Analysis

Nearly 90 per cent of Canadian VC investment deals since 2014 went to companies founded exclusively by men

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Nearly 90 per cent of investment deals publicly disclosed by Canadian venture capital funds over the past five years went to companies founded exclusively by men.

An analysis by The Logic of Canadian VCs with the most investment deals recorded globally over the past five years, according to the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA), found that 103 of the 884 publicly announced investment deals went to companies with at least one woman founder or co-founder. That amounts to just 11.7 per cent of investments.

Of the 18 firms identified, just one—BDC Capital—confirmed it tracks the number of investments that go to companies founded by women.

Cycle Capital Management invested in the highest number of companies with at least one woman founder, at 24.3 per cent. Two VCs had not invested in woman-founded companies at all, according to publicly available data.

The Logic’s analysis is broken down by each firm below.

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Talking Point

An analysis by The Logic of investments made over the past five years by some of Canada’s most active VCs show that funding to women-founded companies remains stubbornly low.

Venture capital activity in Canada has more than doubled in the past five years, according to the CVCA. With that growth, a bevy of initiatives has emerged to try and direct some of those deals toward companies funded and led by women.

The two firms that haven’t made any public investments in women-founded businesses said they’re taking steps to address the gap.

Matt Golden, founder and managing partner at Golden Ventures, said his firm has invested in women. “Two of the companies Golden Ventures invested in since the beginning of 2014 had a female founder,” said Golden. “As is customary in the industry, we don’t disclose the specific amounts the fund invests into individual portfolio companies.”  

Matthew Leibowitz, a partner at Plaza Ventures, responded via email, saying, “We have a number of initiatives regarding diversity and inclusion. In addition our team is half women including three Partners.”

On Wednesday, Scotiabank announced a $13-million investment in Disruption Ventures, a fund that aims to raise $30 million for companies founded and led by women. Last month, the Billion Dollar Fund for Women, a global initiative that gets VCs to commit to investing in women-led companies, launched in Canada. Six local funds signed up. The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) launched a $200-million Women in Technology Fund in 2016. The MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund (IAF)’s StandUp Ventures has invested an undisclosed sum in seven women-led companies since launching in 2017.

The community of women entrepreneurs is eclipsed by the number of men starting companies. According to the most recent Statistics Canada numbers, just 15.7 per cent of businesses are owned by women in Canada. But the factors keeping women from starting and growing companies are many and messily entwined—study upon study now show that bias plays a role in the limited funding for women, both a symptom of and cause for the women-founder deficit.

The lack of women venture capitalists is also thought to exacerbate the problem. According to a July 2018 report by Female Funders, which promotes diversity in the industry, just 14 per cent of partners at Canada’s most active VC funds are women.

“It’s not that there’s a lack of ambition or interest [among] women,” said Michelle Caers, the entrepreneur-in-residence at Ryerson’s DMZ. “I do believe there are systemic barriers facing women that make it more challenging and therefore they have to settle for less.”

The Logic identified the gender make-up of firms’ investment teams from information listed on their websites. We reached out to every firm named in this article and asked for confirmation on the number of VC deals they participated in during the past five years, and how many investments went to women-founded or co-founded companies. Seven firms offered responses, which are included in this article.

Cycle Capital Management: 24.3%

The firm, which focuses on cleantech VC, invested in 37 deals, nine of which went to women-founded companies. Each year from 2014 to 2017, the company made one investment in a women-founded company; it made three in 2018 and none yet this year. The firm recently signed a pledge to invest an undisclosed amount in women-led companies through the Billion Dollar Fund for Women. Cycle Capital was founded by a woman named Andrée-Lise Méthot, who is a managing partner. On the 12-person investment team, there are two other women partners, one of whom was promoted to the position in December 2018 along with another woman promoted to vice president, though not on the firm’s investment team.

Yaletown Partners: 22.6%

Yaletown has invested in 31 deals, seven of which went to companies with at least one woman founder. In 2014, the firm invested in four companies with a woman founder, followed by none in 2015 and 2016, two in 2017, one in 2018 and none yet this year. Yaletown has one woman principal on a team of 11.  

