A grassroots approach to improving the dearth of VC funding in Ottawa
Despite an abundance of innovation and startups, Ottawa continues to face a shortage of funding, so two local entrepreneurs decided that instead of turning to external investors or government grants, they would look in the mirror instead.
Openera founder Peter Lalonde.
Those two are Peter Lalonde, founder of local cross-cloud content manager Openera, and Kyle Braatz, a 2012 OBJ Forty Under 40 recipient and founder of mobile commerce platform Health Wave, which allows health professionals to sell natural health products to clients.
They teamed up to create a website allowing entrepreneurs to sign a pledge to invest in other startups if they achieve success.
Mr. Lalonde told OBJ how the Founder’s Pledge came to be:
“The idea came from talking to other entrepreneurs. We kept hearing the same stories over and over, that there is a lack of funding, and in Ottawa in particular. Part of it is that the venture capitalist community isn’t really investing a tremendous amount in Ottawa.
Most entrepreneurs are pretty self-reliant and problem-solvers. Myself and Kyle Braatz decided that there’s a bunch of us entrepreneurs here in Ottawa. Some of us are going to do really well and some of us aren’t. But those of us that do well, let’s commit to invest into the community that helped us to get there.
(Founder’s Pledge) started out as a social pledge, a handshake at events where we said, ‘Here’s what we’re doing, are you in?’
Now, the website is a public statement that says … if I’m lucky enough to have a good exit or do well as a startup, I’m going to pay back to the community. There aren’t any monetary guidelines. A lot of successful entrepreneurs go on to be angel investors, and this is one way to get early-stage entrepreneurs thinking about it now and reminding them what it was like to struggle.
Our vision is a successful, vibrant Ottawa, and one that has access to early-stage seed capital. Maybe it’s not large dollars, but maybe it’s smaller investments to get entrepreneurs started.”