Investment-Ready Bootcamp for Women Founders Reports Impact to Date, and Prepares to Launch Fourth National Call for Applications
Ottawa, Ontario – March 8, 2023: The Capital Angel Network (CAN), the largest angel investor group in the Ottawa-Gatineau Region, and top 5 most active group in Canada, and Invest Ottawa, lead economic development agency for knowledge-based industries in Canada’s Capital, today announced the conclusion of SheBoot’s first national cohort, and the cumulative impact of the investment-ready bootcamp for women founders since its inception. Since the launch of SheBoot in March 2020, graduates have secured more than $12.5 million in new investment. This represents key steps towards a critical SheBoot goal – to help all participating founders acquire the capital required to grow and succeed.
Building on the outcomes achieved during its first two foundational years, Invest Ottawa and CAN expanded SheBoot nationally in April 2022 leveraging critical support from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP). Over the last year, 15 founders across the country have accelerated their investment readiness as part of SheBoot’s first official Canada-wide cohort. This included participation in the SheBoot Pitch Competition last November at AccelerateOTT, the flagship entrepreneurship conference hosted by Invest Ottawa, where founders vied for $300,000 in equity-based investment from 30 women angels. The following founders claimed top awards:
- Negin Ashouri and Inara Lalani, Co-Founders of FemTherapeutics Inc., a Canadian-based medical device company specializing in the development of the world’s first customizable gynecological prosthetic: Top prize winner with $150,000 in investment.
- Macarena Cataldo-Hernandez, Ph.D., Co-founder & CEO of Viridis Research, the future of advanced water treatment: Second prize winner: $100,000 in investment.
- Lianna Genovese, Founder & CEO of ImaginAble Solutions, a medical equipment manufacturing company creating innovative assistive devices to improve the quality of life for people living with limited motor skills: Third prize winner: $50,000 in investment.
- Livia Han and Eve Staszczyszyn, Co-Founders of Compass; emerging from the University of Ottawa, this holistic mental health platform that provides students with resources based on their unique needs, wants and identity: Crowd Favorite award winner with an opportunity to pitch the Capital Angel Network.
As the third cohort concludes, program leaders reported on the progress and cumulative impact of SheBoot with 250 stakeholders at the annual Women Angel Investor Breakfast headlined by Arlene Dickinson, internationally recognized serial entrepreneur and investor, at the start of International Women’s Week. Since its inception in March 2020, SheBoot:
- Launched early in the pandemic by the Capital Angel Network and Invest Ottawa with critical support from FedDev Ontario through the ScaleUp Platform
- Pivoted from in-person to fully virtual and hybrid program delivery
- Received more than 280 applications from women founders of tech and tech-enabled companies
- Attracted increasing diverse founders from diverse industries spanning cleantech, AI, software, agtech, robotics, medtech and more
- Completed three cohorts with 39 women founders and co-founders from 34 scaling technology companies across five provinces
- Tripled the number of women angel investors from 10 to 30, and the corresponding equity-based investment prizes for the SheBoot Pitch Competition from $100,000 to $300,000
- Attracted more than 50 women mentors, advisors and champions who make critical contributions to the program and founders it serves
- Established a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) with Mistral Ventures, enabling SheBoot angel investors to pool their money and make a single, collaborative investments in companies
- Expanded nationally with funding support from NRC IRAP, growing the cohort from 10 to 15 participating companies
- Secured Welch LLP as a program sponsor delivering accounting, tax and advisory services
- Achieved a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 92 from participating founders in 2022; a score of 50 is considered exceptional
- Generated media coverage for participating founders in Forbes, CTV National, the Globe and Mail, BNN, the Canadian Press, BetaKit, CBC, CTV Ottawa, and the Ottawa Business Journal
- Helped to catalyze more than $12.5 million in new investment for graduates in just 28 months (this figure is higher when combined with the investment not publicly disclosed)
The current economic climate and compounding impact of the pandemic continues to exacerbate the systemic challenges facing women founders, particularly in the investment landscape. Over the last five years, women-founded startups have never exceeded 2.8% of the total capital allocated to venture-backed firms. SheBoot aims to address this challenge head-on by building the pipeline of investment-ready women founders and increasing the number of women making investments. Research shows when more women invest, more women get funded.
Applications for the fourth national cohort of SheBoot will launch this spring.
