New venture firm debuts in Canada: Information Venture Partners

For several months, the rumour mill has been buzzing with speculation that RBC Venture Partners’ principals Robert Antoniades and David Unsworth were on the cusp of launching a new partnership. I perhaps added to the market noise when I flagged this prospect in a June article about RBC portfolio company Verafin.

Well, it has finally happened. In an exclusive interview with peHUB Canada, Antoniades and Unsworth reported that in early October they completed a management buyout (MBO) of RBC Venture Partners’ investment portfolio, previously owned by the Royal Bank of Canada. They declined to disclose the financial terms.

The MBO, which was supported by a group of co-investors, has laid the groundwork for a brand new Canadian venture capital firm: Information Venture Partners. Antoniades and Unsworth said the acquired portfolio has effectively become Fund I of the new firm. Capital for future follow-on rounds involving the remaining six companies has been provided by the co-investment partners.

But that is not the end of the story. Co-investors in the MBO and additional LPs, most of them Canadian and U.S.-based institutional investors, have also made capital commitments to a second fund, Information Venture Partners Fund II. These commitments account for roughly half of Fund II’s $100 million target, Antoniades and Unsworth said. The goal is to close Fund II by mid-2015.

Fund II will continue the focus on leading or co-leading Series A, Series B or later-stage investments in software and services for enterprise, financial and analytics applications. That includes a long-standing area of specialization: financial technology.

The financial technology sector has raised large amounts of VC and private equity of late. One study pointed to 2013 as a record-breaking year for fintech dealmaking, with close to US$3 billion invested worldwide.

St. John’s, Newfoundland-based Verafin, a fraud detection technology platform, is an example of the kind of fintech investments made by Antoniades and Unsworth they plan to continue making in the new venture. This year, Verafin secured $60 million in a Series C financing led by Spectrum Equity.

Information Ventures Partners also will focus on enterprise software, another of the principals’ specializations. “Whether it is enterprise software or fintech, we are interested in North American companies that can sell into SME or large corporate buyers,” Antoniades said.

Antoniades and Unsworth spent more than 10 years investing together at RBC Venture Partners. In this period, they also completed a dozen liquidity events. In their most recent exit, announced a couple of weeks ago, Placemark Investments, a U.S. developer of unified managed accounts programs for financial institutions, was sold to Envestnet for US$66 million.

The principals did not disclose any details concerning their returns performance, about which they are clearly proud: “The track record was good enough to attract two major North American institutional LPs,” said Antoniades.

Concurrent with the launch of Information Ventures Partners, Antoniades and Unsworth welcomed a third member to their team: Kerri Golden. Currently a general partner at JOLT Fund LP, and before then a managing partner at Primaxis Technology Ventures, Golden will serve as the new firm’s CFO.

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