3 Questions with Christian Lassonde & Maor Amar of Impression Ventures

Impression Ventures
FintekNews is pleased to offer our weekly feature column “3 Questions With”. Each week, we feature a thought leader within a unique sector of fintech and ask them to answer just 3 questions for our audience in their vernacular. This week, we’d like to bring you our first every shared 3 Questions interview with Maor Amar & Christian Lassonde, Managing Parnters of Canadian fintech venture capital firm Impression Ventures.

Name:  Maor Amar & Christian Lassonde
Title: Managing Partners
Comp any:  Impression Ventures
Web Address:  http://impression.ventures

How did you personally become involved in fintech?

CL: I’ve spent the last 20 years in technology building software companies, specifically software for online systems. While ubiquitous today, (what isn’t online now?), that was not the case in the mid 90s. Initially as a developer for Electronic Arts (EA) and LucasArts than as manager at Linden Lab. Both at EA and Linden I was part of a team responsible for managing digital economy. While the currencies may be virtual, the real dollar ramifications
were very real. In 2006, the economy in Second Life was estimated at $64 Million USD growing to $567M by the end of the decade. It was at these companies that I got my first foray into the concepts of fintech, though of course the term hadn’t been invented yet. I spent the later half of 2000’s building software companies as Founder and co-CEO, much like the relationship we have today at Impression. Millions of Us and Virtual Greats were focused on connecting brands to Social Media. Our clients included Fortune 500 companies from Nike, Warner Brothers, Sony, and General Motors. It was working with these large institutions to deploy forward-thinking projects that I built a knowledge base of how to
navigate the internal dynamics of multi-nationals. Knowledge we use today to help our startups navigate financial institutions, who in almost all ways, are no different than a General Motor or a Nike.

In 2013 it dawned on me that Canada, and Toronto in particular, had an opportunity to build world-class multinationals if we focused on our strengths as a city and a nation. However, to do so we would need a world class venture capital fund that had similar focus. Thus Impression Ventures was born. It was in early 2014 that we realized that fintech was the most promising area and vertical in which we could truly outperform globally. Since then we’ve made seven investments in fintech startups. Two early investments, Wealthsimple and Sensibill, have already gone global.

MA: For over 20 years I’ve had the privilege of working within the Institutional Equity businesses of UBS and BMO; two leading global capital markets firms. Throughout my career I’ve been fortunate to work with the management teams of some of North America’s most successful companies (and some of the least successful too). I’ve listened to thousands of pitches, reviewed hundreds of business models spanning multiple industries
and have been involved in many financings. Working with institutional investors around the world has allowed me to develop a good understanding of what are the key micro and macro factors influencing corporate valuations.

When I left the bank in early 2016 I was looking to share my experience within the sprawling startup ecosystem here in Canada. I love working with entrepreneurs and helping them realize their ambitions. My partner Christian Lassonde, a software engineer and pillar within the Startup community in Toronto, was in the process of starting a Fintech dedicated VC fund. We got to talking about the value of combining Christian’s deep tech and entrepreneurial experience with my financial services and market experience. It’s been a great fit!

What do you believe the next major innovation in financial technology will be and why ?

CL/MA: We are seeing increased activity in personal finance management. A growing number of startups are leveraging the power of technology to provide individual investors access to risk management and analysis tools that thus far have only been available to large institutional investors and the ultra rich.

We also believe in the legitimate transformative power of blockchain technology however, we are of the view that this power is somewhat overstated in the short term and seriously understated in the long term (10 to 15 years).

Finally, we are seeing first hand how the power of Machine Learning and AI can leverage financial data in multiple applications ranging from Credit Adjudication to Portfolio Management. AI is here and its usage in FinTech is growing exponentially.

What fintech leader do you admire the most and why?

CL/MA: This might surprise you a little! We are of the view that all large financial institutions must become more “Fintech”. As a result, our admiration lies with those incumbent banks and insurance companies that have understood that their future success must start by accelerating the rate in which they absorb Fintech today. To this end, we are very impressed
by the CEOs of banks such as Scotiabank and BMO in Canada, JP Morgan and GS in the US and Royal Bank of Scotland in Europe. The CEOs of these banks are changing their organizational structures in order to become more nimble at absorbing FinTech.

Having said that, we are huge fans of our Portfolio CEOs. All of which are defying the odds by leveraging technologies in order to tackle huge problems and make finance and banking available to everyone 24 hours per day, 7 days per week and 365 days in the year.

Christian Lassonde is Founder & Managing Partner of Impression Ventures.  Lassonde is a tech founder and CEO, having built and sold Virtual Greats, a luxury online IP rights broker, and Millions of Us, a digital agency. He has also taught high-growth technology entrepreneurship at The Next 36 to over 30 companies. Those companies have gone on to build successful products and raise millions of dollars in follow-on financing.

Maor Amar is Managing Partner of Impression Ventures.  Over the last 20 years he has held roles with increasing responsibilities within the institutional sales department of two highly regarded investment banks.   Throughout the years Mr Amar has advised some of the world’s largest institutional investors based in Europe, Canada and the US and has had the opportunity to work with the managements of many of North America’s largest corporations.