AWARD SPOTLIGHT: Innovacorp Winner of the 2022 Venture Capital Deal of the Year Award for Meta Materials Inc.
When Innovacorp first invested in smart materials and photonics company Meta Materials Inc. in 2015, it was looking to add to its roster more companies with interesting products and a strong management team with a solid research and development strategy to help it expand.
“At the time, it was clear that there was a lot of potential behind META: It had a new, unique, patent-heavy product with lots of applications in the real world that were being made possible by technological developments in the broader industry,” says Andrew Ray, vice-president and managing director of the Nova Scotia First Fund at Innovacorp.
Dartmouth, N.S.-based Meta Materials, founded in 2011 by CEO George Palikaras, is a developer of high-performance functional materials and intelligent surfaces. T the technology has applications in aerospace and defence, health care, the automotive industry, and clean technology.
The company is using applied physics and advanced design to pioneer a new class of multi-functional materials — called metamaterials — with engineered properties that go beyond what is found in nature.
“George always had this big vision of developing a platform technology that would enable new products, create new markets and new opportunities,” Ray says.
Palikaras says Innovacorp offers startups a unique “triple setup” in North America: an incubator, an accelerator, and venture capital, all under one roof.
“We partnered with Innovacorp at different stages of our lifecycle and scaleup,” he says, adding that Innovacorp helped in various ways, including making connections to professors at Dalhousie University. “And, with their support, we were able to prototype our first metamaterial application.”
Innovacorp invested about $3M in META over six years which, alongside additional support from private and public investors, helped the company build a significant IP portfolio around its technology platform and commercialize its first metamaterial application.
The support continued all the way to becoming a publicly listed company on the Nasdaq in June 2021, Palikaras says. He says META became the first metamaterials company in its category to list on the Nasdaq.
“The NASDAQ listing has enhanced our ability to pursue a broader range of opportunities and attract additional world-class talent,” Palikaras adds.
The IPO deal was awarded the CVCA’s VC Deal of the Year Award.
Innovacorp elected to sell its META shares. Its investment provided the VC with a 34.7x a gross multiple of invested capital (MOIC) and an internal rate of return of 88%.
“Innovacorp continues to believe in META’s technology, market opportunities, and team. We can’t wait to see the company move forward, and we can’t wait to help build other start-up success stories like this one,” Innovacorp CEO Malcolm Fraser said in a release at the time.
“What an amazing outcome for META, the start-up community, Innovacorp, and Nova Scotia,” stated Susan Corkum-Greek, the province’s Minister of Economic Development.
META is Atlantic Canada’s first publicly traded unicorn. The company has grown into a global company with three offices in Canada, two in the U.S., and one in each of England and Greece. It currently has more than 150 employees and about 60 job openings.
Palikaras said the Innovacorp team has a track record of investing in disruptive technologies.
“With Innovacorp’s support, including incubation facilities, META was able to scale and launch its first metamaterial application,” he says. The company will be moving into a new, state-of-the-art 68,000-square-feet facility in Dartmouth this year.
“Dartmouth is a great place to do business,” Palikaras says, adding that it has a strategic geographic location and time zone that allows employees to work cross-functionally from its offices in Silicon Valley and B.C. on the west coast and in its offices in the U.K. and Greece.
Nova Scotia also has “a talented and loyal workforce,” he says, with access to many local universities and colleges.
“Organizations like Innovacorp have worked hard to put in an ecosystem in place that provides early-stage capital and accelerator services that support the growth of entrepreneurs,” Palikaras adds. “Innovacorp has built a reputation by investing in deep-tech startups with patient capital, right here in the province.”
He says the company’s mission is to “democratize nanotechnology,” bringing its benefits to the world.
“We are currently revolutionizing a number of industries; from energy to aerospace, from automotive EV to medical devices and from consumer electronics to next-generation communication systems,” Palikaras says. “We do this by making our customer products do more with less offering them high-performance, functional nanomaterials and intelligent surfaces that are scalable, sustainable, and more efficient.”