VenGrowths institutional money management arm was co-founded by Earl Storie in 1982. Over the years, Earl was joined by Allen Lupyrypa, Michael Cohen and David Ferguson. Since 1982, VenGrowth has launched and managed several private institutional Limited Partnerships on behalf of leading institutional investors including all five of Canada’s largest banks and several pension funds. In 1994 VenGrowth launched its first retail venture capital fund and continued managing funds on behalf of both institutional and retail investors.
VenGrowth was one of the first independent Canadian venture capital managers. VenGrowth quickly grew to become one of Canada’s largest and most prolific investors, with assets under management exceeding $1.2 billion. To date, VenGrowth has invested in more than 200 companies, and has helped create numerous Canadian success stories.
VenGrowth’s success and prominence as one of Canada’s most successful venture and private equity investors is due to the very significant contributions of Earl Storie who is now retired, and Mike Cohen, who was tragically killed on Lake Muskoka on July 5, 2020.
Mike was passionate – about his family, his friends, his work and his life. Everything Mike did was with boundless energy, from working out, playing poker with his friends, spending time with his family and investing.
At VenGrowth, Mike found his calling. Mike was a natural born investor — he had great instincts. He was always reading and researching. He always knew the right questions to ask. Mike served as a board member on many of the companies in which we invested. He was a highly respected, and sometimes feared, board member — always contributing sage, insightful and creative advice. He had high expectations and would hold the management teams accountable to achieving performance. Mike would never hold back, he always would speak his mind and those companies definitely performed better because of Mike’s contribution.
Managing other people’s money is a huge responsibility and one Mike took very seriously. That’s partly the reason Mike had such high expectations of our investee companies and the employees at VenGrowth. Mike was incredibly principled and would stand his ground. He was a tough negotiator, but he would never take advantage of someone. There was always an integrity and fairness to the way Mike dealt with people. His word was his bond.
Mike was also a natural born leader and mentor. He worked very hard with the investment team, teaching them how to structure deals, or handle negotiations, the areas of due diligence to concentrate on, or how to deal with a sticky management situation. Mike was involved with every investment that VenGrowth made and always had something valuable to contribute.
Mike was a gifted businessman and was pivotal in building VenGrowth to one of Canada’s largest and most prolific venture capital firms. He helped foster and mentor some of Canada’s leading technology success stories. Mike leaves a lasting legacy in the Canadian business world in terms of the companies that were founded, the technologies that were developed and the jobs that were created. He also mentored junior investment analysts who went on to become some of the best Canadian venture capitalists in their own right.
Earl is enjoying a well-deserved retirement, enjoying his family, his new grandchild and continuing to be a proficient golfer. He divides his time between Oakville and Naples, Florida. Even in retirement, Earl remains an active investor, both in public market companies and private companies.
Earl is considered to be one of the grandfathers of Canadian venture capital. Earl started his career as a CPA, and then moved on to Roynat where he initiated their formal venture capital and private equity activities in Canada. He then went on to the TD Capital Group where he was President from 1977 to 1982. Earl recognized that venture capital was a burgeoning asset class and one that institutional investors should include in their asset mix, leading him to co-found VenGrowth. VenGrowth became one of Canada’s first independent venture capital managers.
Earl was an astute investor and an incredible mentor to VenGrowth’s investment team and the management teams of those companies in which Earl invested. Earl imparted advice and wisdom that came from a career in venture capital that spanned nearly 40 years. With such a long career came a wealth of knowledge from seeing it all, through boom times and bust. Earl witnessed the emergence and growth of the Canadian technology industry. But he reminded the investment team that although the technology was new, business fundamentals remain the same — it still always boils down to the quality of the management team, the quality of execution and treating every dollar as though it’s the last. Earl has a favorite expression “You never lose money by taking a profit” — meaning sometimes the wisest course of action is to sell an investment early to lock in a profit, rather than taking a much riskier path of riding the investment all the way.
Earl’s contribution to the Canadian venture capital industry is substantial. As one of the founding pioneers, he has helped grow and shape the industry. He is a past President and Director of the Association of Canadian Venture Capital Companies, and has been involved with the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants accounting committee for venture capital companies and the venture capital finance committee of the Science Council of Canada.
Earl’s sage advice is still sought out by many.