Rhiannon Davies

Rhiannon Davies

The Atlantic Women’s Venture Fund and its Alberta counterpart are forming a new organization that they hope will become a nationwide vehicle for supporting female-led businesses.

The new group Canada51 is now a partnership between the AWVF and the Calgary-based female investment group The51.  

In its initial stages, Canada51 will probably involve the two founding organizations and their members investing in and supporting each other’s portfolios.  

But they hope it will grow into a cross-country organization as more individuals and organizations get involved, and that it will support female entrepreneurs in all parts of Canada. The vision is to develop investment leads and to create programming together.

“We perceived in each other this common mandate and said ‘Isn’t this fascinating?’” said AWVF Co-Founding Partner Rhiannon Davies in an interview. “We both have an incredibly powerful investment proposition, and we can amplify it by working together. But won’t it become even more powerful if it becomes a movement?”

The Atlantic Women’s Venture Fund is still in its formative stages, and its steering committee hopes to announce its initial close in the third quarter of this year. Their goal is a fund worth at least $20 million, and it will be a free-standing body independent of Canada51.

Its principals – Davies and Sarah Young of Halifax and Cathy Bennett of St. John’s – want to address the shortage of capital for Atlantic Canadian startups in general, and female founders in particular.

They see this not just as a social mission but also as an attractive business model because it will channel capital into a vibrant and under-financed segment of the Canadian economy. Women founders currently account for 4 percent of the capital raised by Canadian startups, even though female founders have a unique perspective on entrepreneurial opportunities. For example, women make 80 percent of healthcare decisions and up to 85 percent of consumer purchasing decisions.

The fund will invest in companies with male CEOs as long as there is at least one woman in a senior, C-level position.

The AWVF aims to be non-competitive and collaborative as it is demonstrating with the creation of Canada51. The partnership’s website allows people (men and women) who are interested in backing female-led companies to sign up to join the development of the organization.

“We know we can transform Canada’s economy in this decade and beyond and our partnership with AWVF is pivotal to stitching this next economic wave together,” said The51 Co-Founder Shelley Kuipers in the statement.

Though the Atlantic Women’s Venture Fund itself is unlikely to make investments before late 2020, some of its members have already backed female-led companies on their own. They are serving as angel investors to such companies as life sciences venture Motryx (led by Francezska Broell) and Coloursmith Labs (led by Gabrielle Massone).

 “We know this isn’t going to happen overnight so have a signup for anyone who wants to get involved,” said Davies. “Canada51 is really about bringing collective capacity together and identifying organizations that are all pursuing the same goals.”