A new group has launched an angel fund focused on investing in women entrepreneurs.
With the aim to address a persistent lack of funding for women entrepreneurs, Phoenix Fire is focused on investing in women-led startups at the earliest stages, as well as providing a space for women angel investors to come together.
“Our goal for Phoenix Fire is to unlock angel stage capital for women entrepreneurs.”
“Women are overlooked, they’re underestimated. And they have remarkable ideas and solutions for problems that women have, but [also] for everybody,” McGowan said in an interview with BetaKit. “We need to make sure that everybody has a seat at the table.”
Phoenix’s founding members and investors include around a dozen women, including McGowan and Graham. The fund has attracted the likes of Leen Li, the CEO of Wealthsimple Foundation; Diane Wolfenden, board chair of Equation Angels; and Thealzel Lee, the founder and president of British Columbia angel group eFund.
The fund has closed some initial capital, surpassing its original $2 million target in the first month. All of that capital came from women, and mostly women of colour, according to Graham. Phoenix is working to close additional capital by the end of March.
Phoenix plans to invest between $100,000 to $250,000 per cheque in women-led early-stage tech startups.
The idea for Phoenix came through work Graham has done over the last number of years. In 2016, she created Communitech’s Fierce Founders program, which was considered to be one of the first women-focused accelerator and bootcamp series in Canada. Graham started the program after finding she was one of few female entrepreneurs in programs she herself took part in. From there, Graham joined the Golden Triangle Angel Network (GTAN) and started working as an investor at various organizations. Throughout her career, she has launched or co-launched a number of initiatives focused on supporting underrepresented founders, including the Archangel network in 2020.
Speaking with BetaKit, Graham noted that the landscape for women in tech has changed over the years, pointing specifically to an increasing number of women with the means to become angels and invest in other companies. The goal of Phoenix, she said, is to increase that engagement even further.
Phoenix will provide not only opportunities to invest in startups but provide education for individuals that may be getting into angel investing for the first time.
McGowan, who is an active member of the Canadian tech space through her work with The Coalition of Innovation Leaders Against Racism (CILAR), has been an angel investor for a number of years. She noted to BetaKit that oftentimes she finds women are less involved in angel investing, especially those that are outside entrepreneurial or finance backgrounds.
Phoenix is looking to bring that gap and its founding members currently include corporate executives, lawyers, and media professionals. A launch event hosted by Phoenix Fire on March 8 saw the attendance of a notable group of individuals, including Jarret Leaman, co-founder of the Centre for Indigenous Innovation and Technology and MaRS Discovery District’s Yung Wu, who also helped create CILAR.
The need for investment in women entrepreneurs is clear: they receive a dismal amount of venture capital compared to male counterparts. Crunchbase reporting found that, on a global scale, the amount of venture capital for women actually decreased in 2020. Those numbers become even bleaker when specifically looking at women of colour.
On the other hand, there are reports that have found businesses founded by women deliver higher revenue (more than twice as much per dollar invested) than those founded by men.
“Our goal for Phoenix Fire is to unlock angel stage capital for women entrepreneurs,” said Graham.
And part of that goal centres around creating opportunities for all kinds of women. “These are intersectional women looking to help all women, but looking also at intersectional women,” noted McGowan.
“So for me, it’s [about] chang[ing] the trajectory and the narrative around what young girls, what women can do and can be,” said McGowan. “That’s what we want to do. So as much there’s a big number we want … it’s about who are we going to help and then who are they going to help.”