Since the introduction of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, the field of AI, particularly generative AI, has witnessed a significant surge in momentum. Entrepreneurs are actively harnessing this technology to develop fresh and innovative applications, while investors stand prepared to provide the financial backing needed to drive these initiatives forward.
Luge Capital, a Montreal-based early-stage venture capital firm with a focus on fintech, is one of the notable investors showing keen interest in this evolving landscape. They have been actively collaborating with companies in their portfolio, delving into the possibilities that generative AI offers for enhancing their respective products and services.
Eyes to back fintechs in Canada and the US
Now, Luge Capital has closed a CA $71 million (nearly $53 million) in the first close of its second fund. The Luge Capital II’s goal is to reach a fund size of $100 million. The fund saw participation from returning investors CDPQ, Desjardins, BDC Capital, Sun Life, Industrial Alliance Financial Group (iA), Fonds de solidarité FTQ, and new investor Inovia Discovery Fund I.
Similar to the debut fund, Luge Capital Fund II will invest in early-stage fintech startups in Canada and the US that are led by exceptional founders with a drive to affect change globally. In addition to the core investment thesis from its first fund, Luge is expanding its scope of investments to include verticalised fintech startups that operate at the intersection of financial services and other large industries, as well as fintech-oriented environmental, social, and (corporate) governance (ESG) startups.
Initial investments made into startups from Fund II are expected to be slightly larger than those made from Luge’s first fund.
“CDPQ continues to collaborate with Luge Capital, having supported its founding in 2018,” said Kim Thomassin, Executive Vice-President and Head of Québec at CDPQ. “In this way, we are supporting the Québec ecosystem in the financial technology sector while encouraging a fund headquartered in Montréal, at Espace CDPQ.”
“Desjardins is proud to invest in Luge Capital Fund II, having been a founding partner since the launch of Luge Capital in 2018,” said Martin Brunelle, SVP Growth, Acquisition and Development at Desjardins. “As a financial cooperative, it is important for Desjardins to continue to support the development of early stage Fintech companies and be an active player in the technology sector to better serve our members and clients.”
“BDC Capital is delighted to continue its foundational partnership with Luge Capital via an anchor investment in Luge Capital Fund II,” said Alison Nankivell, SVP Fund Investments at BDC Capital. “As a manager with deep expertise in the sector, Luge has the ability to support early stage Fintech companies as they look to scale their businesses and become meaningful contributors to Canada’s economic prosperity.”
“Fintech drives our world towards innovation and creativity. It’s the engine that makes us move forward, in a more complex environment. Our investments in startups accompanied by Luge Capital allow our financial institutions to reshape our industry. For Sun Life, it contributes to our ability to realize our purpose: helping Clients achieve lifetime financial security and live healthier lives,” said Robert Dumas, President and CEO of Sun Life Quebec.
“Our partnership with Luge Capital gives us exclusive access to the fintech environment, which has value-creation virtue for iA Financial Group,” said Pierre Miron, Executive Vice-President, Chief Growth Officer Canadian Operations at iA Financial Group. “In this sense and taking into account the results obtained to date, we have agreed to continue our association with them by subscribing to this second Fund.”
“To ensure that the Québec fintech ecosystem continues to prosper and that fintech entrepreneurs have access to the capital they need, it is essential to support specialized fund managers. Since its launch five years ago, Luge has become a key actor in Québec’s fintech sector by investing in several startups. We are proud to continue our partnership with Luge by investing in their second fund,” said Saloua Benkhouya, Vice-President, Private Equity and Impact Investing – Services, at the Fonds de solidarité FTQ.
“The Luge Capital team’s track record as operators and investors have quickly established them as the go-to Canadian firm for fintech entrepreneurs in Canada and the U.S. Inovia has partnered with the Luge team since before the firm’s founding and we are pleased to join Luge Capital Fund II as a Limited Partner through Inovia Discovery Fund I,” said Prem Kalevar, Inovia Vice-President, Discovery Program.
Previous investments by the VC
Founded in 2018 by David Nault and Karim Gillani in Montreal, Luge Capital focused on backing early-stage fintech companies and AI solutions applied to financial services. The VC firm believes that over the years these sectors will witness major transformations and the opportunities are huge.
Luge Capital has invested in 21 companies from the roughly $85 million raised for Luge Fund I. Notable investments include Flinks (acquired by National Bank of Canada in 2021), Plooto, Owl, Flare, and OneVest. The Fund I invested in seed and Series A rounds between $250K and $2 million.
“Our LPs are made up of large financial institutions, leading insurance carriers, and big pension funds who are both strategic and returns-based. We’ve developed a playbook for how we work with them and their additional commitments in Fund II are a testament to that model working,” said David Nault, General Partner at Luge Capital. “The partnerships we have with our LPs and their unique insights give our team a competitive advantage when it comes to backing the most promising fintech founders.”
“Financial services impact the lives of every person, from opening a bank account and making payments to buying insurance and making investments. Yet large institutions are finding it challenging to modernise their legacy technology,” said Karim Gillani, General Partner at Luge Capital. “By investing in high-calibre fintech founders who are solving the industry’s biggest problems, Luge is helping to drive innovation across the financial services that are the lifeblood of the economy and account for 20 percent of the GDP in the U.S. and in Canada.”