BDC launches $500M investment platform to help boost women-led businesses

TORONTO – BDC has announced the launch of the Thrive Venture Fund and Lab for Women, a $500 million investment platform that will support the growth and economic impact of Canadian women-led businesses as women continue to face a tough challenge in building and building face struggle build a business.

“This investment is designed to unlock the promise of Canadian women entrepreneurs, giving them greater opportunity and ultimately a better chance of succeeding on the global stage,” said Isabelle Hudon, CEO of BDC, in a statement.

“We believe that unlocking the incredible potential of these women can become a significant engine for the country’s economic prosperity.”

The Bank for Canadian Entrepreneurs said Wednesday that Thrive is building on the success of its $200 million Women in Technology Venture Fund, launched in 2017, which has made 38 investments in women-led companies.

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BDC said the Thrive platform will provide a “comprehensive approach” to addressing barriers women entrepreneurs face.

These challenges are addressed through direct early-stage investments and strategic investments in women-led and focused funds.

BDC said the platform will consist of a $300 million direct investment fund and $100 million in indirect investments.

“The biggest obstacle that women entrepreneurs still face, despite everything we’ve done so far, is the systemic distortion of the market, both from a capital perspective, from a role model perspective, and from a resource and network perspective,” said Thrive Venture’s managing partner of the fund, an interview with Michelle Scarborough, who is also a managing partner of the Women in Technology Venture Fund.

Female-led startups continue to receive far less funding than male-led ones. In Canada, about 5 percent of venture capital dollars go to women-led companies, Scarborough found.

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While Thrive is “sector agnostic,” Scarborough explained that technology must be a core tenet of the companies receiving investment funds.

She and her team hope to make and announce investments in the coming months.

“Part of our role as an investor is not only to invest the capital that we have, but also to syndicate and partner with many other investors in the market who can add value to these companies and these entrepreneurs while build them for the future.” She added.

The other component of the new platform is a $100 million lab, an initiative to develop innovative equity investment models for women-led companies that may not necessarily be on a traditional path to securing venture capital funding.

“What we want to do is work with a lot of our partners in the ecosystem already and some new ones, and first really look at the pre-seed stage companies that are led by women who are looking for that early capital but aren’t yet willing to make a decision on whether or not they want to take a risk in building the business and be able to make them an equity offer,” Scarborough said.

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“So we’re going to start there and then look at how we expand from there. But we’re really shaping this with these entrepreneurs at the table and with partners at the table, so we’re creating something that meets needs and also has some longevity and sustainability over time.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 21, 2022.

Adena Ali, The Canadian Press

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