After building the one-of-a-kind, $100 million Thrive Lab over the past nine months, BDC is now providing equity and equity-like investments, plus training and support, for at least 100 ambitious, women-led social impact businesses committed to delivering solutions to some of our most pressing social issues.
The Lab’s first phase will co-invest, alongside 25 partners from across Canada, up to $35 million in businesses at the earliest stages of development, This is where they face the most challenges in fundraising.
“Women entrepreneurs are underrepresented and underfunded. BDC aims to change that. The fastest, most impactful way to deliver change is to work with organizations already supporting emerging women-led social impact companies. We realized we could bolster their expertise and resources, without duplicating what they already do exceptionally well. We want to get critical funding into the hands of inspirational women at the speed of their business,” said Sévrine Labelle, Managing Director, Thrive Lab.
Partners supporting social impact businesses
The first 25 partners who will co-invest alongside BDC are changemakers for emerging companies. They are a mix of accelerators, incubators, angels and family offices that are the first to provide support and write investment cheques. They were chosen based on their track record of supporting women entrepreneurs or their expertise in social impact, their capacity to deliver resources and their ability to reach women where they are across Canada, including in underserved communities.
“Working together, we aim to ensure each company has a strong syndicate of partners. Partners commit to ensuring each company has the capital and resources required to succeed and deliver positive social impact. Ultimately, the Thrive Lab will build a pipeline of future female leaders. These women will redefine what good investing and entrepreneurship looks like,” added Sévrine.
The Lab aims to bring as much support to women entrepreneurs as possible. The organization looks for opportunities outside of traditional investment deals to bring together investors and partners. Pitch competitions are one example of how the Lab is drawing in a larger pool of investors. At StartupFest in Montreal, Ora Medical won the $100,000 Women in Tech prize presented by The Firehood. BDC’s Thrive Lab offered to match the prize and any audience investment. As a result, co-founder and CEO, Sarah Lambert, walked away with over $300,000 in commitments.
Funding for social impact businesses
”Securing funding in today’s challenging market requires the backing of an entire ecosystem that believes in your vision and goals. Fortunately, the support system for underrepresented communities is strengthening. This is thanks in part to initiatives like Thrive Lab and The Firehood,” added Lambert. “Additionally, the endorsement from BDC, a respected institutional investor, along with our other committed partners, has been instrumental in opening numerous opportunities for us. As a result of this collaborative effort, we are now on the verge of closing an even larger funding round.”
BDC has earmarked $35M for the first phase. To be eligible, a business must be women-led, making a measurable positive impact tied to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (such as food security and responsible agriculture, health and well-being, education, reduced inequalities and responsible consumption and production), be actively raising capital and be nominated by a Thrive Lab partner.
Working collaboratively, the Lab is designed to experiment and adapt. Developing new ways of providing support, always in line with the needs of women-led businesses. The second phase will build on learnings from this initiative and ongoing feedback from partners and women entrepreneurs.
The Thrive Lab is part of BDC’s $500M Thrive Platform. Announced in Fall 2022, it is the largest investment platform in the world supporting women-led businesses. The company includes three components: the $300M Thrive Venture Fund, a $100M Indirect Investment Envelope and the $100M Thrive Lab.
Thrive Lab’s partners
- Women’s Equity Lab
- The Firehood
- Raven Indigenous Capital Partners
- YSpace, York University
- Genesis Centre
- Anges Québec
- Spring Activator
- Good & Well
- Cycle Momentum
- MaRS Discovery District
- University of Toronto Entrepreneurship
- Esplanade Québec
- Startup TNT
- Telus Community Safety and Wellness Accelerator
- Front Row Ventures (FRV)
- Volta Effect
As Canada’s bank for entrepreneurs, BDC is a partner of choice for all entrepreneurs looking to access the financing and advice they need to build their businesses and tackle the big challenges of our time. Our investment arm, BDC Capital, offers a wide range of risk capital solutions to help grow the country’s most innovative firms. We are one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers and Canada’s Best Diversity Employers. For more information on BDC’s products and services and to consult free tools, templates and articles, visit bdc.ca or join BDC on social media.