AccelerateOTT: The Business Case for Investing in Women

Posted in AccelerateOTT, Blog
Jul 13, 2018

This blog is part of our AccelerateOTT: Scale or Fail Speaker Series. View the full series here.

Female Founders and Funders Panel at AccelerateOTT

Female Founders and Funders Panel featuring: Michelle McBane, Michelle Killoran, Janice McDonald, Eli Fathi, Suzy Ryoo, and Nicole Verkindt.

Speakers: Michelle McBane, Michelle Killoran, Janice McDonald, Eli Fathi, Suzy Ryoo, and Nicole Verkindt

Title: The Business Case for Investing in Women

It’s a fact: we know that diverse companies breed better products, better service and more resilient businesses. And still, barriers to entry remain, and inequality persists, preserving cultures that perpetuate inequity in the workplace. This reality is particularly true in STEM sectors…

Advancements have been made, but it’s time to expedite our progress. The question is, how do we challenge the status quo? How do we kick our companies into high-gear? How do we guarantee greater success in the future? And, where do we begin? AccelerateOTT started with our speakers, a panel and a discussion on women in the startup world.

The AccelerateOTT: Scale or Fail Female Founders and Funders panel, moderated by Michelle McBane, welcomed Nicole Verkindt, Janice McDonald, Suzy Ryoo, Michelle Killoran, and Eli Fathi to the stage (that’s right, the lineup was THAT GOOD!). This exceptional group of forward-thinking innovators stepped in front of the sold-out crowd ready to “talk reality.”

The panel’s kick-off to the discussion was a little different, starting with a shout-out to the person(s) who’s inspired them: mentors, moms, indigenous women, and more. From there, they dove right into the deep-end. That’s what we’ll be sharing with you: tidbits of content from the conference that made waves and is having a ripple effect.

A hot topic during the Female Founders and Funders panel was “accessing capital.” Sparking conversation was a reference to the BCG article: Women-Owned Startups Deliver Twice as Per Dollar Invested as Those Founded by Men. Women are outperforming men, yet consistently are underfunded.

In a bottoms-up, grassroots type movement there has been a shift over the last year(s) for women entrepreneurs. How do we make this sustainable, long-term, and implement real change for the future?

  1. More women need to work at VC firms. More women should be making investment decisions.
  2. A pipeline needs to be built. Women entrepreneurs are beginning to be funded based on a strong foundation that’s currently being built. More needs to be pulled together and dedicated to an infrastructure that’s sold and sustainable.
  3. The momentum needs to continue; lots of resources and opportunities have been created for women but the action and progress must continue.
  4. Women need to support other women-owned businesses.
  5. Capital needs to be unlocked and women must be determined on what they want to support.

Investment Tips for Females:

  1. Build relationships. With investors. Early. Even before active fundraising (3-6 months prior) reach-out and listen to stories, grab a coffee, and make connections. Specifically, create an excel spreadsheet to keep track of all investors you reach out to.
  2. Investors search for clarity in vision with every interaction. Perfect your ability to clearly communicate and show a deep understanding of what you need to accomplish at each stage.
  3. Have male and female mentors. And establish sponsors: people to champion you when you’re not there.
  4. Women, come together and give other women-led companies a lift.

Future Actions:

  • Be a connector. Build a strong network and help other people build strong networks.
  • If you’re a funder: fund women. The time is now – Invest. In. Women.
  • In the short term, mentor women. In the long term, implement a structural change in education.
  • Work together, everyone.

And remember, sustainable change requires everyday action. Accept the challenge to have difficult conversations and continue driving forward and be sure to bring others along for the ride.

On another but related note:

L-SPARK has taken the initiative, now it’s time for us to help build the largest database of Canadian female founders and funders and their organizations. Why? Because “no more excuses.”

When someone says…
“I can’t find female founders to invest in!”, send them this list.
“I can’t find female funders to connect to!”, send them this list.
“I can’t find qualified women to serve on my board!”, send them this list.
“Nothing great is happening in Canada!”, send them this list!!


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AccelerateOTT brings together the city’s innovators, creators and inventors. Work in tech? Starting a business? Just want to dip your toes in the proverbial entrepreneurial waters? You’ll be surrounded by founders, mentors and venture capitalists (some from as far as Silicon Valley) providing strategic and sage advice.

Since 2012, Invest Ottawa has ignited the Accelerate series in Ottawa, providing a conference that truly fuels the entrepreneurial fire. The day is packed with world-class speakers, power networking breaks and an epic after party!


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