Janet Bannister launches Staircase Ventures with $22 million first close

Bannister strikes out on her own after stepping back from Real Ventures.

Janet Bannister has launched her own venture capital fund having secured a first close of $22 million.

Aptly named Staircase Ventures, Bannister wants to raise $30 million for the fund overall.

Current backers include the Royal Bank of Canada, as well as other undisclosed institutional investors and several high-net-worth individuals and family offices. According to The Globe and Mail, investors like PointClickCare co-founder Mike Wessinger and former Shopify executive Craig Miller will also help advise Staircase portfolio companies.

“The combination of my networks, my reputation, my experience, and my track record, made investors feel very comfortable.”

Bannister is the sole managing partner of Staircase, which will invest in the same types of companies as Real Ventures: Canadian B2B software startups at the seed stage. Cheque sizes will range from $500,000 to $2 million for around 10 to 12 companies overall, as reported by The Globe.

Bannister noted that she was able to exceed the first close target for Staircase within a short fourth-month period.

“In tough times investors gravitate towards … things that they feel more confident in,” said Bannister in an interview with BetaKit. “I think that the combination of my networks, my reputation, my experience, and my track record, made investors feel very comfortable betting on me at this time.”

Bannister launched Staircase just six months after stepping back from the managing partner role at Real Ventures.

She left the position after inheriting and managing Real Ventures through a difficult few years. Around the time Bannister joined the venture firm, two of its three founding partners stepped back from active roles. Investors were unhappy with Real Ventures’ fund performance, and even when Bannister came in to help the firm, the fact that she was based outside of Québec exacerbated concerns, as BetaKit reported last year. Amid this, Real Ventures has faced difficulty closing a new fund.

Speaking with BetaKit last year, Real Ventures co-founder John Stokes praised the work Bannister had done for the venture firm after he took over the managing partner role.

As for Staircase, Bannister is taking a unique approach by giving portfolio founders a portion of fund profits. “I don’t know of any fund in Canada or even North America that’s doing this,” Bannister told BetaKit, explaining that the idea is to help more founders reinvest and it serves as a way for Staircase to source more deals from founders that like her fund’s model.

Staircase will also provide things like a financial advisor, health and wellness coach, and CEO coaching, among other hands-on supports.

Bannister modelled the approach after venture funds like those of Andreessen Horowitz that provide resources to support business growth. “I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting if I flipped that script a bit? Rather than doing what most VC firms do in terms of investing in resources that are going to build the business, what if I … invested in resources that are going to build the founder?”

Bannister hopes to hold the final close of Staircase in the next few months.

Feature image courtesy Real Ventures.

Meagan Simpson

Meagan Simpson

Meagan is the Senior Editor for BetaKit. A tech writer that is super proud to showcase the Canadian tech scene. Background in almost every type of journalism from sports to politics. Podcast and Harry Potter nerd, photographer and crazy cat lady.

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