Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My name is Mark McQueen. I'm a board member of the CVCA and I run a venture capital fund in Toronto called Wellington Financial.
The CVCA was founded in 1974 with 130 member organizations with 1,800 individual participants. In 2008 there were 1,755 VC-backed companies employing 150,000 people, with sales of $18 billion a year in this country.
VC funds focus on many sectors, primarily through active management in emerging technologies such as information technology, life sciences, clean tech, alternative energy, and biotech. Our portfolio companies grow five times faster than non-VC-backed firms and, on average, export 70% of their sales.
In the U.S., venture capital has played a role in Microsoft, Google, and Intel. In Canada, VC has had an early role in Research In Motion, Corel, Day4 Energy, Biox, and Miranda.
Vancouver’s Vision Critical is a good recent example. With $11 million of private capital, Vision Critical in Vancouver has grown from 30 employees in October 2006 to 350 today and is going to 450 by Christmas. Revenue is up by 20 times.
PE funds are also active capital providers to the high-growth, mid-sized firms in our country, with very meaningful employment numbers. Porter Airlines, which is a story of merchant banking and private equity backing, is a good case study. In five years it has created 1,000 jobs, acquired half a billion dollars' worth of Toronto-made Bombardier aircraft, and has preserved 4,500 jobs at a manufacturing plant during a very difficult recession.
Canada's VC investment is, however, at a 14-year low. Our nation's R and D investment of $18 billion a year is being stranded because there is not enough capital to commercialize the investments being made by governments, both federal and provincial. The United States spends twice as much per capita to commercialize their R and D as we do. The U.S. venture capital industry put $18 billion U.S. into their economy last year, versus $1 billion in Canada, well below our GDP ratio or our population ratio. With their deeper pockets, U.S. VCs invest twice as much per portfolio as we do in Canada.
The ability of our funds to raise new money and put that money to work in the economy diminishes by the day. Without new capital to invest, the next five years will be even bleaker, and a 14-year trend will become a 19-year trend. Last year, VCs financed 330 companies, down 38% from 536 in 2005. That's a lot fewer jobs, a lot fewer start-ups, and a lot fewer chances to recreate Research in Motion's success.
We have five ideas that we've tabled with the government to correct this imbalance. They tackle the angel stage, the commercialization stage, as well as the venture capital stage. Many of these ideas are costless and should attract attention in this environment.
The first is to improve the IRB offset program to allow investments by foreign companies in venture capital firms to count as their offset credit.
Second is to do what many provinces have done through their budget processes: to enhance the retail investor capacity to put money into the asset class through an enhanced labour-sponsored tax credit.
The third, which is our primary suggestion here today, is to do what provinces have done in many parts of the country and establish a $300 million private sector-managed VC fund of funds program, which should actually be a profitable undertaking over time.
The fourth is to permit corporations to treat their investments in VC funds in the same manner that they treat internal R and D expenditures, namely, as a business expense. For some reason, money spent internally is tax deductible, but money invested externally is not.
Last is to recognize the fantastic success of the SR and ED program, but to enhance it, where $1 of each qualifying expense would receive a credit of $1.50, versus the 80¢ or 90¢ credit that might happen today. This is a well-understood program that the government and successive governments have promoted, and entrepreneurs know how to access it, engineers know how to utilize it, and VCs know how to leverage it. It requires no change to your current systems and it would be a modest cost to the public purse.
In the package you've received there are statistics going back to 1996 showing the venture capital decline. If you look back at 1996, there are about as many dollars going into the economy as there are today, so 14 years have passed, our economy has more than doubled in that time, if not tripled, and the VC dollars are flat.
That explains the problem in black and white and why we're here today to seek your help to address it.
Thank you very much.