NACO looks to push into Yukon, releases recommendations for the region

Mary Long-Irwin, Executive Director of Northern Ontario Angels and Claudio Rojas, CEO at NACO.

As part of a broader national expansion plan this year, the National Angel Capital Organization (NACO) is now looking to increase its membership in Northern Canada.

“At this stage, the angel ecosystem in Yukon is fragmented,” NACO CEO Claudio Rojas told BetaKit. “As a first step, we are working to support coordination and education of angels in the territory. We hope to expand these efforts through increased collaboration with local stakeholders and our project partners.”

“We need to look at ways to help these investors understand the incredible potential for technology to diversify their portfolios.”
– Ben Sanders, Proof

To support those efforts, NACO released a set of recommendations to the government of Yukon on how it can mobilize and increase angel investment activity in the territory. The recommendations are aimed to ensure Yukon can create a strong innovation ecosystem through a coordinated network of early-stage investors to support Yukon entrepreneurs. The report called the current Yukon angel investment ecosystem “unstructured,” and noted that early-stage companies are often unfunded and under-capitalized.

According to NACO’s report on angel investing in 2019, angel investment activity is distributed unevenly across Canada. Central Canada, including Ontario and Quebec, accounted for 86 percent of investments, compared with 13 percent in Western Canada, and only one percent in Atlantic Canada.

NACO is a membership-based angel organization that has been working on expanding its national reach. The organization recently received $710,000 from the federal government as it is working to increase its presence in Western and Atlantic Canada.

Earlier this year, speaking with BetaKit about NACO’s plans to open a Western Canada regional headquarters in Calgary, Rojas also noted NACO was working to increase its presence in Northern Canada and was specifically looking to work with Indigenous organizations.

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Rojas recently told BetaKit NACO is currently working on developing digital resources to support the onboarding of new angel investors, as well as training for entrepreneurs to help them become investor-ready.

NACO’s recommendations for Yukon included engaging active and potential angel investors, creating forums and investment opportunities for angels, and increasing awareness of angel investing through training.

One notable recommendation from NACO is for the government to create a formal angel group or fund and explore mechanisms to amplify the impact of angel investment. NACO may play a role in this, with Rojas telling BetaKit his organization is “well-positioned” to leverage its membership base to support such a fund in Yukon.

“There is significant potential in establishing a fund to support Canada’s early-stage entrepreneurs, particularly those located outside urban centres,” Rojas added.

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With a population of only 34,000, Yukon has a small but burgeoning tech ecosystem. The territory is home to several tech hubs and events, such as Tech Yukon and communal space Yukonstruct. One of the region’s prominent tech startups is Proof, which last year participated in Techstars Toronto’s 2019 accelerator program.

“Finding creative ways to unlock capital from non-tech investors who typically focus on traditional investments, like building and land development, is key to developing the innovation ecosystem in the North,” said Ben Sanders, CEO of Proof, on NACO’s recommendations for the Yukon government.

“We need to look at ways to help these investors understand the incredible potential for technology to diversify their portfolios,” Sanders added.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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