MaRS’s new Social Venture Connection Marries Impact Investors with Social Ventures

Thursday marked MaRS Discovery District’s launch of its new Social Venture Connection (SVX), an online impact investing platform connecting impact ventures, funds, investors and service providers. The bell was officially rung at the Toronto Stock Exchange, giving socially-minded investors a savvy web tool to make investments with limited due diligence.

It’s being called the first of its kind, a a private investment platform built to connect impact ventures, funds and investors in order to catalyze new debt and equity investment capital for ventures that have demonstrable social and/or environmental impact and the potential for financial return. It was developed under the leadership of MaRS and the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing in collaboration with TMX Group. It is supported by the Government of Ontario, Torys LLP, KPMG, The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, Royal Bank of Canada and Hamilton Community Foundation.

The SVX’s objective in Year 1 is to mobilize at least $2.5 million in capital via investments in at least 10 issuers on the platform.

The SVX also announced its first cohort of 12 “social and environmental impact issuers” (or ventures) that investors can invest money into. The ventures hail from Toronto, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Kingston and Ottawa in sectors ranging from affordable housing and non-profit finance to sustainable fashion, organic food and renewable energy. Collectively, they are looking to raise over $100 million in financing from local accredited investors.

The 12 impact ventures are:

ChangeIt, a patent-protected charitable giving platform that aims to leverage the rapid shift from cash to cashless transactions.

Community Forward Fund (CFF), a Canadian non-profit that makes loans to or arranges financing for non-profits and charities.

Fair Trade Jewellery Company (FTJCo), which designs, manufactures, retails and distributes the most ethical fine jewelry in the world.

Frontenac Community Mental Health and Addiction Services, which provides a continuum of services, including affordable housing, to those with mental health and/or addiction issues living in Frontenac County.

Homestead Organics, Eastern Canada’s leading certified organic farm supply and grain processing business.

Investeco, Canada’s first environmental investment company.

Oliberté, which creates sustainable jobs in Africa building rugged casual footwear and goods.

REfficient, an online marketplace to source quality industry equipment cost-effectively and sustainably.

RocketOwl, a game developer that creates high-quality, engaging social games promoting sustainable living, environmental awareness and social change through play.

SolarShare, a non-profit co-operative with a mission to grow community-based solar electricity generation in Ontario by engaging citizens in projects that offer tangible financial, social and environmental returns.

TAS, which creates buildings that reflect the modern concept of what it means to live urban by connecting diverse partners and investing in socially innovative enterprises.

ZooShare Biogas Co-operative Inc., a non-profit renewable energy co-operative whose mission is to be a catalyst for the growth of community-owned biogas plants through education and investment.

The new platform, will be open to Ontario-based enterprises with less than $25 million in revenues. In an interview with the Toronto Star on Thursday, MaRS’s Adam Spence said “it is like e-harmony for impact investing.”

“We connect investors looking for opportunities to generate a positive impact with social entrepreneurs looking for capital investments,” Spence told the Star.

Maybe he’s on to something too: The impact investing sector in Canada is expected to grow from $5.3 billion to $30 billion over the next decade.

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