Digital Transformation Through COVID-19 and How Venture Capitalists Can Be Catalysts for Change

While still relatively recent in all of our lives, COVID-19 represents one of the most significant global events to fundamentally influence global economic and social conditions since the Second World War. As a result of this ever-worsening pandemic and the social upheaval it continues to engender, there is a growing requirement to accelerate the introduction of technology solutions to keep our country and fellow Canadians safe, healthy, and connected. These new and novel solutions are increasingly being called upon to address major social challenges affecting every element of society – from guaranteeing supply chain integrity for medicines and food to delivering remote healthcare services to elderly and vulnerable populations, to better connecting our communities as more of us work from home.

As the strategic corporate venture capital fund for TELUS, we’ve long believed that it is possible to make money and improve social outcomes – and that the two are often perfectly in sync. At TELUS Ventures, our focus has always been on investing in transformational technologies, and by doing so, making a deep and lasting social impact on the communities and country we call home. Some of our recent investments in AI for diagnostic imaging (Zebra Medical), remote fieldforce enablement (TechSee), AgTech (Nanothings and Hummingbird) are all examples of technologies that promise to directly address COVID challenges while also delivering meaningful and measurable social outcomes we hope will last well past the end of this current situation. This strategy was set in place years ago by our CEO, Darren Entwistle, and it’s one we’ve been focused on scaling for several years.

Like our peers across the Canadian venture capital community, we are working to embrace and unlock opportunities to address COVID. Despite business as unusual, at TELUS Ventures we believe that now is the time to hit the gas, not the brake. When the pandemic’s first wave hit in March, we faced a choice as early- to growth-stage investors: pause, actively pull back our support or actually increase our funding activity. We chose the third option. Now, we’re on pace to invest more than $175 million this year in 14 new portfolio companies, partnering with leading entrepreneurs in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, New York, Montreal, San Francisco, Tel Aviv, London, Stockholm and Sydney.

As a corporate venture fund, we have been fortunate during COVID to have our operating unit partners within TELUS provide us excellent ‘on the ground’ signals from their customers. Their insights include intelligence from real-time demand fluctuations, to emerging cyber and physical security concerns, to collaboration practices emerging in small- and medium-sized business segments. Where possible and permissible we have worked to share that intel with our portfolio companies and to broadly disseminate the work being done by the more than 75,000 TELUS employees worldwide. Their trendspotting across industries and verticals is also helping us identify exciting emerging opportunities to drive change across our various platforms.

As the largest Canadian Health IT company, our 3,500 colleagues at TELUS Health have been front and centre in the fight against COVID. In a matter of weeks, the team developed a virtual care solution seamlessly integrated into physicians’ electronic medical records, enabling them to conduct secure video consultations with their own roster of patients. They also expanded the use of our Home Health Monitoring solution to remotely track and support COVID-19 patients in BC recovering outside the hospital. This opportunity to contribute directly to the fight against Coronavirus has been an incredibly interesting and rewarding opportunity for our Ventures team. As we continue to build our team we are amazed at the calibre of individuals interested in joining us in that effort. As a long time investor in health care, the mix of business opportunity and opportunity for social improvement is one of the main reasons I came to TELUS Ventures in the first place. I’m happy to say we’re just getting started but with current investments such as Beacon, League, GenxSys, Zebra, and others we’re excited about what the future holds.

Please feel free to reach out if you have any comments or questions or investment opportunities you want to discuss. Finally, as a CVCA board member, I want to personally thank you, the membership as well as Kim Furlong as Chief Executive Officer, for making the private capital markets in Canada such an important part of our country’s future. Onwards and upwards!

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