BDC recently announced the launch of its $500 million Thrive Venture Fund and Lab for Women during the Elevate Festival in Toronto. Building on the success of BDC Capital’s Women in Technology (WIT) Venture Fund, launched in 2017, Thrive will be the largest investment platform of its kind in the world, supporting Canadian women-led businesses for them to grow and have a lasting impact on the economy.
“With the launch of the Thrive platform, BDC is once again taking a bold initiative that demonstrates the enormous potential of women-led businesses for investors in Canada and worldwide,” said Isabelle Hudon, President and CEO of BDC. “This investment will unlock the promise of Canadian women entrepreneurs, providing them with greater opportunities and ultimately, a better shot at success on the global stage. We believe that tapping into the incredible potential of these women can become a significant driver of economic prosperity for the country.”
Hence the new name: ”Thrive.” It is simply not enough to have more women starting and building businesses. It is vital to Canada’s economy that these trailblazers have access to everything they need to become tomorrow’s global leaders.
The Thrive platform consists of three distinct components, providing a comprehensive approach to addressing barriers faced by women, be it through direct early-stage investment, strategic investment in women-led and focused funds, or emerging models for providing equity investments for women-led businesses in the earliest stages of development, all while continuing to develop a more robust and sustainable ecosystem for all.
The platform components:
$300 million direct investment fund – seeking to partner with promising women entrepreneurs building Canadian technology companies at seed and Series A/B stages. Using the same investment thesis as the WIT Venture Fund, Thrive Venture Fund will remain sector agnostic and will continue to invest in companies with strong growth and scalable market potential, that bring together the right innovation, team, and resources to transform today’s markets.
$100 million lab – a new initiative designed to develop innovative equity investment models for women-led companies with promising business models and growth potential, which may not necessarily be on a traditional path to securing venture capital investment. The initial focus of Thrive Lab will be to deliver its unique offering in collaboration with ecosystem partners, with the goal of filling important gaps in early-stage financing. Specific details regarding the lab will release in the coming months.
$100 million indirect investment envelope – to be invested by BDC Capital’s Fund Investment team in women-led and focused general partners across the country. This allocation builds upon BDC Capital’s leadership on DEI standards and impactful results to date with 43 percent of the Fund investment team’s active portfolio invested in funds that are women-led or co-led, or that have women in partner level roles; double the Canadian average.
Thoughts from leaders
“At BDC, we strongly believe in the importance of our role as a development bank and we are approaching it with heightened ambition,” said Hudon. “The Thrive platform is a perfect example of what we want to accomplish: an initiative commensurate with our ambitions, a focus on entrepreneurs for whom BDC can add value in a unique way, and a complementary leadership mindset, where we are not afraid to take big steps forward, while doing everything we can to bring along with us private capital and partners. In addition, with the support of such an exceptional team, I have no doubt that Thrive will deliver the kind of impact that aligns with our high expectations.”
Supporting women leaders
Women-founded start-ups in Canada must work harder to raise the funding they need and continually do more with less when compared to similar male-led companies. Yet, data shows substantially higher revenue per investment dollar; 78 cents of revenue per investment dollar for women-led start-ups versus just 31 cents for men, according to Boston Consulting Group. All of which serves to validate the idea that diverse teams are imperative to make better business decisions and deliver stronger results.
“Over the last five years, we have invested in some incredible women-led companies in Canada, which are changing their respective industries,” added Michelle Scarborough, WIT and Thrive Venture Funds’ Managing Partner. “While we know there’s much more work that needs to be done to remove systemic biases in the industry, we believe we’re heading in the right direction. We’re already seeing enormous opportunity in the market and there’s never been a better time to invest in disruptive companies led by women.”
Over the life of the WIT Venture Fund, Scarborough and her team made 38 investments in women-led businesses, already exiting eight of them successfully. Furthermore, ecosystem-building activities have touched more than 7,500 women entrepreneurs and ecosystem partners since 2017.
BDC is the bank for Canadian entrepreneurs. It provides access to financing, as well as advisory services to help Canadian businesses grow and succeed. Its investment arm, BDC Capital, offers a wide range of risk capital solutions. For more information, visit bdc.ca.
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