Norman Light

Norman Light


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Independent Private Debt & Private Equity Professional

Why Do Great Products Fail? – Norman Light

“It’s extremely important that you can explain your projections, you can answer questions, and don’t stretch any information about the company. Just tell us like it is…”


As President of Enlightened Private Capital Inc., an Exempt Market Dealer registered in Ontario, Quebec Alberta, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland, Mr. Light applies his strong finance and strategic skills to the selective sourcing of private debt, film financing and shares in unicorns for Accredited Investors. He also provides financial advisory services to a number of private companies.

Previously, he was with Manulife Financial for seven years where he occupied several senior management positions in finance and investments, including SVP and Corporate Controller; SVP and CFO, Investments Division; and SVP Global Investment Management. He acted as a director of several companies, including Manulife Bank of Canada, Elliott & Page (mutual funds), Independence Investments, Declaration Management and Research, Hancock Natural Resource Group, and MFC Global Investment Management. Mr. Light was a member of Manulife’s Management Committee (top 28 globally).

Prior to Manulife, Mr. Light was an executive with Royal Bank of Canada for 17 years where he played a key role in strategic planning; mergers and acquisitions including Royal Trust, Richardson Greenshields, and insurance companies; assessed all major capital investments bank-wide; led key financial policy and financial strategy functions; and led the important consumer deposit business.

Mr. Light obtained an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School and a BComm., Summa Cum Laude, from Concordia University.



Norman Light

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Welcome! We can jump right into this, as we’re already live, so we’re pretty easy going. Sometimes, we get people to join because I just do it last minute. I don’t try to do this as a big push so that we get hundreds of people. We just do this to get that out there and then we can kind of edit and stick it out into the world of the ether, and get everybody interested. So, Norman, thank you very much for joining us today. Very excited! I’ve known you for a few years, we met first at york angels. Always been a fan of how you do things and today I get to actually learn a lot more about you and your investment strategies, and how you work in this space. So that’s very exciting so, maybe to kick things off, why don’t you give us an idea, a bit more of your background of where Norman’s come from and the great things that you’re doing today?

Okay, that’s great! So, my background, very interesting. So, actually until about 10, 11 years ago, I spent my entire career working for large companies in senior management positions. I was with the Royal Bank for a number of years. I was with Manulife, mainly if I was in the senior vice president of the top 20 in the world. So, very senior positions, very large companies which is sort of very different from, you know, from this space but interesting enough, along the way or through many years, I felt a little bit sort of like fish out of water. I didn’t feel like that was the right place for me. I did well and made good money, and all that sort of stuff but I wasn’t into the politics and all those things you sort of needed to really, you know, excel there, and I always had in my mind, I like to help smaller companies. And I even thought through many years ago, I’ll leave, go on my own, do some consulting, and all that but the main problem I found in looking at that was the small companies need the help but they can’t really afford to pay what, you know, what they’d have to pay for, you know, for that sort of expertise. So, it was always a bit of a conundrum. I never really, you know, pursued it. And then in 2008, I left Manulife, so my hands didn’t have to work. I joke about that sort of, you know, pre-that recession but anyhow, but started seeing some interesting investment opportunities myself or myself and a partner, putting in whatever hundred grand 200 grand type of thing liked working with the companies but then also found most of them closed. So, while I was going through that, a couple of people said to me, “Oh, I know someone, they’re looking for a million dollars..,” whatever, some much larger amount which was not something I was going to write my own, you know, check for myself. And so, I started thinking, “Okay interesting,” so I evolved from there into turning it into a business. Gotta register as an exempt market dealer issue myself and a few years ago my son joined me by the capital and basically, we financed, you know, small companies. And basically, we sort of – I sort of come at it two different ways, there’s what I do personally which is more through the angel groups, which tends to be equity. It could be convertible notes or preferreds but you know to me, it’s an equity risk. And then the company well started doing private equity, initially, we found over time that became actually very difficult, unfortunately, and the reason was the lack of liquidity and we heard this from the angel groups about the lack of exits and how many years et cetera. So, you know, and to give you an example of it from a business point of view, when I started I had some, you know, started with friends and people I knew in the colleagues’ et cetera, and had some people say to me, “Okay, I’ll invest in this one before I make a second investment. We’ll see how it goes.” Well, you know, we tell people five to seven years don’t exit. So, how do you build it? How do you build an investor base? [Laughter] That way and in fact, I remember a conversation with a particular investor who said that, “That’s exactly what he did except the exit took nine years and then he did a second investment.” So, you know, very hard to build a business that way. So anyhow, we found althoug, I started before the recession, horrible timing, the investor appetite, you know, disappeared and then slowly came back every year. We found about five, six years ago that I faced a new obstacle which was the investor appetite was greater but there was a big lack of liquidity, and so more and more investors said, “To be, you know, I’ve got all this money invested in privates. As soon as something turns, I’ll write another check for your next deal.” But I haven’t seen anything in four years, so again hard to sort of build the business. So, on the business side as opposed to the personal side, we sort of pivoted away from private equity and we now do debt and we have hundreds of investors, it’s grown tremendously, we do private debt. But we do private debt that could still help all the companies that maybe may be watching this eventually because we’re still targeting companies that are not yet profitable. They’re close, they can’t be pre-revenue for a debt model but they’re not necessarily, you know, wonderfully profitable yet they’re close for getting to break even, we’ll help them get over the top and that’s the model we call, venture debt. We’re one of the few parties in Canada, it appears that does that and we’ve developed a lot of expertise in doing that, so typically where I am now is I do some equity through the more mainly of the angel side, and then I do the debt through the business side. The difference on the business side because I’m bringing an offering to hundreds of investors, we may end up with a few dozen whatever and invest in any particular deal but we’re doing million dollars plus on the debt side, and on the, you know, my personal side is much smaller, but in both cases, I love helping entrepreneurs – help you know, like to see them you know, become successful and I hope I can help them a little bit you know, on that journey.

