Vancouver’s Vistara boosts Vision Critical with US$20m investment

Vision Critical CEO Ross Wainwright | submitted

What happened: VC firm Vistara invests US$20m in Vision Critical

Why it matters: The investment follows Vision Critical moving its HQ from Vancouver to Toronto amid changes to leadership team

Two companies sharing a B.C. connection are about to get a lot closer.

Vancouver-based venture capital firm Vistara Capital Partners is putting up US$20 million ($26.8 million) towards Vision Critical Communications Inc.

The companies announced Thursday (July 23) the investment would help accelerate Vision Critical’s growth plans.

Vision Critical, which specializes in collecting and analyzing customer experience data, was founded in Vancouver in 2000 by pollster Angus Reid and son Andrew Reid.

The company moved its head office to Toronto late last year following the hiring of CEO Ross Wainwright and president of products Riaz Raihan, both of whom originally hail from Toronto.

“The Vancouver office, by the way, is two and a half times the size of the Toronto office, so we’ve got a very large and very important community of employees out here,” Wainwright told BIV in January.

One member of the senior leadership team, the vice-president responsible for human resources, remains based in Vancouver.

“We have been very impressed by Vision Critical’s new management team and are excited to partner with the company in this new chapter as they leverage their market leadership in customer insights to become a dominant player in the broader [customer experience management] industry,” Kathleen Kaulins, Vistara’s director of investments, said in a statement.

Vistara Capital Partners announced in December the final close of its newest fund, reaching US$115 million ($154 million).

The firm originally aimed to create a US$100 million fund aimed at helping more mature business-to-business software firms with growth when it announced the close of its first round in October 2018.

Since that initial US$40 million raise, however, Vistara has continued to draw investor interest, leading to the oversubscribed close of the Vistara Technology Growth Fund III LP.

It closed a second round in July 2019, bringing the fund to US$75 million at that time.

The fund’s investments, which typically range from US$5-15 million, take the form of debt financing rather than equity financing.

Investors in the fund are made up of family offices, private foundations, wealth management firms and two-dozen tech industry executives.

Export Development Canada was the fund’s initial institutional investor.

Vistara’s Canadian portfolio includes Vancouver-based ecommerce platform Mobify and Toronto fintech Zafin.

“Vistara Capital’s growth debt solution allows us to continue our accelerated investment in a number of key growth areas for the business, while preserving and ultimately enhancing the value for our current shareholders,” Ross said in a statement.

Angus Reid, who stepped down as Vision Critical’s executive chairman in 2014 following disputes with the board, eventually sold his remaining stake in the company for $44 million in 2017.

Andrew Reid had served as CEO until 2012, when he took on the role of chief product officer and was replaced by then-COO Scott Miller.

Reid the elder went on to launch the Angus Reid Institute in 2014 while Reid the younger now serves as CEO of Vancouver-based Rival Technologies Inc., which uses chat, voice and video tools on mobile devices to gain insights into consumer behaviour.