Women’s Equity Lab (WEL), Canada’s first all-female angel fund is expanding across North America. WEL was first launched in Victoria in 2017 with the support of the National Angel Capital Organization (NACO) and has recently completed the investment of its third round. The Vancouver chapter was launched in 2020 followed by the Okanagan in early 2021. New groups are currently setting-up in Toronto, Winnipeg and Silicon Valley. To support the roll-out, WEL has just finished a complete rebrand and launched a new website at www.womensequitylab.com to help businesses apply for funding and for investors to find a WEL fund in their region.
WEL is comprised of groups of diverse, successful women who share expertise, insights and perspectives to make smart investments in new businesses. Our approach is a fun and accessible way to learn from the experience of early angel investing, activate capital to advance our economy and further gender equality. Across regions WEL teams closely collaborate, network and share deal flow, education, expertise and resources to support our investees and our communities and syndicate deals with other angel groups and government funding agencies.
Winnipeg, Toronto and Silicon Valley and the second Vancouver fund are actively recruiting 25-30 investors each, who commit $5,500. Partners meet monthly and collectively develop an investment thesis, assess deal flow and make investment decisions. Each fund invests in from three to five deals over a one-year period.
WEL Founding Partner (Victoria WEL Fund) Stephanie Andrew, also co-founder of the Capital Investment Network and Partner in Cindicates, a Victoria-based VC fund, started WEL because women are significantly under-represented in venture investing.
“In British Columbia more than 80 women are now active WEL investors and over $1M has been invested to date. With new WEL groups actively recruiting investors in Toronto, Winnipeg and Silicon Valley, the valuable impact of women shareholders is soon to rise exponentially and will result in more diverse corporate teams and board, which has been proven to lead to better
NACO is Canada’s national angel capital industry association and represents 45 regional angel investment groups and 40 accelerators and incubators. Says CEO Claudio Rojas, “We are committed to increasing diversity within the angel investor ecosystem to ensure that innovative entrepreneurs have access to the capital and connections they need to build Canada’s future. We are pleased to support the expansion of the Women’s Equity Lab and applaud the incredible work they are doing to engage more activate women angel investors.”
Vancouver’s WEL fund was co-founded in 2020 by Irene Dorsman who is also CEO of Vancouver’s Angel Forum – one of Canada’s longest serving angel networks. “There are important initiatives to support women entrepreneurs, but it is equally important to create more female investors. Not only is this key to growing financial assets owned by women, it also ensures early stage companies benefit from a female perspective as they grow their business.” The Okanagan WEL fund was launched this year and is the largest to date with 30 investors. The group, also known as Okanagan Women’s Mentoring and Angel Fund (WMAN), is focused on BC Interior ventures with one or more women on the management team and with women holding a significant equity interest.
WMAN co-founding partner Camille Saltman is a retired tech CEO who recently moved back to Canada from California. After launching a venture accelerator for The University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus, and looking back on her own experience fundraising and mentoring ventures, she realized there is still a big gap still to be filled. “Women-led ventures, after mentoring, more than double their ability to land bank financing but struggle to get angel and venture funding. Male-led ventures have the opposite experience. Why? Bank financing requires solid metrics but recent studies show angel and venture funding is still based on many subjective measures that have no bearing on the quality of the deal.”
The Women’s Enterprise Centre (WEC), a non-profit organization devoted to helping BC women start, lead and grow their own businesses issued a 2021 report, The Path Forward: Advancing the funding journeys of women entrepreneurs and it showed that over 61% of women entrepreneurs do not see current funding models fit their needs. Jill Earthy, CEO of WEC, says, “WEL unlocks new capital from women leaders with diverse backgrounds to participate as investors, while at the same time filling an important gap in the financing path for women-led businesses and all entrepreneurs.”
Interested in getting involved?
For more information on how to participate in WEL please refer to their website womensequitylab.com or contact Stephanie Andrew at 250-857-6369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.