Entrepreneur Sheldon Inwentash is the founder and President of Toronto’s ThreeD Capital, a venture capital firm focused on investments in companies operating in junior resources, blockchain, artificial intelligence, psychedelics, electric vehicles and other sectors.
For Sheldon, a career that began in the life insurance industry as an oil and gas analyst quickly evolved into one that would include the creation of five companies and nine CEO roles, including a 20-year stay as the founder of Pinetree Capital.
In addition to providing companies with investment strategies, Sheldon provides counsel and guidance to C-suite executives. He has financed hundreds of public and private start-up companies, many of which went on to have successful exits.
We recently spoke with Sheldon about the digitization shock happening in Canada and his experience with investing in new technology.
During COVID, all you have to do is turn on the news to learn about the various digital strategies that companies have had to implement. Do you think digitization will continue to impact the way businesses operate, even after the pandemic is over?
Sheldon Inwentash: Yes. COVID definitely accelerated digitization, but I believe that whether there was a pandemic or not, we were going to see it happen. Even after COVID is over, people will be more embedded in working remotely and going through the digital mechanics. Whether it’s through a ZOOM call or shifting your business to eCommerce, my feeling is that we are in the midst of a digital acceleration, and this way of life will be with us indefinitely.
The stock market is at an all time high and junior cap stocks are on a tear. How do you think the digital revolution influenced this?
Sheldon Inwentash: There are a lot of digital technology stocks that are on the rise. There are also a lot of companies that, because of people having to purchase items online, have seen a sharp increase in stocks. I think the market is also discounting a pent-up demand on many fronts. Whether it’s the anticipation of airline stocks, oil and gas stocks, the green revolution – I think it’s a great time to be an investor because there are so many different verticals that are exciting and interesting to invest in. Frankly, I see this continuing over the long term.
ThreeD Capital invests in a range of industries, including blockchain technology, electric vehicles and AI. What about the future of technology piques your interest when it comes to making investment decisions?
Sheldon Inwentash: We have a number of disruptive technologies in our portfolio. These are technologies that change the way we do things or are different from what we’ve done before. They’re more efficient to use. Technology is an integral part of our investment philosophy and we are actively looking on a weekly basis at new emerging technology companies that we think have a chance for exponential growth.
A tech entrepreneur comes to you asking for capital. What do you expect from them in terms of a pitch?
Sheldon Inwentash: I want to hear a clear, concise message. From there, obviously, there’s depth of technology and infrastructure. Time is your enemy in this business. Even before we listen to a pitch, we prefer to get a PowerPoint presentation in advance because then we are able to determine whether or not it’s something that interests us. In some cases, even the PowerPoint isn’t so clear, but we may still be interested. In that case, we expect the founder to be able to communicate in a very succinct and fast matter or otherwise it tends to lose our focus.
What, in terms of venture capital, can investors do to help make Toronto the next Silicon Valley?
Sheldon Inwentash: I think Toronto is underrated in the amount of tech that I see evolving in the city. Anytime you have a number of universities and teaching and research centers within an hour outside of Toronto, which we do, those are the places that spawn all the R&D. Those are the places that come up with great new things.
People are leaving Silicon Valley. There are Silicon Valley’s in every city now because of the digital revolution. Anyone can work, from anywhere, whenever they want now. There’s really no barrier to entry.
In the blockchain space, Toronto is a global leader, but it’s not understood that that’s the case. The only thing that’s missing is capital, but there’s a lot of that in Toronto, as well, so there are opportunities everywhere. Arguably, Toronto doesn’t have to be a Silicon Valley of the north, but it does have its fair share of companies that are spawned here.