At Angel Forum we are strong believers in the notion that most successes in our space are driven by the collaboration between founding teams and the investors who back them up. These are very often not easy relationships; they go from the incredible highs to the desperately low and very often things snap which results in boardroom brawls and companies failing. Good investors are there for the long run: they invest, assist, advise, make intro’s and work closely with the entrepreneurs to ensure success. In some cases, they roll up their sleeves and jump in at executive level. And very often they re-invest. And re-invest again.
In 2020 – at our virtual Whistler Summit – we decided to recognize this important piece in the investment cycle by initiating the Greg Smith Award. When it comes to entrepreneurship and investment, Greg Smith never lacked in grit. At BDC he supported companies very early in their journey after which he went to co-found Espresso Capital and then TIMIA Capital. Greg empathized deeply with the plight of the entrepreneur. He never just wrote a cheque. He was a partner in their path and has a history of sticking with them through thick and thin. It is for these reasons that Angel Forum was very proud to launch the “Greg Smith - Investor and Company TEAM with the MOST GRIT” award.
The first company to take home the award (which is supplemented with a donation to ALS Action Canada and a nice free delivery of beer; Greg would always take some good brews to board or team meetings) was to Redlen Technologies, a leading provider of multi-energy, X-ray imaging modules based on proprietary Cadmium Zinc Telluride imaging sensors. Ralph Turfus as chairman and Glenn Bindley as CEO collected the award last year virtually and they did a quick interview describing their long journey. At that point the jury was still out as the company had seen a failed exit attempt and a tough environment because of COVID.
Now only a year later, Redlen was successfully acquired by Canon Inc. for an enterprise value of US$335 million. While these exits get spectacular headlines, we know that the journey behind it was far from easy. Bindley highlighted that by mentioning that when he assumed the role as CEO in 2002 he thought it would be a five year journey to get to a $100m exit. Well, it was not that easy. As Bindley explained:
“The reality for most companies in the 21st century (social media, digital currency companies and a few other areas excluded) is that one must create real value. In a science and manufacturing company like Redlen – that is a hard path to travel. We were at deaths door in 2013 and resuscitated by new shareholders such as Pangaea and Ralph Turfus – able to see the potential for Redlen and not just the missed milestones and unexpected challenges we had experienced the past 10 years prior. We had numerous other close shaves with death along the way – but by 2015 we achieved a milestone breakthrough with our sensor technology for use in medical CT which created a step function in shareholder value and paved the path to today.”
It is evident that the pro-active approach of the Redlen investors and the support of VCs, seed funds and angels through many rounds of funding helped built this success on Vancouver Island. The exit to Canon provided even further evidence that the 2020 Greg Smith Award that Redlen won was more than deserved.
On that note it is time to look for the 2021 recipient and we welcome nominations from the community for the next “Greg Smith - Investor and Company TEAM with the MOST GRIT” award. This award will be announced and formally presented at Angel Forum and CIN’s annual summit in Victoria on February 25, 2022. Maybe Glenn Bindley and Ralph Turfus will be there to pass the torch to another tough team of entrepreneurs and investors who together are beating the odds.