Years after leaving the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society – a marine conservation group founded by early Greenpeace member Paul Watson – Fraser Hall found himself back aboard the Brigitte Bardot, commanding a 12-person crew on a one-boat mission to intercept a whale hunt in the Faroe Islands, and at the same time trying to close his Series A financing for Recon Instruments.
“I was trying to close my financing at sea on this sat phone while we were being chased by the navy, zipping in and out of ports trying to track down whalers,” said the co-founder of Recon, today a partner with Vancouver Founder Fund.
“It was a very interesting and frankly difficult experience, confronting whalers all day long, by day at sea, and by night at ports, they’d come up to the boats. And then trying to close the most significant financing of my life.”
Before the sale of Recon to Intel (Nasdaq:INTC) last year, Hall’s high-tech company, which produces smartglasses and head-up displays, raised in the neighbourhood of $30 million from an array of investors – from friends, family and fools, as he put it, to angel investors, venture capitalists and corporate venture arms.
“When we dealt with Vancouver-based investors, the experience was less than ideal,” Hall said. “They didn’t add the value that we felt they should, and they made our process difficult.” He added that he felt investors prioritized their vested interests. The culture was predatory, and the outlook narrow-minded.
“When we sold Recon, … [fund co-founder] Dan [Eisenhardt] and I felt we had to fix this problem. And so that was the genesis of Vancouver Founder Fund – a geographically focused venture fund – to be the funders we wished we’d had.”
Providing seed-level funding for startups in Vancouver, Kelowna and Victoria, the fund supports seven different companies, and plans to fund up to five more. After that, Hall may be looking to expand geographically to Alberta and Washington. He also wants to remain hands-on with the companies he’s funded, through mentorship, guidance or reinvestment.
“I’m treating this fund like a startup itself; I think it might even be slightly disruptive to the venture community.”
Join us to celebrate the 2016 Forty under under 40 Awards January 25, 2017 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. For tickets and event info visit www.biv.com/events/40under40.