Canopy Ventures raises second fund, expands to life sciences

Canopy Ventures, a venture firm founded by the late Novell CEO Ray Noorda, raised $100 million for its second fund from its sole limited partner, the Noorda family.

The firm is open to other limited partners and has no hard-cap on its fund-raising. With the launch of the second fund, the firm is expanding to focus on life science investments and is planning to hire a third managing director with venture capital experience in the field. The investor has been selected, but the firm has not yet dislcosed his identity.

The firm is currently run by Managing Directors Ron Heinz, a former Novell executive, and Brandon Tidwell, a former practicing attorney.

The second fund is about the same size of the firm’s first fund, a $95 million vehicle that backed 17 companies and was converted from an evergreen investment structure in 2006.

About 90% of Canopy Ventures’ investments are in Utah-based startups, according to Heinz. The firm has no explicit mandate to stay local, he says, but is following the implicit wish of its founder and sole limited partner, who died in 2006 at the age of 82. Noorda earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Utah in 1949, but went to California for work because he couldn’t find employment with his background in the Beehive State.

“After he founded Novell, he always wanted to drive development and capital back into Utah,” Heinz said. “We’ve continued that approach. It’s really more informal; there’s not a mandate in our charter that says we have to stay in our own backyard.”

However, staying local has paid dividends. The firm has successfully sold a handful of companies including genealogy company The Generations Network, which operates the website The company raised more than $108 million in funding before selling to Spectrum Equity for $300 million in December 2007.

Canopy Ventures also sold digital video company Helius to Hughes Network Systems for $30 million and radio modem company MaxStream to Digi International for $38.5 million Heinz says. Heinz declined to disclose how much had been initially invested in Helius and MaxStream.

Canopy’s move into life science investing will take advantage of ongoing research at the University of Utah and Brigham Young University, says Heinz, who adds that the firm is currently looking at device deals.

“We look around and say, ‘Geez, there’s a nascent, but nicely growing life sciences industry growing in our backyard,” Heinz says.