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The Power of Private Markets in Driving Innovation

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

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Damien Steel and Fred Lalonde at the Empire Club of Canada
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The Empire Club of Canada Presents:
The Power of Private Markets in Driving Innovation
Claiming Canada’s place on the global stage

Hopper is the fastest growing travel app in the world, ahead of Expedia and, and has even surpassed Airbnb as the market share leader for active users. OMERS Ventures is one of Canada’s most successful venture capital firms with around $2B in assets and a global portfolio of more than 60 early-stage tech startups.

Join Damien Steel, Global Head of Ventures and Managing Partner at OMERS Ventures, in conversation with Fred Lalonde, Hopper’s Co-founder and CEO. The two will discuss how venture investing has changed over the last decade (when OMERS Ventures was one of Hopper’s earliest backers), to how Hopper survived the travel industry meltdown brought on by the pandemic and has reinvented itself as a financial services company. The two will also cover the outlook for VC-backed businesses given the current economic climate.

*The content presented is free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.*

*Views and Opinions Expressed Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the speakers or panelists are those of the speakers or panelists and do not necessarily reflect or represent the official views and opinions, policy or position held by The Empire Club of Canada.*

headshot of Damien Steel

Damien Steel

Managing Partner & Head of Ventures, OMERS Ventures

Damien is the Global Managing Partner at OMERS Ventures, the early-stage direct investing arm of one of Canada’s leading pension plans. Damien joined OMERS Ventures in 2011 and through that time has spearheaded the group’s $1B + investments in game-changing technology startups globally. Since he took over leadership of the group in 2018, he has driven expansion to the US, UK and Europe, also raising the firm’s latest $1 billion fund. The group now has more than 60 portfolio companies internationally, with over $2B AUM, and an unparalleled team of investors and operators across all three locations.

Before making a move into the world of venture, Damien was a founder himself, having started, built and successfully sold a digital dental laboratory startup. Outside of work, Damien is an avid golfer and poker player. He is also a campaign cabinet member for the Children’s Aid Foundation, dedicated to playing a small role in improving the lives of children and youth who are part of Canada’s welfare system.

Today, Damien serves on the boards of Hopper, TouchBistro, Dear Life and Klipfolio and is a board observer with DuckDuckGo and Hootsuite. He holds a business degree from Wilfrid Laurier University and is a CFA Charterholder.

headshot of Frederic Lalonde

Frederic Lalonde

CEO & Co-Founder, Hopper

Frederic Lalonde is the CEO and Co-Founder of Hopper, the most downloaded travel app in North America. Hopper has ranked as the #1 travel app in over 55 countries and has ranked as one of the top 10 travel apps in over 120 countries. The company sells $4.5 billion of travel and travel financial services each year. Frederic previously co-founded Newtrade Technologies, which was acquired by Expedia in 2002. As a VP at Expedia, Frederic was responsible for developing the Direct Connect product strategy and signing up over 10,000 hotels to the Expedia platform, including major brands such as Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Carlson, Cendant and Choice Hotels. He later moved on to participate in various Expedia M&A activities, including the acquisition of, TripAdvisor and eLong.