Diagram Ventures (“Diagram”), a venture-builder that co-founds companies that pursue big ideas in the financial and insurance sectors, announced today the successful close of a new, $55-millionsecond fund (“Fund II”) and that serial entrepreneur Hamnett Hill has joined the platform as a Partner.
Diagram teams up with experienced entrepreneurs to build technology companies pursuing big ideas in the financial and insurance sectors. By combining venture capital investment, incubator-style support and access to a unique ecosystem, Diagram helps founders focus on what they love, removing barriers and speeding their path to success.
“With the support of our anchor investor, Portag3 Ventures, Diagram has rapidly gained a strong level of investor interest both in Canada and internationally, leading us to exceed our initial fundraising target of $50-million in less than six months,” said Diagram Co-Founder & CEO, Francois Lafortune. “We are thrilled and honoured with the quality of investors in our second fund. This is a reflection of the quality of the entrepreneurs Diagram has attracted and the success of the companies we co-created with them. We look forward to partnering with more founders to build billion-dollar global companies based in Canada.”
Diagram’s first $30-million fund has made investments in five up-and-coming companies to date: Dialogue, Collage, Breathe Life, nesto, and dfuse, and the early results of Diagram’s venture co-creation model are promising. In less than 3 years, Diagram’s portfolio companies have created more than 250 full time jobs and combined enterprise value in excess of $175m.
“Dialogue’s growth is proof positive that the Diagram model works,” said Cherif Habib, co-founder and CEO of Dialogue. “From the day we began operations, the full support of the Diagram ecosystem — its founder-centric model, access to its network of LPs and large incumbents and the support services offered by the Diagram team — has allowed us to scale rapidly and become Canada’s leading virtual health provider in three years.”
Among the Limited Partners in Fund II, which includes more than 75 angels and family offices, are: Ambassador Bruce Heyman, the former United States Ambassador to Canada and a former Partner at Goldman Sachs; Angela Strange, a General Partner of Andreessen Horowitz; Andrew Chisholm, the former Head of the Financial Institutions Group at Goldman Sachs; Charles Goldman, the President and CEO of AssetMark and the former President of Institutional Platforms at Fidelity Investments; Mark Britto, the Executive Vice President Global Sales and Credit at PayPal; Nicole Junkermann, the Founder of NJF Holdings; Anatol von Hahn, the former Group Head of Canadian Banking of Scotiabank, and Henri de Castries, the former CEO of AXA Global.
“Diagram is a key component in our broader strategy to invest in the next generation of global financial services platforms,” said Paul Desmarais III, Co-Founder & Chairman of Diagram and Chairman & CEO of Sagard Holdings. “The number of international investors in Diagram’s second fund has more than doubled and we expect this will create substantive benefits for our portfolio companies as they expand internationally. My personal commitment to Diagram is unwavering because I have full confidence in the team and that the model works.”
Diagram also announced that Montreal-based serial entrepreneur, operator, and investor Hamnett Hill will join the platform as a Partner.
“Hamnett’s decision to help build Diagram is a vote of confidence in our model. He will be a tremendous thought partner to our founders with his outstanding 20-year entrepreneurial track record. He’s seen it all!” said Dan Robichaud, Managing Partner of Diagram.
Hill, an investor in Diagram’s first fund, co-founded TotalNet, one of Canada’s largest early Internet Service Providers (ISPs); Zero-Knowledge Systems, a high-profile pioneer in online privacy and security; Radialpoint, North America and Europe’s largest Telco & Cableco consumer SaaS provider, and most recently Smooch.io, the leading B2C omnichannel messaging software provider, which was recently sold to Zendesk (NYSE: ZEN). Exits of companies he has invested in, founded, or run reach into the several hundreds of millions of dollars. He was also the first and largest investor in Goodfood Market Corp. (TSX: FOOD) and sits on the company’s board of directors.
“Diagram’s unique, entrepreneur-focused model and the success it has enjoyed so far drew me to the platform,” said Hill. “I have yet to see anything else like it and I believe this formula represents the way forward to create the next generation of Canadian-based global businesses in the financial technology sector.”
