Raven closes $25 million venture fund for Indigenous entrepreneurs

Raven Indigenous Capital Partners (Raven) has closed a new $25 million CAD fund that aims to invest in innovative early and seed-stage Indigenous startups.

The Vancouver-based venture capital firm raised the Raven Indigenous Impact Capital Fund I from 38 investors across Canada and the United States, including the TELUS Pollinator Fund for Good and other undisclosed investors. The fund closed January 31.

Raven, which calls itself “Canada’s first Indigenous-led and owned social finance intermediary,” launched the fund to help address the resource gap faced by Indigenous entrepreneurs.

Raven launched the fund to help address the resource gap faced by Indigenous entrepreneurs.

“Despite Indigenous entrepreneurs’ strong ideas and product offerings, systemic racism and colonization have blocked their access to the capital and crucial capacity-building opportunities that spur growth in non-Indigenous enterprises,” said the firm.
 

Established in 2018, Raven provides Indigenous enterprises with access to capital and tailored technical assistance within an Indigenous cultural framework. Through the fund, Raven aims to provide equity and “equity-like” capital to early-stage Indigenous enterprises that are innovative, scalable, and purpose-driven.

“Investors are not only recognizing their responsibility to invest in Indigenous businesses, they want to be part of this decolonization journey through finance,” said Paul Lacerte, a managing partner of Raven. “Reconciliation in this economic context is being seen as a must-have, not a nice-to-have.”

The new fund has a strong social and environmental impact thesis. It plans to focus on technology-driven and enabled Indigenous businesses, targeting a net annualized rate of return of six to eight percent over its 10-year lifespan. According to Raven, the fund offers a sustainable, values-driven approach to poverty reduction and community resilience.

Raven intends to screen enterprises through an Indigenous impact lens, and invest between $250,000 and $2 million in eligible organizations. Ultimately, the firm hopes the fund will have “a positive and lasting impact on the Indigenous and Canadian economies.”

Jeffrey Cyr, a managing partner of Raven, said the firm wants to actively transform “the relationship many of us have with money.”

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“We are grateful to our partners and investors for seeing the potential and believing in our Indigenous ways of knowing and doing,” he added.

For now, Raven plans to build a portfolio of “dynamic technology-driven and enabled Indigenous enterprises.” The firm is also considering raising a successor fund “in the near future.”

Raven’s portfolio already includes PLATO Testing, a Fredericton-based organization that trains and employs Indigenous software testers, and Animikii, a Victoria-based digital agency and social enterprise. Last February, Raven invested in Virtual Gurus, a Calgary-based virtual assistant startup founded and led by Bobbie Racette, a Cree-Métis woman. Virtual Gurus recently launched a new app for Slack.

“When Virtual Gurus officially closed with Raven, it really hit home. Someone from a similar background as me, someone who heard me, someone who listened to me and understood me—they invested in me and they’re my people,” said Racette.

Racette explained Raven as an organization “building a community in the process of making investments.”

“You feel lifted afterwards and know that you are a part of something—giving support to a people who’ve traditionally been left behind,” she added.

Image of Paul Lacerte, managing partner of Raven, courtesy of Raven

Josh Scott

Josh Scott

Josh is a BetaKit staff writer who loves to tell Canadian business and tech stories. His coverage is more complete than his moustache.