AWARD SPOTLIGHT: Golden Venture Partners – Winner of CVCA’s 2017 Private Capital Regional Impact Award for SkipTheDishes
The CVCA Private Capital Regional Impact Awards were introduced in 2017. The award recognizes CVCA member firms whose investment has positioned their portfolio company to make a meaningful mark both within the community and within the broader business ecosystem.
Winners of this award are committed to making impactful investments to help fuel job creation, diversity of talent, and community engagement. Up to four winners can be selected per annum, with one recipient per region.
Golden Venture Partners has been named a 2017 CVCA Regional Impact Award winner for Winnipeg-based SkipTheDishes. Since the SkipTheDishes was founded, it has made a positive, notable impact in Winnipeg and beyond.
For the five founders of Winnipeg-based food delivery company SkipTheDishes, landing one of the largest exits in Canadian startup history is a major career achievement. But what the founding group originally from Saskatchewan are also proud of is how their success has shone a well-deserved spotlight on the startup ecosystem in the Canadian Prairies.
“Venture capitalists don’t tend to come to the Prairies to look for startups to invest in … That’s what we’re trying to change,” says Andrew Chau, who co-founded SkipTheDishes alongside brothers Josh, Chris and Daniel Simair and Jeff Adamson. “Our goal is to make the Canadian Prairies a tech hub and ecosystem.”
SkipTheDishes was found in 2012 with a goal of helping busy people get their restaurant food faster, so they could focus on other priorities such as work and family. The fivesome bootstrapped the company for three years, entering six markets, before seeking out investors to help accelerate their growth. They raised capital from a handful of angel investors, as well as four prominent venture capital firms including lead investor Toronto-based Golden Venture Partners as well as Cambridge-based Founder Collective, New York-based FJ Labs, and California’s Felicis Ventures.
Matt Golden, the founder and managing partner of Golden Venture Partners, says his firm initially passed on the investment opportunity, given the amount of competition in the market and the company’s initial focus on smaller Canadian cities. But the SkipTheDishes founders didn’t give up. They came back and addressed many of the firm’s concerns around how their approach was unique and defensible.
“We got conviction that second time around—and once we get conviction, we invest,” says Golden, who is originally from Winnipeg. “One thing I know is that when you get a bunch of Winnipeggers aligned on a vision they are out to show the world that they are second to no one. It’s the Prairies mentality—don’t underestimate it.”
SkipTheDishes was on track to generate $23.5M in revenues in 2016 when it was bought late that year by Britain’s Just Eat PLC in a deal valued at about $200M.
“We had many options as a standalone entity, but it made business sense to partner with Just Eat given the acceleration and global impact we would get with a larger organization,” says Chau, now the head of business development and strategy at SkipTheDishes.
Making a Regional Impact
Since the deal closed at the end of December 2016, the company has grown from 300 employees to more than 1,100 employees, most of them based in Winnipeg and Saskatoon. SkipTheDishes also grew from serving 23 markets across Canada and part of the U.S. to 72—and counting. In those markets, the company works with tens of thousands of couriers and has brought an additional source of revenue to over ten thousand of restaurants.
“The growth since then has been tremendous,” says Chau.
It has also been good for the Canadian Prairies. “We’ve been able to not only bring on more growth and impact to the business, but also to Winnipeg—really driving that ecosystem and building that mantra that you can build a global consumer brand in the Prairies. It takes a lot of grit, bootstrapping and hard work, but it can be done.”
SkipTheDishes also has an increasingly diverse workforce, including having women in charge of four of its nine departments. There are more than 20 languages spoken across its workforce.
Chau says winning the 2017 CVCA Private Capital Regional Impact Award is validation of the hard work the founders and the company’s employees are putting in to growing the business. “We see it through our growth, but it’s great to get industry validation too,” Chau says. “Of course, there’s much more left to do.”
Golden says the award also helps to bring recognition to the tech ecosystem of Winnipeg and Saskatchewan, which can sometimes be underestimated.
“Hopefully deals like this create the aspirations necessary for young entrepreneurs to realize that they can create big companies in those regions,” Golden says. “From a personal perspective it is incredibly rewarding because I am from Winnipeg and know just how incredible the people and employees are in that city. Go Jets go!”
The CVCA is now accepting nominations for its 2018 Private Capital Regional Impact Awards as well as its Private Equity Deal of the Year Award, Venture Capital Deal of the Year Award, and Community Leadership Award. More details can be found at awards.cvca.ca.