Jean-François Marcoux, Managing Partner, White Star Capital (Photo: courtesy)
DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION. If there is an entrepreneur well aware of the challenges of the digital shift, it is Jean-François Marcoux. “When we founded White Star Capital seven years ago, simultaneously in New York and London, there were a lot of international investors laughing at us,” recalls the co-founder of the venture capital firm, which focuses on financing for technology companies since its inception in 2013.
Several financial experts, he continued, wondered how a new technology-based private equity firm would ever be taken seriously in the Northeast as major innovations took shape in California. “Yet my partner Éric Martineau-Fortin and I were convinced that there could be champions of innovation everywhere. And especially on this side of the continent. Our flair proved us right, ”says the financier who will be present at the 3rd edition of the Connexion Les Affaires show, presented in virtual mode on November 10, 11 and 12 by Les Affaires Events.
So far, he says, his company has raised more than $ 2 billion in capital for some 30 North American and European companies. Among these companies helped by White Star Capital is the American meal delivery service Freshly, which was just bought in October by the giant Nestlé at a cost of US $ 1.5 billion. “White Star Capital, which participated in the first round of financing in 2015, held 7.5% of the shares of this company. This investment allows us to win 12 times our stake ”, proudly points out Jean-François Marcoux.
Invited as a featured speaker, this financier will share the key factors of this success story and several others achieved by White Star Capital during the closing presentation of the event dedicated to digital transformation. He will also discuss the technological sectors that are in the sights of his company based in Montreal, Toronto, New York, Paris, London, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
“Artificial intelligence, digital health, fintechs, communication and collaboration technologies, as well as manufacturing technologies are among the fields that White Star Capital follows very closely ”, points out Jean-François Marcoux. In this regard, he cites in particular the Montreal company Vention which has developed a platform to democratize manufacturing automation. “In the midst of a pandemic, we managed to raise $ 40 million in capital for this Quebec SME which can manufacture and deliver custom-made automation equipment in three days,” he says.
Traditional sectors are no exception
“First and foremost, mergers and acquisitions have enabled Groupe Deschênes to double its revenues over the past five years,” admits François Deschênes, President and Chief Executive Officer of Groupe Deschênes. “However, these are the technologies that will allow us to consolidate our growth,” says the entrepreneur, who will also be a featured speaker at the Salon Connexion Les Affaires.
François Deschênes, President and CEO of Groupe Deschênes (Photo: courtesy)
Since 2015, the company has introduced new technological tools to facilitate trade and commerce for its 12 business units in Canada and the American West. Solutions to better manage catalogs and software to optimize delivery routes are among the new applications put forward by the distributor of building mechanics equipment as well as aqueducts and sewers. Sectors, he says, considered traditional. The introduction of a new ERP system is also on the agenda of the company, which has more than 2,700 employees, including nearly 800 in Quebec, he mentions.
“It is still too early to measure the impact of these new tools, but it is clear that they will be essential for the future of the company”, maintains François Deschênes.
100% virtual programming
In addition to the senior executives of White Star Capital and Groupe Deschênes, Salon Connexion will count among its featured speakers François Gratton, president of Telus group and CEO of Telus Quebec, Gino Plevano, senior vice-president at Groupe CH and Magnus Tägström, responsible world of digital innovation at Alimentation Couche-Tard.
“The program will also include more than forty interactive labs, around thirty conferences and nearly fifty exhibitors with whom participants will be able to network and make appointments” indicates Simon Fréchette, Events and Training Director of Les Events Les Business. He would like to point out that all the activities will also be available for delayed viewing by the approximately 2,500 participants registered for the show.