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Crossing Borders, Bridging Gaps: A Vision for Pre-Seed Success in Canadian Tech with Alex McIsaac of Northside Ventures

Crossing Borders, Bridging Gaps: A Vision for Pre-Seed Success in Canadian Tech with Alex McIsaac of Northside Ventures

Episode 177

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In this week's episode, we're thrilled to host Alex McIsaac of Northside Ventures. With a diverse background in venture capital, cleantech, and global investing, Alex shares invaluable insights from his tenure as a Partner at Global Founders Capital.

We explore why Alex believes it's the right time to launch Northside Ventures and the specific pre-seed market gaps he aims to address.

We also delve into the prospects for Canadian AI startups, discussing strategies for outperforming established players and securing Canada's victory in the tech arena.

About Alex McIsaac:
Alex McIsaac is the Founder and General Partner of Northside Ventures. He has 12 years of experience as both an operator and early-stage investor. Alex led the Canadian practice as a Partner at Global Founders Capital, an international multi-stage venture fund with $3B+ AUM and 15+ offices globally. As a Principal at BDC Capital, the largest venture investor in Canada with $6B+ AUM, Alex helped manage the Seed Fund and Women in Tech fund.

Alex spent over six years as a co-founding employee at NRStor, an energy storage-focused cleantech start-up founded in 2012. Blackstone Energy acquired its commercial business in 2018.

Alex holds a BScH from Queen’s University and an HBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business.

In this episode, we discuss:

(01:03) McIsaac's VC journey started with a biology background, shifting to business and early-stage cleantech at Northwater Capital

(02:01) The transition to building at NRStor, focused on energy storage technology

(04:42) International investing and founder importance at BDC and Global Founders Capital

(08:48) The founders' role in company success and adapting to market shifts at GFC.

(10:27) Founders' adaptability to profitability during market changes

(12:19) Why Alex launched Northside Ventures, focusing on early-stage, high-velocity companies without follow-on checks

(17:42) Addressing Canadian pre-seed investment gaps

(20:32) His interest in sectors like B2B SaaS, AI, FinTech, and cleantech for long-term growth

(23:30) Adding value through investor and customer introductions, and key decision advising

(26:18) Emphasis on one-to-one founder relationships over formal board seats for flexibility.

(27:14) Targeted diverse LPs as a fundraising strategy

(31:02) Using networking and events for LP network building

(34:59) The importance of a good CRM as a solo GP

(37:18) Early success with investments like Terminal, emphasizing founder-market fit

(40:16) Optimism about Canadian AI startups

(42:41) AI startups with distinct distribution strategies and customer needs addressing

(45:36) Goals to make Northside a leading VC firm, contributing to the Canadian tech ecosystem

Fast Favorites:

  1. 🎙- Favorite Podcast: 10x Capital

  2. 📰- Favorite Newsletter / Blog: Techmeme

  3. 📲- Favorite Tech Gadget: Oura Ring, Nanit Baby Camera

  4. 📈-  Favorite New Trend: Mental Health Awareness

  5. 📚- Favorite Book: Red Notice

  6. 🤔 - Favorite Life Lesson: We live in a marketplace of favors. Be generous with your time to as many people as possible because you never know how those favors or those people may come back to help you out.

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