Digital Securities Maven Thomas Carter Enlists Former Nike Brand Director, Jerome Conlon, to Bring Cryptocurrency to the Masses
Holders of bank stocks should avert their eyes. Having regained 2/3 of its value prior to last year’s sell-off, Bitcoin has risen nearly 200% so far this year. Many pundits and commentators are predicting another bull-run for Bitcoin before the end of the year. One such pioneer and FinTech veteran is Thomas Carter, founder of DealBox, a platform that empowers issuers and investors to take advantage of the current digital transformation of capital markets being driven by the emergence of STOs or Security Token Offerings.
The crafting of the narrative and strategy around this ambitious consumer education campaign — dubbed, “Make crypto easy” — will be led by branding guru Jerome Conlon.
Institutional investment is picking up; just about every Fortune 100 company is dipping in; Facebook just released Libra (for better or for worse); Blockstack launched the first SEC-qualified token offering in history. Bloomberg has finally admitted Bitcoin is a thing and President Trump is tweeting about it.
Those are just the highlights.
Even naysayers, at this point, can’t deny that cryptocurrency, Bitcoin and blockchain technology aren’t fading away. In fact, the often-cited tipping point of mass adoption seems to be fast approaching.
In his recently published book, “Life After Google,” economist and writer George Gilder, famous for predicting many of today’s technological advances back in the 80s, postulates that blockchain technology will have a bigger impact than all of the previous technological innovations combined.
Thomas Carter on the current situation:
“With blockchain tech and cryptocurrency, we aren’t dealing with a typical market adoption learning curve. Bitcoin was born of iconoclastic ideals and philosophy. If you were a technologist and you resonated with the philosophy behind Bitcoin, then you would figure out how to use it. In other words, user-friendliness wasn’t ever a consideration until now and that was mostly on purpose.”
Conlon has this to say about the project:
“This is the greatest business story never told. We need to tell it. People need to understand the massive change that blockchain is bringing to the world.”
The campaign will offer newbies to cryptocurrency solutions in four key areas:
Details on the solutions being offered, and the vision for each, will be revealed in forthcoming information releases over the coming weeks.
To learn more about the Make Crypto Easy campaign, please visit http://www.makecryptoeasy.io.
Ideanomics Unveils Plans For Fintech Village And Innovation Hub
Ideanomics Inc. (Nasdaq: IDEX), a global technology company based in New York City, NY, took the wraps off its plans to transform the former UConn West Hartford campus into its global headquarters for technology and innovation.
“Nearly one year ago, I expressed our hope to call West Hartford our home,” said Ideanomics Chair, Dr. Bruno Wu, at a news conference held at the neighboring University of Saint Joseph. “Today, I am pleased to be able to share with you the reality beyond the vision”.
“Starting today, we take our largest step from blueprint to reality. Here in Connecticut, the front yard of the insurance and financial centers that call Connecticut and the Northeast their home,” Dr. Wu said.
“Fintech Village will be a unique and special project, the likes of which Connecticut has not seen. I thank former Governor Malloy for his support and Governor Lamont for being such a great partner and helping to make this day happen.”
“We have spent the past 10 months with our partners to design a specialized workplace that will stimulate both innovation and collaboration, and be an open campus with features and benefits that West Hartford residents spoke of in their town-wide Community Visioning Process last year,” said Alf Poor, Ideanomics CEO and President of Fintech Village.
Fintech Village will be a walkable campus accessible to the community and designed to fit organically into the natural beauty and scale of the campus’ 58-acre landscape, with:
- Public plazas, open green spaces and recreational features
- Boardwalks and trails through the restored natural habitat
- Environmentally friendly and energy-efficient buildings
- Traffic-calming measures on Trout Brook Drive
- Small shops and places to eat
- Enhanced parking for the Little League and Miracle League sports fields
- A community center and an art gallery.
Neighborhood and community outreach begins
Poor stated that Ideanomics had begun its activities to engage, inform and solicit input from its West Hartfordneighbors and key community organizations.
“We wanted those living closest to campus to be among the first to hear about our plans through our neighborhood outreach program, which will soon spread to the West Hartford community as a whole,” Poor said, adding that the company will post and refresh information online at www.fintechvillage.us.
He said the company would also use, mail, social media, and traditional media outlets to provide updates on the project and inform residents throughout the public permitting process and project construction. Company representatives went door-to-door in a 500-foot zone around the campus, and will soon place information and descriptive imagery at the West Hartford Town Hall. It has offered to do the same at the Noah Webster Library and the Bishops Corner Branch Library.