Innovacorp: 14.3%

The government-backed fund has invested in 42 deals; six investments have gone to companies founded by women. The firm didn’t make any investments in women-founded companies in 2014; in 2015, it made one, followed by three in 2016, one each in 2017 and 2018 and none to date in 2019. Innovacorp has one woman director and one investment manager who’s a woman. There are eight women total on the 24-person team.  

iNovia Capital: 12.8%

iNovia has taken part in 78 deals, 10 of which had at least one woman founder, according to CVCA data. The firm made three investments in women-founded companies in 2014, four in 2015, followed by none in 2016 and 2017, three in 2018 and none yet in 2019. Melissa Mecca, head of communications at iNovia Capital told The Logic, “We have no comment, and will not address funding inquiries.” She did, however, add that the firm has made one unannounced investment in a company with one or more women founders, which wasn’t included in our analysis. In February 2018, the firm started holding office hours to provide advice and mentorship to founders from underrepresented groups in tech, including people of colour, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ+ community and women. iNovia also participated in Female Funders’ Summer 2018 Angel Academy, an investor accelerator for women. The firm has no women at the partner level, one woman principal, two women associates and one woman analyst on an investment team of 17.

Anges Québec Capital: 13.3%

The regionally-focused fund invested in 15 deals, two of which went to women-founded companies. The firm made one investment in a women-founded company in 2016 and one in 2018. The investment team has a woman CEO, Geneviève Morin, who was appointed in January 2019. There are three women total on the four-person investment team.

BDC Capital: 13.1%

The BDC has invested in 21 women-founded companies across 160 deals through BDC Capital and its various industry funds, including its Women in Technology (WIT) Fund. Since launching in 2017, the WIT has raised $70 million and invested in 16 women-led companies; it aims to raise $200 million by 2022. The BDC’s investments in women-founded companies have been trending downward, however. It made nine investments in women-founded companies in 2014, four in both 2015 and 2016, three in 2017, one last year and none yet in 2019. There are no women partners at BDC; the firm has one woman vice-president, two women at the managing-director level—both of whom are part of the WIT fund team—one woman associate and four women analysts. There are 34 people on BDC’s investment team across all its funds. In an email to The Logic, Jean Philippe Nadeau, a spokesperson for the BDC, said the BDC has invested in 47 companies with at least one woman co-founder from 2014 to 2018; he did not disclose the total number of deals. “BDC Capital has authorized $82M through direct VC investments into companies with at least one women co-founder from 2014-2018,” Nadeau said, adding that the BDC has “authorized a total of $516M through its direct VC investments” in that time period. Based on those numbers, companies founded by women received 15.8 per cent of BDC Capital’s total investment dollars.

OMERS Ventures: 12.5%

OMERS has invested across 40 deals, five of which involved companies with a woman founder. The firm led three of the five investments in women-founded companies. OMERS regularly hosts office hours for women founders and women working in tech. The firm hasn’t increased its investments in women in the last five years: it had no investments in women-founded companies in 2014, two in 2015, one in 2016, two in 2017 and none in 2018 or yet this year. On an investment team of 12, OMERS has one woman at the principal level, one woman associate and one woman analyst.

Real Ventures: 12.3%

Real made 122 investments; 15 of those investments went to companies with at least one woman founder. The firm has made little progress in the number of investments in women-founded companies: it made three such investments in 2014, 2015 and 2016; two in 2017; four in 2018 and none in 2019 to date. Real’s 13-person investment team includes one woman partner and one woman at the analyst level.

New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF): 12%

The New Brunswick-based non-profit has invested across 25 deals; three investments have gone to companies with at least one woman founder. One of those investments was in 2016 and two were in 2018. The five-person investment team at NBIF has no women partners, directors, associates or analysts.

Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA): 11.8%

The federal agency focused on creating business opportunities in Atlantic Canada invested across 17 VC deals. Investments from two of those deals went to women-founded companies: one in 2016 and one in 2017. There are no women on the ACOA’s investment team of four.

MaRS IAF: 11.7%

The MaRS IAF has participated in 77 deals; nine investments went to companies with a woman founder. The VC recently closed a women-focused fund, StandUp Ventures, which has seven companies in its portfolio; all of them are founded by women. Funding in women-founded companies hasn’t increased much, however. It made two such investments in 2014, three in 2015, none in 2016, two in 2017, one in 2018 and another so far this year. The MaRS IAF has one woman director and one woman investment manager on a 10-person team.

