Upside surpasses $1.27 million in charitable donations following 2019 Canadian tech exits

The Upside Foundation, which helps and encourages companies to be more philanthropic, has surpassed more than $1 million in charitable donations.

Upside is a member organization comprised of founders and leaders of startups and high-growth companies. It works with companies to pledge stock options and warrants, rather than cash, to Canadian charities.

“This is a huge milestone as it indicates that our model works and can generate significant value for the community.”

When its members experience liquidation (exit) events, typically an acquisition, merger, or initial public offering, part of the proceeds are shared, in what the organization calls “sharing upsides,” with charities.

In a year that saw significant traction for scaling Canadian tech companies, it was two liquidation events that helped Upside pass the $1.27 million in donations mark.

“This is a huge milestone as it indicates that our model works and can generate significant value for the community,” said Jen Couldrey, executive director of Upside. “Over the last few years we’ve focused our efforts on enabling startup founders who want to make an impact to make the initial pledge and support them in their growth, but reaching liquidity events is unpredictable and requires patience. We’re thrilled to see more and more of these coming to fruition.”

To date, 270 companies have pledged to “share their upside.” The group’s member list includes the likes of Wealthsimple, TribalScale, Wattpad, Borrowell, and investors like Brightspark Ventures and Espresso Capital. BetaKit is also a member of Upside.

Since its inception in 2013, seven companies have experienced liquidity events, which has helped support eight charities with a collective $1.27 million.

The two liquidation events that helped Upside reach this milestone have not been disclosed. The Upside noted that last year’s events came in the form of two donations, with the donors choosing to remain anonymous for personal reasons or because the liquidity event was part of a secondary buyout which was not shared publicly.

Jennifer Couldrey, Executive Director, Upside Foundation. Source Upside.

The other liquidity events that have aided in the donations through Upside include Understoodit (acquired by EventMobi in 2013), BlueCat Networks (acquired by Madison Dearborn Partners for $400 million), Clear Blue Technologies, Ooka Island (acquired by Scholastic), Zensurance (majority stake acquired by Travelers Companies).

Sultan Mehrabi, co-founder of Zensurance, called his company’s participation in Upside “one of the most satisfying outcomes of my experience founding a company and exiting.”

“Upside makes it really easy to give back to the community and help create the world we want to live in,” said Joelle MacPhee, the co-founder of Ooka Island. “It was thrilling to see that our acquisition meant I could pay it forward to a wonderful non-profit doing powerful work in my hometown! It was a gift to work with Upside and be able to deliver on a promise to make a difference.”

Each company is allowed to choose their own charity to support. To date, charities that have received donations are East York Learning Experience, Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, Mentoring Junior Kids Organization, Ocean Research & Conservation Association, PEI Literacy Alliance, SickKids Foundation, and World Wildlife Fund.

Image courtesy Upside Foundation

Meagan Simpson

Meagan Simpson

Meagan is the Associate Editor for BetaKit. A tech writer that is super proud to showcase the Canadian tech scene. Background in almost every type of journalism from sports to politics. Podcast and Harry Potter nerd, photographer and crazy cat lady.