“Our experience in SheBoot was incredibly rewarding. It has led to new and exciting opportunities for FemTherapeutics Inc. The $150,000 investment prize we received as the first-place winner of the SheBoot Pitch Competition is critical as we scale our company. SheBoot equipped us with the training, expertise, and funding we needed at a very critical time in our business development. We have developed the world’s first customizable gynecological prosthetic. The learnings from SheBoot will help us scale and bring our personalized medicine solution for women to the global market.”
- Negin Ashouri and Inara Lalani, Co-founders of FemTherapeutics Inc., First place winner of the SheBoot Pitch Competition
“I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in SheBoot and benefit from the experience of the women founders and investors leading this program and win $100,000 in investment through the pitch competition. This is a game-changer for our advanced water technology solution and our business. At this stage of growth, programs like SheBoot are critical. We achieved significant progress in a very short time. The on-going support I have acquired from fellow founders, advisors and investors since the conclusion of the bootcamp is invaluable as it helps us to remain connected to a supportive community.”
- Macarena Cataldo-Hernandez, Ph.D., Co-founder & CEO/CTO of Viridis Research Inc., Second place winner of the SheBoot Pitch Competition
“SheBoot helped us to refine our pitch, build new relationships with investors, and increase our investment-readiness as a company. We have developed an international award-winning assistive device that enables anyone with limited fine motor skills to write, paint, draw and access technology. We look forward to employing the skills we have acquired and putting them to work to help bring our innovation to those with disabilities around the world. This directly supports our mission to help promote their communication, independence and self-expression during recreation and rehabilitation.”
- Lianna Genovese, Founder & CEO of ImaginAble Solutions
“We learned so much during our time at SheBoot. SheBoot program leaders, mentors and investors helped us to identify key opportunities to strengthen our business. Thank you to the knowledgeable mentors who advised us in our pitch presentation, finances, and marketing and communications. We are excited to apply learnings from SheBoot as we grow Compass, a platform that connects individuals to personalized and holistic mental health support!”
- Livia Han and Eve Staszczyszyn, Co-founders of Compass
“It has been an honour to collaborate closely with all members of our growing SheBoot community. This includes the 38 founders who have participated in SheBoot; the 30 women angels who contributed critical investment; and more than 50 advisors who have supported three cohorts over three years. The outcomes we have achieved together underscore the power of this novel collaboration. I am incredibly proud that SheBoot has scaled nationally with critical support from NRC IRAP and helped graduates to acquire more than $12.5 million in new investment. I want to thank everyone who has contributed to SheBoot since its inception and helped to catalyze the growth of women founders.”
- Julia Elvidge, Director, Capital Angel Network; Advisor, Invest Ottawa; and SheBoot Co-founder
“There are many high growth women-led tech companies, but not enough are receiving the support they need to land critical capital and scale. The investment allocated to sole women-founded companies has hovered around two percent for years. This is completely unacceptable. It is critical to attract more women investors to help eliminate long-standing systemic barriers facing women entrepreneurs. Together with many collaborators, we are committed to building on the step-by-step progress achieved to date and driving long-term sustainable change in Canada’s Capital and across Canada.”
- Jennifer Francis, Chair, Capital Angel Network; Director of the Board, Invest Ottawa; and SheBoot Co-Founder
“SheBoot directly supports the bold goals we have established with our community as a part of our Women Founders and Owners Strategy. Together with partners across our ecosystem, we aim to help Canada’s Capital become the greatest region in the world for women founders from every walk of life to launch and scale successful global firms. As SheBoot continues to evolve nationally, we have a unique opportunity to help Canada become the greatest country in the world for women founders and share the learnings from this program globally to drive long-term sustainable change.”
- Sonya Shorey, Vice President, Strategy, Marketing and Communications, Invest Ottawa, and SheBoot Co-Founder
“Sincere congratulations to all graduates of SheBoot. It is an honour us at Mistral to assist this impactful program and help fuel the success of high growth founders from across the country. We look forward to celebrating your continued growth in the days ahead.”