Amazing, no I love that. And well, we have a lot of things in common, we certainly love to help early-stage companies. I love the fact that you’ve built another equity route or sorry a debt side. I’m also going to pick your brain now because I have a product that now I realize I should be talking to you about it, and then on the other side of it, going in and working with angel groups to get in there again in that equity side to help build that up. So, I think those are two great different streams and offer two different clientele opportunities to be able to disperse. And when you’re looking at a portfolio, you want to split your money up in different ways, different risk levels, so, I think that that’s commendable on any investor to look at what are the two ways that I can get into this early stage or into diversify my portfolio, so, I really like that. So inside of that, you’re looking at debt, you’re finding different ways, what got you invested into early stage startups and getting part of angel groups? What kind of triggered that what got you
interested or what got you into seeing that there was this angel networks and joining one of them to go that far?

I guess, initially, I was looking at how am I gonna, you know, if I’m interested in
these types of investments, how am I gonna find them, right? I mean, one of the big advantages of an angel group is they have deal flow, right? So remember York Angels members, Spark Angels, York I think they receive four or 500 applications a year, and then they screen whatever x percent of that and they bring to the investors 30, 40 or whatever the number is. But as an individual trying to get into the space, how are you going to get access to hundreds of hundreds a year to look at, right? And so, they have the deal flow and then beyond that, you know, there’s a lot of expertise. You know, I may have come out with maybe a bit more experience than some but or you know because of my financial background but even for people in my background, there’s a big advantage to looking at a company as a group because it may not be the financial part, it may be you know, this particular product, this particular market segment, you know. There’s lots of things that I’ll see that I don’t know much about, you know, manufacturing for example. I’ve never worked in and so, you always have people in the room who have expertise that they can bring to bear on that either from just their background, sometimes it’s very specific even that industry. Some even know these companies but even if that’s not the case, they bring a lot more expertise to bear to help you assess a company because in the day, you know that’s the most important part of investing is to assessing the potential investment and no one person can have the knowledge to be able to do a good job on, you know, such a wide range of companies in various industries, various products. Some are obviously, you know, b to