M51’s Danielle Gifford noted that Founder’s Lab is “one of the first programs of its kind” in Canada.
TD Bank has promised $120,000 CAD to M51 as part of a three-year funding commitment to Founder’s Lab. The program has also received undisclosed funding from provincial and federal governments in the form of grants.
According to M51 executive director Danielle Gifford, TD’s support has enabled Calgary-based M51 to expand beyond just the Prairie provinces and make the program available nationally.
Founder’s Lab is accepting applications for its inaugural cohort until March 31, which will be in hybrid form and open to startups across Canada. The M51 program will focus on “the ins and outs of investment readiness,” from startup financials, to how investors operate, what term sheets and due diligence look like, basic venture math, and fundraising strategies.
Reports indicate that women-founded startups still only receive a very small slice of overall venture capital (VC) investment. According to PitchBook data, that figure was 1.9 percent in 2022. Even worse, this already small share appears to have been dropping each of the past few years.
With Founder’s Lab, M51 hopes to help close this gap and reverse this trend. “Part of the reason we launched the program was to build a place for women and gender-diverse individuals to focus on their investment readiness,” Gifford told BetaKit in an interview, noting that Founder’s Lab is “one of the first programs of its kind” in Canada.
Through the program, M51 aims to “demystify the investor process” and set Canadian women and gender-diverse entrepreneurs up for success as they look to fundraise while also navigating different gender-based barriers and biases.
The51 is a Calgary-based, women-focused venture capital firm that describes itself as a “financial feminist platform.” Established by The51 in 2021, Calgary’s M51 is a not-for-profit aimed at addressing financial inequalities that affect women and gender-diverse people across Canada.
M51’s Founder’s Lab is sector-agnostic and targeted towards “venture-ready” women and gender-diverse entrepreneurs across Canada that are the founder or co-founder of an incorporated firm “tracking strong product-market fit.”
According to M51, the program is particularly suited to startups beyond the concept stage with customers, initial market traction, and plans to raise $25,000 to $1 million in pre-seed funding in the coming months.
M51 plans to admit 20 people to the nine-week Founder’s Lab program, which will begin in late April and culminate with an in-person Demo Day where startups will pitch investors.
The official launch of Founder’s Lab follows a six-week fall 2022 pilot with 14 participants from across the Prairie provinces. “The biggest learning was just that there’s a lot when it comes to demystifying raising venture capital,” said Gifford. “It’s not as simple as reading a book or talking to potential advisors. There really needs to be a program or an education around it.”
Gifford took the helm of M51 last year after previously serving in manager roles at AltaML and Creative Destruction Lab. Gifford replaced outgoing M51 executive director Salima Shivji.
As Gifford put it, adding Founder’s Lab to M51’s education platform for women investors and entrepreneurs “felt like a natural fit.” She noted that going pan-Canadian, as it is with this program, is part of the organization’s broader strategy.
“Our plan, really, is to focus more nationally,” said Gifford. “We started here with humble beginnings in Alberta. But [by] teaming up with TD, we are going to be looking at taking a more national approach across Canada.”
Feature image courtesy Movement51.