Giving entrepreneurs the tools to succeed

Patrick Lor of Panache Ventures talks about investing in, coaching and supporting Calgary's visionaries

Patrick Lor is managing partner at Panache Ventures, a seed-stage venture capital firm that will invest in more than 100 Canadian startups over the next three years. He is also partner at 500 Startups Canada.

Patrick Lor
Patrick Lor

What is Panache and what do you do?

Lor: Panache Ventures is a $50-million founder-first, angel-power venture capital fund. We invest in early stage ventures that have the vision, mission and passion to change the world.

Our fund takes a calculated risk by investing in a large, diversified portfolio, expecting just a few of the companies to produce massive returns. In other words, the companies we invest in will be huge if they work.

(For a one-pager on Panache Ventures, click here.)

What’s your background? And how did Panache come into existence and why?

Lor: The Panache Ventures team is a group of experienced entrepreneurs and professional investors. In my former life as an entrepreneur, I was part of the founding team of iStockphoto, which was sold to Getty Images in 2006.

Since then, I’ve been a venture coach, mentor, angel investor, community volunteer and an entrepreneur/founder at other ventures. (Read a fun story about iStockphoto and Guy Kawasaki.)

As former entrepreneurs, we’ve experienced everything our founders have experienced – so we’re very empathetic to their cause.

Our core transactional function is to invest in good companies and ensure that all the right procedures are followed, but the real mission is to coach and support the entrepreneurs. Very few people understand how tough it is to be an entrepreneur, as most of the general public think that it’s all about the freedom to be your own boss.

The reality is that entrepreneurs have many obligations to their families, investors, employees, suppliers and customers, and it’s overwhelming at times. We’re there to help them through the highs, as well as the lows.   

Are there specific things you’re looking for in companies seeking money from you?

Lor: For every venture, we ask three basic questions: What is it? How big can it be? Is there founder magic?

Our thesis is to invest in companies that are going to change the world – and that means the founders have incredible drive, a massive vision and outstanding leadership abilities. Aside from that, we have a few key investment themes (listed in the one-pager link above). For more, you can download a backgrounder on venture capital that we created. 

What does it take for an entrepreneur to turn an idea into a reality?

Lor:  Vision. The ability to see what your product will be, not as it is now but what it could be.

Also, the ability to see what the world will be, and how your product and the world will merge in the next five years.

Belief in yourself especially when most of the world is skeptical.

Massive amount of research – understand the competition, the customers, the suppliers, the talent. Education, industry knowledge, mentors, guidance, relevant work experience.

Early support. Early customers who buy your not-ready-for-primetime products, and early investors who are patient, family and friends who support you while you disappear for months at a time.

What are the biggest challenges facing entrepreneurs in Calgary today?

Lor: There are the usual challenges – not enough money, talent, etc. – faced by entrepreneurs everywhere in the world.

I think the biggest challenge entrepreneurs face today in Calgary is that it takes too long to discover and learn what they need to know. That’s because whatever investors, talent and resources we have in Calgary are sprinkled throughout the city (and beyond, in Cochrane, Airdrie, Canmore, etc.). That makes it incredibly hard for entrepreneurs to learn fast – and the most valuable currency in the startup world is speed.

There are some community initiatives, including Platform and Rainforest, that are looking to change this.

Imagine the entrepreneurial power we’d have in the city if our people could learn what they need to know in one year instead of five, our entrepreneurs would be the best in the world.

– Mario Toneguzzi for Calgary’s Business


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