Ottawa VC, private equity investments drop 4% in first half of 2017

First-half total is roughly on par with the average level of the preceding five years
Money

Investors poured more than $85.5 million into Ottawa-area tech companies in the first six months of the year, led by a $43.73-million funding round raised by semiconductor firm GaN Systems, according to data collected by Thomson Reuters.

While down four per cent over the $89 million invested during the same time period in 2016, this year’s first-half total is roughly on par with the average level of the preceding five years.

The latest investment into GaN Systems, which has now raised more than $70 million in the last two years alone, was reportedly led by BMW’s investment arm, BMW i Ventures. The Kanata-based company is poised to become a leader in the burgeoning field of ultra-fast, highly efficient semiconductors that use gallium nitride rather than silicon.

In an interview with OBJ this week, GaN Systems CEO Jim Witham would not confirm the $43.73-million figure, saying investors did not want the amount made public.

Other notable first-half deals recorded by Thomson Reuters include Gatineau biofuel firm Agrisoma Biosciences’s $15.4-million series-B round and local photonics firm Ranovus receiving $5.5 million from Sustainable Development Technology Canada.

The Thomson Reuters list did not include Assent Compliance’s $40-million series-B funding round, which the Ottawa-based software firm announced in mid-July.

The release of the Thomson Reuters data comes on the heels of a separate report by accounting firm PwC that shows Ottawa deal activity remained flat in the second quarter.

With a narrower focus on venture capital investments, PwC’s data showed $36 million worth of investments in the first half of 2017, down from roughly $40 million a year earlier.

That includes $16 million worth of deals in the second quarter, a figure that puts Ottawa in a distant fourth place for top Canadian investment markets. That list was led by Montreal, where a $102-million financing round for Element AI lifted the city’s second-quarter total to $189 million, followed by Toronto ($107 million) and Vancouver ($57 million).

Nationally, PwC said total Canadian deal and dollar funding investment levels have steadily marched upwards since 2012, contrasting with uneven trends in the United States and Asia.

The professional services firm said Element AI’s mega-round underscored investors’ interest in the growing artificial intelligence sector across the country. By contrast, mobile and healthcare deals are slowing.

- With reporting by David Sali