- Pablo Srugo, Partner, Mistral
SheBoot is a six-week bootcamp based in Ottawa, Ontario, that prepares women founders across Canada to pitch their business and secure investment. Launched in March 2020 during International Women’s Week by founding organizations Capital Angel Network and Invest Ottawa, this program aims to help address the funding gap facing women entrepreneurs by increasing the number of women making and receiving investment. Designed and delivered by women investors and entrepreneurs, SheBoot arms technology and technology-enabled startups with fundamental business skills with a focus on investment and market readiness. It culminates in a pitch competition for a minimum of $300,000 of equity-based capital. This investment is made by women investors committed to fueling the next generation of women-owned and led firms. SheBoot has partnered with Mistral Ventures and Welch, and it is supported in part by funding from NRC IRAP. It also benefits from previous investment through the ScaleUp platform supported by FedDev Ontario. For additional information, please visit: www.sheboot.ca
About the Capital Angel Network
Capital Angel Network (CAN) is the largest early-stage investor group in the National Capital Region and one of the top five most active angel groups across Canada. Since CAN’s inception in 2009, members have invested $65M into more than 160 early-stage companies. 85% of direct investments have been into Gatineau, Ottawa and Kanata area startups. CAN’s early-stage funding has led to half a billion dollars in additional investment through grants, syndication with other angel groups and venture capital funds.
In 2022 CAN members made over $5M early-stage investments including 22 direct CAN deals. The membership base consists of individual angels, VC and family office investors. 30% of members are women and more than 50% of CAN direct investments in 2022 had a female founder or co-founder. Membership is open to angel, VC, family office investors and funds. For additional information, please visit: www.capitalangels.ca
About Invest Ottawa
Invest Ottawa is the lead economic development agency for knowledge-based industries in Canada’s Capital, facilitating economic growth and job creation in Ottawa. Guided by a vision to help realize Ottawa’s full potential as a globally recognized, innovative, inclusive, and future-ready city, Invest Ottawa delivers venture development, global expansion and talent programs and services that catalyze the growth and success of entrepreneurs and firms. These include small business training, mentorship, acceleration for technology firms, foreign business and investment attraction, local business retention and expansion in targeted sectors, commercialization, and marketing Ottawa’s diversified economy and high quality of life. Invest Ottawa is also the manager of Bayview Yards, Ottawa’s innovation hub and one-stop business acceleration shop; and founder and operator of Area X.O, the R&D complex for next-gen smart mobility, autonomy and connectivity technologies. Since 2013, Invest Ottawa has supported almost 14,000; contributed to the creation of more than 14,700 jobs; helped domestic companies raise $1.86 billion in capital; and attracted $1.47 billion in domestic and foreign direct investment to Ottawa. Explore Invest Ottawa’s 2022 Economic Impact Report for additional details, or visit www.investottawa.ca
About Mistral Venture Partners
Mistral is a seed-stage venture capital firm with offices in Toronto, Ottawa, and California. Mistral is currently investing from their third fund, with a focus on SMB and enterprise software. Since they were founded in 2012, Mistral has invested in more than 30 startups – including companies like Ritual, Symend and Rewind. www.mistralvp.com
About Welch LLP
Welch LLP is a Chartered Public Accounting firm that has deep roots in the communities it serves. Since 1918, Welch has been providing a wide range of accounting, tax and advisory services to private enterprises, government, and not-for-profit businesses. Welch experts are industry specialists who have an in-depth understanding of marketplace influences, issues, and trends unique to each sector. A true partner, Welch takes a collaborative, relationship-driven approach to client service. Big firm expertise, with small firm service and value. Welch LLP is a firm like no other. For more information, please visit: https://welchllp.com/
Here for All Women
When we use the term ‘women,’ we are referring to all individuals who identify as women. This includes women of colour, transgender women, and women with gender-diverse identities, including non-binary and gender non-conforming women (as we know that gender is fluid and can change throughout one’s lifetime). These women have historically and systemically been excluded from many mainstream programs, services, and opportunities. SheBoot, Invest Ottawa and the Capital Angel Network are making a concerted effort to prioritize equity, access, and inclusion in everything we do. Our goal is to ensure that anyone who wants to access our programs and services feels welcome and supported. We recognize that every founder has unique needs and lived experiences and that, in some cases, we are not currently well-equipped to address all of these unique needs.
At SheBoot, we have not yet systematically assessed how we can enhance our programming and advisory to best support gender-diverse founders. For example, our advisors and program teams have not yet received training to help them address the needs of racialized and gender-diverse founders; however, this is now in process at Invest Ottawa. Leveraging the diversity of our partners and networks, our internal DEI experts, and our generous, committed community, we will do our best to support the needs of all participants. We welcome all women, non-binary, gender diverse, and non-conforming founders to SheBoot, and are committed to listening, learning, and helping every founder to thrive.
Vice President, Strategy, Marketing and Communications
Invest Ottawa, Bayview Yards, and Area X.O
Co-Founder of SheBoot