BDC helps women in tech soar

The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)’s Women in Technology Venture Fund is one of the world’s largest venture capital funds dedicated to investing in women‑led technology companies. The $ 200 million fund will deliver a return on investment and help build a robust ecosystem to support women in tech today and in the future.

Two Women holding document and digital tablet in a factory

Women are under‑represented and under‑funded in the tech industry. There are many challenges facing women in tech, particularly access to capital and the right network to help them succeed, but one venture fund is making a big impact.

Michelle Scarborough, Managing Partner of Strategic Investments and Women in Technology Venture Fund (WIT Fund) at BDC, is responsible for managing the fund. Scarborough points out that more than half of all tech start‑ups don’t have any female executives and a mere 5% have a female CEO. Further, only 8% of directors on boards of Canadian tech companies are women and, 73% of these boards have no women at all. These statistics reinforce an incredible opportunity, as research shows that the Canadian economy is stronger when we have more women-owned and women-led businesses. In fact, companies with diverse leadership teams deliver higher profits, more revenue, and better innovation.

BDC’s Women in Technology Venture Fund is one of the world’s largest venture capital funds dedicated to investing in women‑led technology companies and helping to build a robust ecosystem to support women in tech today and in the future. This fund has a dual mandate: to deliver a return on the investment and make a lasting impact on the Canadian tech ecosystem. This happens in three ways: direct investment in women‑led tech companies, indirect investment in emerging venture funds with at least one‑woman partner, and ecosystem development towards a self‑sustaining ecosystem for women.

Scarborough explains that WIT Fund invests in women‑led tech companies (seed to Series A & B) who bring together the right technology, team and resources to create companies that transform or disrupt today’s markets. These are strong, scalable, revenue generating companies who want to grow quickly and most importantly, are women‑led.

In addition to direct investment, the fund hosts trade missions, awards a scholarship to a female investor in a venture capital firm to attend the Kauffman Fellows Program, convened a Women in Tech Bootcamp for 200+ women from across the country, referred hundreds of companies to other capital opportunities, and works with partners to host workshops and networking events to connect women in tech and women investors.

One of the amazing women‑led companies in the WIT Fund’s portfolio that is benefitting from these initiatives is Sampler. Marie Chevrier, Founder and CEO of Sampler, says the WIT investment has enabled her company to “double our team, double our revenue, and ultimately really start scaling our company.” In addition, Sampler was also one of 12 women‑led tech companies selected to attend the 2020 Women in Tech Silicon Valley Program co‑hosted by the Canadian Consulate in Palo Alto and BDC Capital’s WIT Fund. Chevrier sees this as a huge opportunity to make meaningful connections and seize market opportunities that can help accelerate Sampler’s growth

Michelle Scarborough
Michelle Scarborough, Managing Partner of Strategic Investments and WIT Fund at BDC

Marie Chevrier
Marie Chevrier, Founder and CEO of Sampler

“When it comes to supporting women in technology, certainly access to funds is a really big part but so is education…education programming is essential,” Chevrier said.

Partnerships are essential to supporting women in tech and the 2020 Women in Tech Silicon Valley Program is great example of BDC working with the Trade Commission Service (TCS) to help women‑led tech companies grow in a key tech market.

The TCS also convenes panels on gender equity in venture capital, an annual women in tech conference, business delegations and events with women at different stages in their business. Through these initiatives participants gain knowledge, mentorship, and connections.

“I’ve spoken with many female founders, who are just not getting financed at the same level as men. This is not news, it is a persistent trend,” says Scott Giesbrecht, Consul and Trade Commissioner at the Consulate General of Canada in Palo Alto. The TCS supports Canadian tech companies in Silicon Valley, so Giesbrecht is well aware of the disadvantages women face in the start‑up world.

“Women‑led enterprises tend to be a smaller and they have traditionally not been as able to access many of the tools and supports for market‑readiness. That is where we want to help overcome some of the challenges. I know we are seeing successes as a result,” he said.

Giesbrecht sees the need for the TCS to do its part to support women. He’s also optimistic about the outcomes of the tailored funds and services on women-led tech companies: “These are exactly the types of companies you want to incubate in Canada. They provide skilled employment. If they are successful, they’ll enjoy an influx of capital that can be reinvested in the economy in the next generation.”

Scarborough echoes similar optimism for women in the tech industry. She states that “BDC’s Women in Technology Venture Fund have already made a great impact to date” and that they will continue to invest in great women‑led companies.

With the support and encouragement from venture funds like WIT Fund, women in technology can continue to break down the barriers in the technology industry such as under‑representation and under‑funding, and build a gender‑equal and economically thriving ecosystem.

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