New venture capital fund for women-led startups

WATERLOO REGION — Women-led startups receive just 3% of venture capital funding, according to Danielle Graham, managing partner of the Phoenix Fire investment fund.

To mark International Women’s Day, Graham announced on Tuesday that the angel investment fund is accepting new investors through the end of the month.

“It’s good news; it’s official,” Graham said.

Based at Catalyst Commons in Kitchener, Phoenix Fire will invest $100,000 to $250,000 in women-led start-ups.

“This is new capital focused on those angel stages where there is significant risk, but we can help de-risk these companies by working closely with them,” Graham said.

The founding partners include a dozen women from technology and investment backgrounds. They will advise, support and mentor startup founders.

Among them is Diane Wolfenden, who started investing with the Golden Triangle Angel Network in 2009 after meeting Graham. What began as simple investments became a way to pursue one of its most important values: improving the economic status of women.

Years ago, Graham recognized the potential of private equity to improve the economic status of women and racialized groups by using targeted investment funds.

“I was so excited to get involved with Phoenix Fire,” Wolfenden said. “We’re reaching out to women who wouldn’t normally think of investing in other women this way, wouldn’t normally think of being an angel investor.”

There are very few others like it, Wolfenden said.

“Women are starting to come together to support other women, Wolfenden said. “I would say it’s only been in the last two years that we’re starting to see it become more formalized.”

Phoenix Fire is the latest investment vehicle Graham has deployed to address some of the jarring demographics associated with the tech sector – more so than most sectors of the economy, it remains dominated by white men and men get 97% of venture capital.

After raising $10 million for Sandpiper Ventures, an East Coast investment fund for women entrepreneurs, Graham returned to the Toronto-Waterloo region corridor for Phoenix Fire.

After creating the Fierce Founders program at Communitech in 2014, a boot camp for women and non-binary ID entrepreneurs, Graham then focused on private equity funds.

Investors in the latest fund include Leen Li (CEO of Wealthsimple Foundation), Sherry Shannon-Vanstone (CEO of Profound Impact), Iliana Oris Valiente (CEO of Accenture Canada), Thealzel Lee (Founder and President of eFund Colombia British) and Jenelle Ernest (CEO of Brandtalk Media).

“I’ve been doing this for eight years,” Graham said. “I think we’re getting buy-in from the right people for the right reasons at the right stages to have the most impact.”

Phoenix Fire is the latest fund to open as part of the super angel group that came together in October 2021 as the Archangel Network.

About Dwaine Pinson

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