Relay Ventures: 11.1%

The VC firm invested across 54 deals; six of them included a woman founder. The firm is backing Disruption Ventures, a fund launched last year, exclusively for companies founded and led by women. Disruption raised $13 million from Scotiabank this week and plans to raise $30 million total, which would make it Canada’s largest private venture capital fund for women. VC activity in women-founded companies has been stagnant at Relay, however. It invested in two women-founded companies in 2015, one each in 2016 and 2017 and two in 2018. It hasn’t made any investments in women-founded companies yet this year. Relay has two women at the partner level, one woman associate and one analyst among its 11-person team.

Fonds de solidarité FTQ: 8.3%

The Quebec-based firm, focused on regional growth, invested in 36 deals, three of which were in companies with at least one woman founder—one in 2016 and two in 2017. In a statement to The Logic, Patrick McQuilken, senior media-relations adviser, said, “Our systems do not currently allow us to track the number of women-founded companies. It is however an issue we are interested in.” The firm’s investment team has one woman vice-president, two women in project manager positions and one woman analyst on a team of 17.

Lumira Ventures: 7.1%

The healthtech-focused firm has invested in two women-founded companies across 28 deals; both investments were in 2015. The firm has one woman in a partner role and one woman analyst on an investment team of nine. “While we do not actively track the metrics you are looking for, I suspect our investment portfolio reflects a higher proportion of female led/founded businesses then our deal flow as a whole,” said Peter van der Velden, a managing general partner at Lumira, in an email to The Logic. “In fact, since 2014 we have backed five business that meet the criteria you outlined.  These businesses account for something like 20-25% of our total investments in companies during this period.”

Investissement Quebéc: 4.6%

The firm caters to companies looking to do business in Quebec. Out of 22 deals, it has made one investment in a company with a woman founder; that was this year. Isabelle Fontaine, a spokesperson for the firm, noted that the CVCA data includes investments into other funds, which in turn may invest in more women-founded companies. “With more than 1,200 companies in portfolio through those investment funds, we cannot possibly keep track of the number of women-led businesses we have invested in,” said Fontaine.  

Georgian Partners: 4.4%

The firm has invested in 45 deals through its four funds. Its portfolio includes two deals in women-founded companies: one in 2017 and one in 2018, both of which Georgian led. In a January 2018 blog post, the firm laid out “four steps for advancing diversity and inclusion,” which included making diversity and inclusion core issues at the board and C-Suite level. There is one woman vice-president at the firm, one woman at the partner level and one associate on an 11-person investment team.

Golden Ventures: 0%

Golden has invested in 38 deals in the past five years. None of its investments have gone to companies with women founders. Matt Golden told The Logic the firm is making an effort to improve funding in women. “Unannounced, but we are in the process of spinning out an important female-led initiative from the Fund,” he said, adding that the firm has an unofficial mentorship program where each partner mentors one or more women founders outside the firm’s portfolio. Golden Ventures has one woman associate on its five-person investment team.

Plaza Ventures: 0%

Plaza participated in 17 investment deals, none of which went to companies with a woman founder. The VC’s eight-person investment team includes one woman associate and two women partners who work exclusively for its Israel fund. “We at Plaza Ventures believe that being intentional about inclusion and diversity is beneficial to the long term success of any company,” the firm states on its website. It claims that “a number of our portfolio companies are at the forefront of this movement.”

Methodology: The Logic identified the 18 most active venture capital funds, based on a review of over five years’ worth of quarterly reports from the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA), from Q1 2014 to Q3 2018, the most recent available report. From there, we analyzed each investment deal the top 18 funds participated in from Q1 2014 to Feb. 28, 2019, based on publicly disclosed data on Crunchbase, and parsed which of those investments went to companies with at least one woman founder. The gender make-up of firms’ investment teams was gathered from information listed on their websites. The Logic reached out to every firm named in the article and asked for confirmation on the number of VC deals they participated in during the identified time period and how many investments went to women-co-founded companies. Ten of the firms did not respond; Real Ventures acknowledged the email but did not offer a comment by publication time; seven firms offered responses, which are included in the article.

With files from Emma Voulgaris