Eight years ago, Katrina Carroll-Foster, currently the CEO of Kollectively Business Strategies, launched a new business and raised a small amount of funding in Vancouver. Later on, she and her business partner went down to the Valley in hopes finding a larger amount of investment.
What they were pitching had a unique value proposition for women — products that women strictly would use. “It was basically a subscription service for things women hate to buy, but have to buy,” she says. “When we were pitching the male investors, there was a lot of incredulity that there was even a market out there for our product.”
Most investors wouldn’t bite, though Carroll-Foster credits one angel investor, Mike Edward, for seeing the market opportunity and getting them off the ground. Nonetheless, Carroll-Foster recalls that generally, “There was just no understanding that this actually might be a viable business opportunity.” Men and women have different perspectives, it turns out.
So what happens when men control the majority of the world’s investment dollars? What happens if women comprise less than 25 percent of the investors in early stage companies, as is currently the case? The data says that businesses led by men are on the receiving end of a disproportionate share of investment dollars.
“We really want to be a collective, as in linking all the pieces together.” – Jill Earthy
According to Pitchbook, in 2016, companies led by men received over 16 times more funding than companies led by women. In other words, women-led firms made up only 4.94 percent of all venture capital deals in 2016 in the US. In Canada, women run nearly 50 percent of Canada’s SMEs, yet receive only four percent of investment dollars, according to Startup Canada.
The RAISE Collective, a new Vancouver-based group, is hoping to change this. “Our goal is to support entrepreneurs—true investment,” said Jill Earthy, one of the group’s co-founders and chief growth officer at FrontFundr. “But if we want to help more women entrepreneurs access the capital they need, then we actually need to engage more women to start investing.”
The RAISE Collective is hoping to foster connections between women investors, and collaborate with partners to provide learning and investment opportunities, resources, and networking events. While initially formed organically, they recently held an official launch to share their story, vision, and goals moving forward. The launch event also featured two panels, one during which Carrol-Foster shared her Valley story, which she said encouraged her to consider becoming an early-stage investor herself.
There are many investment or funding related communities in Canada like NACO, Open Angel, and SheEO, but RAISE is not trying to reinvent the wheel, says Earthy.
“We really want to be a collective,” said Earthy. “As in linking all the pieces together—because as you know, in the entrepreneurial world, there are so many great resources, but it’s confusing to those who need them.”
She continues, “We’re trying to be that bridge for women entrepreneurs to access the investments that they need through the various channels that are available—and on the investor side, we want to help them access deals that they may be interested in—but linking them through existing organizations.”
Men and women have never had similar entrepreneurial experiences, so what motivated the group to launch now?
“Our view is that the time has never been better to try to tackle these problems,” said Genevieve Pinto, another co-founder and a VP at Renewal Funds. “There are things like FrontFundr [a portal that allows non-accredited investors to invest], changes in laws in regulations, which now means that you can make smaller investments. We think now’s the time to make a pipeline community to help people start making small, early-stage investments.”
While currently based in the West, the RAISE Collective has formed strong partnerships in Alberta and Ontario, says Earthy. And while designed for women, she says that “men are obviously welcome to participate in this conversation.”
To shape the group’s next steps and contribute to Canadian data related investing, the group is inviting women across Canada to complete an online survey on personal investing habits, plans, and interests.