‘Matchmaking service’ for Northern Ontario businesses gets $1.8 million

By Laura Stradiotto,
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Sudbury Star

A FedNor investment worth more than $1.8 million will be used to connect private investors with entrepreneurs looking to expand and modernize their companies in Northern Ontario.

Northern Ontario Angels, a non-profit organization that has successfully orchestrated the investment of more than $250 million between angel investors and entrepreneurs since its inception in 2005, will use the FedNor funding over three years to support 120 businesses in the region. The funding is expected to result in 750 full-time equivalent jobs and the allocation of more than $13 million from private investors to Northern companies by 2027.

Joe Eibl could attest to the impact of the Northern Ontario Angels. Eibl is director and CEO of Flosonics Medical, a Sudbury-based company that has created the world’s first wireless, wearable Doppler ultrasound system that helps clinicians better manage intravenous fluid therapy. 

The device is FDA- and Health Canada-approved and is currently being promoted to health systems in Canada and the U.S. 

Eibl said the money his company received through the Northern Ontario Angels was instrumental in all stages, from research and development to creating a prototype and then bringing the technology to market.

“That early phase, when you are a first-time founder coming out, finding those people to see your vision, believe in what you’re doing and having confidence in the team, and then fund the company to make those investments and developments,” said Eibl, “that’s the commercial viability downfield for further investments and capital, eventually commercialization, all with the goal of helping patients.”

The majority of companies that receive support from angel investors are in the technology field, said Ian Lane, executive director of Northern Ontario Angels, who sees the organization as a “matchmaking service.” 

The organization has grown to include a large network of investors, many of whom prefer to remain anonymous. It helps prepare entrepreneurs to pitch investors, who he describes as high-net-worth individuals who are often successful entrepreneurs themselves. 

While the angel investors would like to eventually see a return on their investment, the mentorship they provide is invaluable.

“We’ve surveyed our investors and they’ve often mentioned that their investments are creating jobs in Northern Ontario communities for today and future generations,” said Lane. 

“There’s a real civic drive to what motivates our investors.”

Northern Ontario Angels hold events across the region to educate entrepreneurs about building their businesses and enable investors to better understand the economic landscape of the communities and industries they are supporting.

“FedNor funding keeps our presence pan-Northern,” said Lane. “So we are getting deal flow and the referrals from entrepreneurs and attracting investors from across the region.” 

In 2017, FedNor provided Northern Ontario Angels with $1.6 million to expand its reach across Northern Ontario, including outlying and Indigenous communities. In addition to Sudbury, the organization has a presence in Thunder Bay, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins, Kenora, Parry Sound and the Far North.

Recent funding will also help the development and implementation of an Indigenous business strategy, with a focus on growing the Far North chapter, along with increasing support for life sciences and mining innovation companies and increasing international investments in Northern Ontario. 

“We need to find ways to innovate and attract talent and investments,” said Nickel Belt MP Marc Serre. “The government doesn’t do that, so this is where FedNor provides the support to the Northern Ontario Angels, for them to invest with the proper companies.”

Sudbury MP Viviane Lapointe said the return on FedNor’s investment is evident, with more than $250 million distributed to Northern companies. 

Serre and Lapointe said the organization is the most successful one in North America and that is in part due to FedNor strengthening the organization’s capacity to attract investors and connect them with innovators.

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.