Silicon Valley Bank top choice for startup debt financing, well ahead of Big Five, subscribers say

Signage for high-tech commercial bank Silicon Valley Bank, on Sand Hill Road in the Silicon Valley town of Menlo Park, California, August 25, 2016. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) is the lender of choice for startups looking for debt financing in Canada, according to The Logic subscribers.

Almost half (47 per cent) of those who responded to the February survey would choose Silicon Valley Bank if they had startups looking for debt financing in Canada.

Of the Big Five banks, only CIBC and Scotiabank received votes, at about six per cent each.

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Talking Point

The results are from The Logic’s sixth subscriber survey. A private link was sent to subscribers by email and the survey was conducted online. All respondents were kept anonymous and duplicates were removed as needed. Our subscribers were asked to provide responses to a series of questions. For this survey, subscribers were asked, “If you were a startup looking for debt financing in Canada, which institution would be your first choice?”

Canadian tech firms are “piled high” with cheap debt offers, leaving banks scrambling to compete, The Globe and Mail recently reported. Some companies are already benefiting, like Hootsuite, which received $50 million from CIBC in March 2018.

The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) came in second place, at 29 per cent of respondents. “They’re suckers for Canadian success stories,” commented one subscriber who chose the option.

In August 2018, Espresso Capital and RBC inked a tech-lending deal allowing the two to recommend clients to each other and enter deals together. But neither received any votes from The Logic survey respondents, nor did BMO or TD Bank.

SVB already has numerous Canadian clients, including Lightspeed POS and Drop Technology, but has been ramping up its efforts in Canada over the past year. In March 2018 it picked Barbara Dirks, a former RBC executive, as its region head. The company is still waiting on approval from the Superintendent of Financial Institutions to open its lending branch in Canada, which the bank expects to receive soon.

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One subscriber chose SVB because “they have lower interest rates than banks and don’t have the onerous covenants required by Canadian banks.”

Another said SVB was the easiest institution to work with among the options, and that it had “much better terms than the Canadian banks, although RBC is catching up.”

It’s still early days for many of the big banks when it comes to large-scale tech lending. CIBC bought Wellington Financial in January 2018 to help launch the former’s innovation banking arm. But three months later, executive Devon Dayton left to join BMO, where he is working on “accelerating” its loans and banking services for the tech sector.

TD Bank’s no-vote performance comes despite its considerable investments in technology. The company was the first Canadian bank to join Silicon Valley’s Plug and Play Tech Center, which connects fintech startups with mentorship and business development, eventually allowing them to pitch ideas to investors and bank executives. And, it set up an innovation lab at Kitchener, Ont.-based Communitech in 2014.

The results are from The Logic’s sixth subscriber survey conducted from Feb. 14, 2019 to Feb. 22, 2019.