Parker: Thin Air Labs helping high-tech industry grow in Calgary and beyond

Entrepreneurs are benefitting by investments from venture capital and services firm Thin Air Labs

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“We know venture building is hard because we’ve been there,” says James Lochrie about his team at Thin Air Labs. And its managing partner has certainly been through the wringer himself while launching a company.

He did extremely well. Following technology studies at the University of Calgary and armed with administrative and information studies at Western University, he co-founded a company called Wave Accounting. He acted as chief product officer and chief technology officer for the firm, providing accounting services to small businesses, before it was acquired by H&R Block for more than half a billion dollars.

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What now?

With tremendous faith and confidence in Calgary and Alberta, Lochrie started investing in startup technology firms with a vision to help young companies grow and stay here to make this city an influential tech hub.

His experience as an angel investor was successful and with his entrepreneurial hat back on, he seized the opportunity to expand the experience and put together a company that could help many more. Along with two co-founders he launched Thin Air Labs in 2020; a venture capital and services firm creating human value by helping early stage startups scale globally.

Thin Air Labs Fund 1 set about raising $20 million, including $4 million from Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund. That funding round closed in October, and the company began building a portfolio of clients that currently numbers 19, with two more to be added shortly.

Lochrie also knows the value of an experienced and like-minded staff. He calls the 20 people based in his Calgary office a team of unlike minds — a team of diverse talent and experience ready to help.

The executive team on Thin Air Capital is made up of Lochrie, general partner and CEO Rick Bird and general partner Raghu Bharat. Crystal Phillips is vice-president of Thin Air Labs Fund 1.

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Many of its investments are in life sciences, reflecting the experience Phillips has in that sector. She co-founded and built up the Branch Out Neurological Foundation, but joined Thin Air to broaden her impact on humanity.

The fund has already achieved remarkable successes with a number of its investments.

Good examples are Syantra, a precision biotech company co-founded by Tina Rinker, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Calgary, that has developed a blood test to detect cancer, starting with breast cancer. Fluid BioMed was also birthed at the university by two neurosurgeons who have developed the next generation of stents to treat aneurysm.

One of our university superstars, plastics and reconstructive surgeon Breanne Everett, who also earned an MBA at the Haskayne School of Business, has received much applause for Orpyx Medical Technologies. The company she founded and serves as CEO developed an insole to prevent diabetic foot ulcers, and therefore preventing many amputations.

And Tactile Orthopaedics also has University of Calgary roots. Founded by two orthopedic surgeons, it has developed realistic models that feel like human bone and soft tissue, to improve access to surgical training models for knee replacement and shoulder repairs.

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Fintech companies also benefit from the fund, including PayShepherd, helping large industrial facilities manage contractor billing, and Fillip that developed a digital fleet card.

Lochrie had every reason to be confident in the future of the high-tech sector in this city.

Thin Air Labs has a second division that is helping startups and scaleups to extend their runway by securing non-dilutive capital such as grants, debt and tax credits.

Entrepreneurs are kept busy running a new company — writing grants takes many hours. Thin Air Labs has a group of strategists and technical writers within its Funding Catalyst team who work as an extension of the venture teams to help their businesses grow.

There is no need to be in the company’s portfolio to access its services. It is currently supporting companies across North America, and to date has secured funds for ventures totalling more than $30 million.

It also boasts a Product Traction team helping in product management, design and engineering to make sure a company’s product or platform connects with customers.

Lochrie’s vision of creating good in the world through helping entrepreneurs is paying great dividends.

David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at He can be reached at 403-830-4622.

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