Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The BDC: A Board Level View

This morning Mark McQueen eloquently pointed out that, despite its expanded mandate to invest in entrepreneurs, the BDC has resolutely remained....a bank. Even though it was allocated nearly $500 million for venture capital investing, Mark reports, the BDC has deployed a mere $58 million and change in venture capital investments, at a time when the need for investors (and for VCs, investing partners) has never been greater.

Just between us girls, this is no great surprise. In 2009 the BDC was saddled with the gargantuan task in of overseeing and implementing credit stimulus programs to preserve cash flow for SMEs; it's fair to say their hands have been full. But BDC's sidelining of venture capital support is not simply an oversight. BDC's CEO has always made clear that he prefers to focus is on companies with strong balance sheets and assets. And when I look at the board of directors of BDC, I question not only whether this is likely to change, but whether there is even anyone likely to ask if it should.

BDC's board is first-rate. As a group, they tick all the boxes any board recruitment committee would want, save one: there is no representation from the start-up or venture capital community. Entrepreneurs and VCs, who form the cornerstone of Canada's innovation agenda are for all intents and purposes locked out of the board room.

Oversight of the BDC should be conducted by a group that includes those who can evaluate BDC's performance from the high risk capital side of the table. I'll nominate Mark on your behalf; he already has the shirts for it.

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