 corridor.
Isinak said that corridor extends far past Waterloo and supports “tremendous reserves” built up over decades of world-class research and development. That advantage, he said, needs to be capitalized upon.
“By leveraging Keiretsu Forum’s global infrastructure, we aim to build new companies actively engaged on the international theater,” Isinak said. “The addition of London will further our reach to the investor and entrepreneur communities of Central Canada.”
Keiretsu Forum members will review diverse opportunities that focus on emerging technologies, life science, clean tech, energy, retail and real estate but also include any segment with high growth prospect.
Many opportunities come from Keiretsu Forum’s community of members, venture capitalists, sponsors and universities.
At the Keiretsu Forum Community Launch, the presenting entrepreneurs were introduced to investors, business support organizations, customers, companies, and other entrepreneurs.
Justin Leushner, vice-president of operations and start-up services at TechAlliance, said it's important for local and regional companies to have access to global outreach and capital.
The community launch, he added, gave interested participants the opportunity to learn more about how the Keiretsu Forum process works.
A company would engage Keiretsu Forum, get vetted as being investor ready, then through the chapters have the opportunity to make their pitch in front of an audience of qualified investors.
And while the cash infusion is important, it isn’t the only benefit to the Keiretsu process.
“It is finding partners, finding other sources and ways financing can be done, and it is the network itself that is the important part,” Leushner said. “Getting in front of one audience will lend to getting in front of a global audience.”
Leushner knows full well of how important that process is having gone through the Keiretsu Forum process back in 2004.
Back then, the only Canadian chapter was in Calgary, but Leushner made the journey and recalls it as “an excellent experience.” He ended up raising a lot of capital for his start-up, so working with Keiretsu in London feels a lot like coming full circle.
It is an opportunity he hopes local entrepreneurs will take advantage of.
“I think this says a tremendous amount about London. We have a growing economy, a diverse economy; we have great representation from all different sectors,” Leushner said. “We have a lot of local companies who are doing business around the world, we just don’t know about them. This is a way of surfacing some of those companies and opportunities.”
For more information visit www.keiretsuforum.ca.