Photo: Plasticity co-founders Jim and Jennifer Moss (left, centre) with Fibernetics co-founder John Stix, whose Cambridge-based company has started a venture service to support startups.

Let’s call it the startup entrepreneur’s enigma: If you do your job well, one day you might end up not doing it at all. That feisty thrill of launching a business can disappear as startup energy gives way to the processes needed to keep everything afloat.

Or, if you are Fibernetics co-founders Jody Schnarr and John Stix, you can get your bootstrapping thrills vicariously.

The pair have launched Fibernetics Ventures, and have just made their first big bet, putting up $1.9 million as lead investor in a $2.1-million round raised by Plasticity Labs, a Communitech Hub tenant and HYPERDRIVE alumni company.

Ten years after starting their telecommunications company in a basement, Schnarr and Stix now employ 200 people on three continents serving 300,000 customers daily. Amid the growth, corporate inertia was threatening to kick in. So the duo took their ethos of industry disruption and applied it to themselves.

The result is Fibernetics Ventures, which offers a mix of investment, office space and logistical support.

In return, the startups deliver a punch of raw energy, along with the promise of long-term payoffs.

“We are a company looking to always innovate, but also bring innovation from outside,” Stix says. “This lets us keep one foot in the startup world.”

Fibernetics Ventures launched this summer, and six companies have come into the fold. Five are run by Fibernetics employees starting their own ventures, from cloud computing and innovation to product services.

But established startups have begun to come on board, too.

Plasticity Labs founders Jim and Jen Moss were actively seeking investors for their Communitech Hub-based company – and had flights to Silicon Valley booked – when Fibernetics raised the idea of a partnership.

Fibernetics offered cash, logistical support and in-kind services in return for a stake in the company. The Mosses signed on, and have already realized business efficiencies by integrating their sales and payroll teams.

The deal also created huge sales opportunities for Plasticity by providing access to Fibernetics’ large customer base.

“It’s a different relationship than you’d get with a VC,” says Jim Moss. “Here there’s pressure to be successful, and they’re rolling up their sleeves to help you be successful.

“This is a really positive thing for the Waterloo tech community. We need to get the big-brother or big-cousin companies to reach out and help the next companies.”

It’s not lost on Moss that the Fibernetics deal was offered just as he was about to fly to the U.S. to hunt for investors. He had been forced to look south, he said, due to a massive gap here in backing for companies hoping to grow past the startup phase.

“From [Communitech’s] HYPERDRIVE, there’s not a good next step,” he said of the local support pyramid. “There’s a missing link in support and financing. We’re using Fibernetics Ventures as our next step.”

In-house venture entities are more common in the U.S., where they are largely found at huge corporations like Intel and Google.

The fact that Fibernetics is both Canadian and a medium-sized business stands out, Moss says.

“I was really surprised that a company at this size and stage was so forward-looking,” he said.

“This is the kind of thing that more companies need to think about in Waterloo Region for us to grow to the next stage of our potential. I think [Fibernetics Ventures] could really push us forward as a region.”

The incubator is more than a feel-good exercise, of course. Five of the participating startups were created by company employees in hopes that Fibernetics will benefit from their success. The sixth is Plasticity, in which Fibernetics holds a stake just as a VC would.

“Fibernetics Ventures isn’t just investing in us because they like our story, they also see that Plasticity, along with their other five investments, will be profitable,” Moss said. “They have the same expectations as other VCs; they’re just way more risk tolerant than most of the funders we’ve seen so far in Canada. They’re willing to jump in early and bet on people and their vision as well as their potential, more like they do in Silicon Valley.”

It’s a bet Plasticity hopes to win every bit as much as Fibernetics does.

“I want that first and foremost too,” Moss said. “The best thing we can do is be successful.”