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GrowthWorks Atlantic Funds VMT

GrowthWorks Atlantic, the labour-sponsored fund based in Halifax, has made follow-on investments in several of its portfolio companies amounting to more than $2.5 million in recent months.

The fund has benefited from exiting two successful investments in the past year: its sale of stock in publicly traded film company DHX Media, and the sale of its holdings in Halifax pharmaceutical services company STI Technologies Ltd. to Toronto-based private equity firm Imperial Capital.

CEO Tom Hayes said in an interview Monday that GrowthWorks has rechanneled some of the proceeds from these exits in the fiscal 2013 fiscal year into several companies it had already invested in.

“It’s quite normal and necessary and important for venture capital funds to continue to support their portfolio companies,” said Hayes, who was one of the pioneers of venture capital investing in the region.

“For the successful VCs, this is where they shine, whether they support their companies or not.”

He added that follow-on investing is more difficult than making an original investment, because no startup achieves success precisely as expected.

The funds have to determine whether the company is still poised to succeed and deserves to receive more money to finance its growth.

The companies that received additional funding from GrowthWorks (and the amount of the follow-on funding) include:

— Oris4, Halifax ($650,000), developed a cloud-based document-organization system;

— Azorus, Halifax ($200,000), offers customer relationship management software to universities and colleges;

— ClearRisk, St. John’s, N.L. ($100,000), a software-as-a-service venture that helps mid-level insurance brokers assess risk;

— Enovex, Saint John, N.B. ($550,000), commercializing a compound that helps to make the production of commercial oxygen more efficient;

— Origin Biomed, Halifax ($500,000), manufactures and markets Neuragen, a natural pain relief for diabetes sufferers, which is sold at more than 20,000 stores;

— Virtual Marine Technologies, St. John’s, N.L. ($500,000), develops simulated training systems for maritime industries;

—  And Virtual Expert, Fredericton, N.B. ($25,000), developed an online resource to help with the treatment of autism.

Hayes said the ecosystem for startups has developed in recent years so that the proceeds from exited investments are being rechannelled into other companies, allowing further growth of young companies.

All the follow-on funding by GrowthWorks in the past year have included co-investments from other entities.

For example, Nova Scotia Business Inc. also invested $1 million in Origin Biomed through a convertible debenture.

The investment brought NSBI’s total investment in the company up to $7.928 million, said the economic development agency.

The GrowthWorks funding has come as Atlantic Canadian startups are having increasing success in attracting investment from venture capital funds and other institutional investors.

Several companies have landed seven-figure venture capital investments this year, including Karma Gaming of Halifax ($5 million); Introhive of Fredericton and Washington, D.C. ($3 million); Neurodyn Inc., Charlottetown ($1.5 million); Health Outcomes Worldwide of New Waterford ( $1.5 million); Affinio, Halifax ($1.5 million); and Analyze Re, Halifax ($1.4 million).