Member Profile – Laurie Dmytryshyn

Laurie Dmytryshyn is the Chief of Equity Investment at PIC Investment Group and spends most of her time on their Minority Investment Portfolio. Laurie has been with PIC for over 5 years, and prior to that she was the Executive Director of the Agriculture Council of Saskatchewan.  As Past President of the SCN Board, she is and has been a tireless contributor, bringing guidance and a lot of enthusiastic energy to both SCN and the companies she supports.

How can companies get your attention? Where do you find deal flow? What are deal-breakers for you?
Deals come through referrals, trusted connections, professional service providers and other investors.  Cold calls do happen, but it’s a tougher way to get our attention.  I will often refer companies to SCN because of the services and the process they have in place to help them become investor-ready.

PIC invests in People first! Deal breakers for me are unrealistic growth projections; lack of coach-ability of the management team and limited scalability. We are more interested in companies in which we have some expertise within the PIC Group of Companies and we feel we can bring value to the company. We also look at the company’s business processes – do they have a Board of Directors in place?  If they do not have one and are not willing to put one in place, that’s a red flag for us.

Do you have a sector you prefer to invest in? How do you prioritize which deals to take a deeper look at?
At PIC we have 8 operating companies (ownership of 50% or more) and 19 minority investments (under 50% PIC ownership).  The companies we invest in range from early stage right through to later stage. We have also invested in two funds – the District Ventures Fund and the Westcap MBO Fund.  Our investment strategy is sector agnostic however, we are focusing more on companies in the agriculture, health and tech sectors.  We tend to move quicker on companies whereby we have expertise and connections within the PIC Group of Companies. At any given time, Eric Verity, PIC’s Investment Analyst and myself are looking at 5 to 10 deals on our desks. Over the course of a year, our Senior Management Team looks at hundreds of companies and we only invest in 3 to 5 companies per year.

What is your superpower that you (and PIC) bring to an investee company?
It is our PIC network of connections.  If we don’t have the expertise in a certain industry, we generally have a relationship with those that do.  And when we invest in a company, we want to bring more than money to the table.  Working as a group of investors with the company has proven a very good strategy – we know that we are always stronger than going it alone.

What has made you an Angel investor, outside of your role at PIC?
Greg Yuel, President and CEO of PIC has always encouraged us to invest personally, if we really have a connection with one of the companies.  Ecobain was one of those. I love their determination. I have seen them show a lot of grit as they overcome obstacles and will do everything they can to meet their milestones.  I’m pretty excited about this company and where they can be in a few years.

You have been a part of SCN for over five years, and as Past President, what do you see as the most important role of SCN? 
I have seen how SCN brings value to both investors and companies looking for investment.

  1. SCN is helpful in getting companies investor-ready.  A bad pitch is deadly and so preparation helps avoid that.  SCN also helps the company put together their due diligence folder.  Having the materials available in an organized format, saves both the investor and the entrepreneur a considerable amount of time.
  2. SCN brings investors together. A group of investors will always have a breadth of expertise (along with investment dollars) and early stage companies need lots of different kinds of help.

I’ve watched SCN’s reach expand beyond Saskatoon and we’ve been able work with some pretty interesting companies that see the value of angel investors.  We are ‘more than money’.

What changes do you see coming for the investment community?
The Province is paying attention.  Co-labs is creating excitement.  An investor tax credit is critical if we want to grow the investor base.  Successful local companies like SkipTheDishes, Coconut Calendar, Noodlecake and Solido will ultimately bring more success to the province.  A side-car fund will also help build the investor base by spreading out the risk over several companies, all while helping to educate investors.  Investing takes time, and a sidecar fund can let someone invest without that heavy due diligence burden.

Valuation is a challenge from both the investor and the entrepreneur’s perspective.  Tell us about your take on that.
Valuations change by industry and stage of maturity, and every deal is different.  It is always a negotiation between a buyer and a seller.  There are industry guidelines but no magic formula for early stage companies.  What I have seen is that we are getting busier; and companies are looking for bigger deals and bigger valuations.

As an investor and an advisor, what are some lessons you have learned from working with a company like Ecobain?
It is all about relationships. We bring coaching to the table, not directing.  We need to know when to step back and let them do what’s right for their company.  It is really important for companies to stay in touch with all of their investors and communicate regularly – Ecobain does that very well.  Corporate governance is something we feel is absolutely essential and we helped them establish a Board of Directors. Having an industry advisor like Bryan Kosteroski to bring that sectors’ perspective has also been invaluable to Ecobain during this period of growth and change.  I also believe that it is part of our responsibility to help prepare them for the next level of investment.

Final thoughts?
I am a firm believer in SCN and I am excited about the ecosystem members within our entrepreneurship community.  SCN is working hard at strengthening those linkages including Co-labs and others and we are encouraged about our future with some of the new initiatives to help the entrepreneurial and investor community such as the Side Car Fund (SCF).