OMERS launches venture capital arm

The Toronto-based pension fund’s venture capital group OMERS Ventures is led by senior vice president of OMERS Strategic Investments, John Ruffolo.

The Ontario Municipal Employees’ Retirement System has launched OMERS Ventures, a new division that will provide financing directly to companies in both early and later stages of the investment cycle.

The group will invest between $500,000 to $30 million per transaction in sectors including technology, media, telecommunications, clean tech and life sciences. It will invest only in North America.

An initiative of OMERS Strategic Investments, OMERS Ventures has made one investment to date in online accounting company Wave Accounting, which provides free accounting services to businesses with nine employees or less.

The OMERS Ventures division consists of a six-person investment team and seven-person advisory board, both of which are comprised of newly hired professionals, OMERS Ventures chief executive officer John Ruffolo told Private Equity International.

Ruffolo, who acts as senior vice president of OMERS Strategic Investments, was previously a partner at accountancy group Deloitte. He also chairs the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association’s tax policy committee.

OMERS Private Equity’s portfolio recorded a 22.2 percent return in 2010. One of the largest limited partners in private equity, OMERS PE has almost completely stopped committing to external funds, choosing direct investments as the best way to generate returns.

In July, the team sealed its first European takeover by purchasing ship servicing company in a deal worth $520 million.