Nova Scotia venture capital agency Innovacorp has won the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association’s Venture Capital Deal of the Year award for its headline-making $104 million exit from advanced materials startup Meta Material.

A statement from the CVCA included two new pieces of information about the NASDAQ listing and Innovacorp’s subsequent sale of its shares: the internal rate of return was 88 percent and the gross multiple of invested capital was 34.7 times on $3 million of funding.

The award is a stamp of approval from a major industry group for a deal that spurred controversy both at home in Nova Scotia and in the United States, with a still-pending SEC investigation and a class action lawsuit casting a pall over what was briefly Atlantic Canada’s first publicly traded unicorn.

“As an early-stage investor, your guide is the vision and tenacity of the founder,” said Innovacorp CEO Malcolm Fraser in a video statement. “George (Palikaras, Meta Materials CEO) has always demonstrated that he has the vision to commercialize his unique material science and that he has a nose to find the right capital partners.”

The company listed on the Nasdaq in June via a reverse acquisition of Texas-based Torchlight Energy Resources. The deal raised C$198.1 million, according to Innovacorp Vice-President of Investment Andrew Ray, whose fund was Meta’s first institutional investor. The Nasdaq listing catapulted Meta to unicorn status with a market cap of about C$2.7 billion. Entrevestor reported in November that the Nova Scotia government had realocated almost all of Innovacorp's gains into the province's general revenue.

Meta's share price has since slid to just under C$2.38 for a market cap of about C$704.6 million, taking the company out of unicorn territory.

Six months after the listing, The Rosen Law Firm, a New York-based securities litigation specialist that had previously won nine-figure settlements from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and automaker Fiat Chrysler, filed a class action suit claiming Meta had misled investors about business opportunities and its rate of progress on commercializing its technology.

But despite the suit, Meta earlier this month reported US$2.96 million in revenue in the most recent quarter, a 30 percent increase over the same period last year.

Disclosure: Innovacorp is a client of Entrevestor.