The Business Development Bank of Canada’s (BDC) Thrive Lab is ready to begin deploying capital in women-led businesses from its $35 million envelope following the announcement of 25 co-investment partners. The program is part of a $100 million CAD five year plan to invest in 100 Canadian women-led businesses.
“The Thrive Lab will build a pipeline of future female leaders who will redefine what good investing and entrepreneurship looks like.” – Sévrine Labelle, Thrive Lab
Thrive Lab plans to invest in women-led, social impact businesses at the earliest stages alongside a group of Canadian partners that includes familiar accelerators, incubators, and angels from across the country. Some of its partners include The51, Women’s Equity Lab, The Firehood, SheBoot, MaRS Discovery District, Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, DMZ, YSpace, Startup TNT, Anges Québec, Evol, Spring Activator, Volta, Propel, and Front Row Ventures.
Thrive Lab said its partners were chosen based on their track record of supporting women entrepreneurs or their expertise in social impact, their capacity to deliver capital and resources, and ability to reach women where they are across Canada, including in underserved communities.
“Our collective mission is clear: directly supporting women-led startups when they need it most,” said The Firehood co-founder Danielle Graham. “The Firehood is thrilled to be part of this collaborative effort with Thrive Lab as a truly strategic partner.”
BDC has previously shared PitchBook data to BetaKit which showed that, in 2022, women-founded businesses received only three percent of venture capital funding in Canada. Meanwhile, only 15 percent of seed capital was invested in women-founded and co-founded Canadian businesses last year.
Thrive Lab’s managing director, Sévrine Labelle, said in a statement that BDC is “rolling up their sleeves” to support emerging women-led and social impact companies.
“We realized we could bolster their expertise and resources, without duplicating what they already do exceptionally well, and get critical funding into the hands of inspirational women at the speed of their business,” Labelle said.
Thrive Lab’s first phase will target firms aligned with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, such as food security, responsible agriculture, health and well-being, education, reduced inequalities, and responsible consumption and production. To be selected, businesses must be actively raising capital and be nominated by a Thrive Lab partner.
The lab is also looking at methods outside of traditional investment deals, like pitch competitions, to bring together larger pools of investors. Thrive Labs pointed to the Elevate Women+ Pitch competition at Elevate and the Women in Tech award at Startupfest earlier this year as successful examples, with BDC matching the winners’ prize money at each event.
“Working together, our goal is to ensure each company is surrounded by a strong syndicate of partners. Partners who are fully committed to ensuring each company has the capital and resources required to succeed financially and deliver the positive social impact they intended,” Sévrine said. “Ultimately, the Thrive Lab will build a pipeline of future female leaders who will redefine what good investing and entrepreneurship looks like.”
Last year, BDC committed half-a-billion dollars to women entrepreneurs and investors across Canada through its Thrive platform, which includes Thrive Lab, the $300 million Thrive Venture Fund for seed, Series A, and Series B firms, and $100 million for women-led investment funds.
Feature image courtesy BDC.