The Upside Foundation, a national charity that asks startups to pledge stock options and warrants towards Canadian charities, has officially hit 100 pledges.
Back in April, Upside — which encourages startups to donate a portion of their equity following a liquidity event — launched its 150×150 campaign to grow the number of its pledging companies to 150 by Canada Day. Since the launch of 150×150, Upside has signed on 22 companies, including AccountHQ, Espresso Capital, and Overbond.
To date, there have been three exits leading to charity donations from the Upside network; its first exit was Understoodit, which was acquired by EventMobi in 2013, and donated its equity proceeds to the East York Learning Experience and Mentoring Junior Kids Organization.
“We make it a little bit easier for entrepreneurs starting their companies to build out their networks.”
BlueCat’s $400 million exit also saw a portion of CEO Michael Harris’ stock options go to the to the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. Upside’s most recent exit was Ooka Island, which was acquired by Scholastic in April 2017. Ooka Island donated the proceeds to the PEI Literacy Alliance.
“I am thrilled that this exciting news for Ooka Island means that I can pay it forward to a wonderful non-profit doing powerful work in my hometown!” said Joelle MacPhee, co-founder and director of marketing at Ooka Island. “Upside makes it really easy to give back to the community and help create the world we want to live in.”
Speaking with BetaKit, foundation manager Jen Couldrey says that a major value-add for early-stage startups – Upside’s target company — is access to a large network. The foundation hosts luncheons with investors and connects like-minded companies with potential to work as partners. The Upside Foundation is also the official charity partner for BetaKit 150, taking place on June 22nd.
“We need to do whatever we can do to reinvest that back to our community to bring everyone along with us.”
“We were founded by the VC community, we have great relationships with a lot of investors, and we have amazing entrepreneurs in our network. [We can] facilitate those connections and that collaboration,” said Couldrey. “We make it a bit easier for entrepreneurs starting their companies to build out their networks and find the support they need, and build awareness for what they’re doing is a big part of it.”
While the foundation also includes large companies like Hubba and Wattpad, another reason Upside is open to early stage companies is to make social responsibility a part of a company’s DNA as early as possible.
“If you look at what’s happening in the States, and this new innovation economy — people are getting left behind, they’re losing jobs, they’re frustrated with the way the world is today,” Couldrey says. “We are part of the vanguard moving into the future, so people in our community will be the big winners accumulating wealth out of this. [We need to do] whatever we can do to reinvest that back to our community to bring everyone along with us, so there isn’t this big group of Canadians left behind”