Money BDC Capital bets on four more startups led by women

23:06  12 july  2018
23:06  12 july  2018 Source:   financialpost.com

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What BDC Capital bets on four more startups led by women . By: financialpost.com 2 days ago.

0712 biz jm women in tech© Provided by Financial Post

TORONTO — BDC Capital announced four new women-led startups for its Women in Technology Venture Fund on Wednesday, including Lufa Farms, a Montreal-based company that’s growing vegetables in urban rooftop greenhouses.

The idea behind Lufa Farms is that growing vegetables closer to where people live makes for fresher food, while also decreasing greenhouse energy consumption, because sitting on top of another building means the greenhouse benefits from residual heat.

They grow the vegetables, and then distribute baskets that are also filled with meat, bread and other food sourced from partner producers, all sold online through the Lufa Farms website.

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Share: The dollar figures of this week's investments were not disclosed by BDC . So far they’ve invested .3 million of their fund in 14 companies.

We are a consortium of leading businesswomen deploying capital to empower the next generation of female entrepreneurs changing the world. She has also been named in the Forbes Magazine’s Top 50 America’s Richest Self Made Women (2015) and the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women by

“We actually ship about 14,000 baskets a week right now, and we’re looking to at least double that in the next couple years before we look at expanding outside of Montreal, so this investment is a key piece for us to make that move,” said Lufa Farms co-founder Lauren Rathmell.

Rathmell said that capital hasn’t been the hardest part of their growth; most of the funding for their Series B venture capital round came from existing investors who got in at Series A, but BDC wanted to be involved too.

And building greenhouses on top of buildings isn’t cheap, so more money always helps.

Rathmell said over the past seven years, she’s run into sexist comments from people who don’t expect a woman to be the head grower of an agricultural company.

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“ Women - led firms are vital to Canada’s prosperity and competitiveness,” says Alison Nankivell, Vice President, Funds and Co-investment, BDC Capital . “Recognizing the need for financial and non-financial support for female founders, we are proud to launch several new initiatives to encourage

“We’re a technology company and also in the agriculture space, both (industries) obviously are not women-led,” Rathmell said.

“I think we’ve made strides there, just in how strong our business is.”

The BDC Women in Technology fund was started last year, and managing director Michelle Scarborough says it’s the largest fund in the world targeted at this particular niche.

The dollar figures of this week’s investments were not disclosed by BDC. So far they’ve only invested $6.3 million of their fund in a total of 14 companies, but Scarborough said she expects that to start ramping up soon.

“The rationale for having a fund of this size is to make sure that we have a mechanism, so we can stay with these companies for the long term,” Scarborough said.

“We have a very, very large pipeline of opportunities, and a number of the companies that we made investments in early on are coming to exactly the right timing for their Series A, so you’ll see some bigger investments being made this year into those companies that we seeded last year, likely.”

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Alas, the relative success of women - led startups doesn't seem to make much difference to the (overwhemingly male) venture Nevertheless, Brush and her team concluded that startups with women at the helm are "still, practically speaking, shut out of the market for venture capital funding."

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To qualify for funding, firms need to be women-led, with either a woman as co-founder, or CEO, or in another significant leadership position.

Scarborough said she doesn’t think there’s any need to choose between putting money behind women-led companies and making the most lucrative investments.

Along with Lufa Farms, the fund invested in Vancouver’s AvenueHQ, which is working in the real estate sector, Unsplash, a Montreal-based curated photography platform, and Tealbook, which CEO Stephany Lapierre bills as the LinkedIn for procurement, by creating a platform to connect business buyers along with business-to-business suppliers.

Lapierre said she doesn’t often run into overt sexism, but raising money to grow is difficult. She said all you can do is work on the parts of her business that she can control, the things that she can change and improve.

“The two prominent ones that have invested capital in Tealbook are Standup Ventures, the female tech fund, and BDC, the Women in Tech fund,” she said.

“You know, subconsciously or consciously, I think women are at a disadvantage when raising capital for various reasons. The statistics are the statistics. It’s very real.”

• Email: jmcleod@nationalpost.com | Twitter: jamespmcleod

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