Next steps: Environmental cleanup and local zoning and permitting process to begin
Poor said that Ideanomics was preparing to begin the environmental cleanup on site and the local zoning and permitting process with the town of West Hartford.
- Ideanomics has commenced the cleanup of the asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that were identified on site prior to its sale by UConn. The presence of these materials is relatively common for the type and age of the buildings currently on campus, and a licensed environmental contractor will contain, remove and safely dispose of all contamination.
- Ideanomics has filed asbestos abatement notifications with the Connecticut Department of Health. The company’s contractor has begun preparing for the asbestos abatement, which is scheduled to begin this week, and will last for approximately 3 months.
- The company is waiting for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve its proposed plan to remove and dispose of the PCB-contaminated soils. This will hopefully come within the late summer/early fall.
Ideanomics is also poised to begin the zoning and permitting process with the town of West Hartford.
“We will work collaboratively with town planning officials to prepare site plans and permit applications for their review. The process to secure the approvals for Fintech Village will be public, thorough and deliberative—and the town will set the manner and timeline of that process,” Poor said.
The next step will be to seek local zoning approval to create a “Technology Village District” zone—updating the town’s current “Business Office Laboratory” zone.
After the zoning rules are updated, Ideanomics will then submit all the required permit applications necessary to develop and operate the campus, following all the public procedures established by the town of West Hartford.
“This innovation hub will be a center of excellence and collaboration for cutting-edge solutions with applications in artificial intelligence, robotics, clean tech, med tech, accounting, insurance, financial services, transportation and more,” said Dr. Wu.
“We believe it will be a positive cultural, ecological and community asset to our neighbors in West Hartford, and I am so proud to share these plans today.”
Chinese Government Leads the World in Blockchain Standardized Certification
For years, governments around the world have been floundering with the challenge of how to respond to cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. The Chinese Government has not been immune to the controversy taking a publicly conservative stance towards many aspects of the cryptocurrency world. However, a lesser known fact is that the Chinese Government has been regarding blockchain technology and its potential with a positive view. Starting 2017, China Electronics Technology Standardization Institute (CESI) – a government authorized institution founded in 1973, has been conducting Standard Blockchain System Function Test in order to pressure test and certify the top blockchain projects operating in China. Since inception, the organization has certified only 30 projects globally, including Lenovo, Alipay, and most recently, aelf.
The underlying thought behind this organization lies in the belief in the technology. Despite the appearance shared internationally because of its conservative stance on crypto currency, China in fact understands the benefits and application potential of the technology. At the launching ceremony and the first academic seminar of the Digital Finance Open Research Program held on July 8, 2019, Xin Wang, director of People’s Bank of China Research Bureau and head of the Monetary and Financial Bureau, remarked on the potential of blockchain based financial solutions.
“We need to strengthen the construction of digital financial solutions (based on blockchain). There are various technical shortcomings involving the current financial infrastructure in areas of privacy protection and the system security against malicious attacks.”
The creation of the Standard Blockchain System Function Test shows that China is on the forefront when compared with governments around the world, in regards to regulatory and development solutions. While many governments are struggling to regulate blockchain projects, China has taken a decisive stance and developed extensive guidelines and tests to validate the previously uncharted technology. The certification provides a standard that can be used by the general public and other enterprises to judge the foundation of the projects that otherwise would be difficult without the knowledge and manpower to independently conduct the validation.
Currently there is no obligation for any project to apply for certification, but those that do apply undergo rigorous testing and scrutiny to verify the quality of all aspects of the technology. Upon having an application approved, the project will then receive a visit from specialized government agents who complete a comprehensive process consisting of over 40 pages of tests and analysis. The test is so complex and difficult that a pass constitutes of a score above 60%. From application to certification, the process takes almost 4 months. Out of an unverified number of applicants, only 30 projects have received certification over the course of the past 2 years.
Aelf is the latest to receive certification and is the first international blockchain focused company to receive the globally recognized status with a score of over 90%. They have now joined the ranks with Lenovo and Alipay. Aelf’s CEO and Founder, Ma Haobo stated, “This certification shows the quality and core ability of not only our developers, but our blockchain platform. It is designed to meet the strict quality large enterprises are given to expect, and indeed require, to ensure they can function at the performance their clients expect.” He went on to explain that this certification is something other governments should take notice of and employ to aid in their ever-evolving regulatory solutions.
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