Ottawa’s most prominent network of angel investors is turning to a veteran tech insider to lead its push to diversify its membership base and deepen its pool of industry expertise.
The Capital Angel Network announced this week that Suzanne Grant has been appointed executive director. She replaces Nolan Beanlands, who left the organization earlier this month after four years at the helm to become manager of early stage investments at Ottawa-based fund manager BridgeGreen Capital.
Founded in 2009, CAN now has 60 members, who’ve invested more than $30 million into nearly 100 companies.
Among the startups it’s backed in recent years are software firm Rewind, which recently landed a US$65-million series-B funding round, and last-mile delivery platform GoFor, which topped OBJ’s list of Ottawa’s fastest-growing companies earlier this year.
In Grant, the organization has tapped a leader with an impressive pedigree in the tech industry.
The Ottawa native recently served a stint as chief executive of the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance, where she oversaw the organization’s COVID-19 emergency advocacy campaign.
The Carleton University science graduate also has an entrepreneurial bent, co-founding biotech startup iBIONICS in 2015. Her work with iBIONICS, which uses diamond-based retinal implants to help restore vision to the blind, earned her nods as a 2019 Shepreneur to Watch from Success Insights.
CAN chair Jennifer Francis called Grant a “dynamic” leader whose experience with building a startup from scratch gives her keen insights into the challenges and opportunities facing the founders who pitch to the organization.
“I think that brings a great perspective for the group,” Francis said.
Under Beanlands’ guidance, CAN’s annual investment tally rose from $3.3-million in 2017 to more than $5-million in 2019 before dipping last year due to the pandemic. Grant knows she has big shoes to fill but sees a bright future for CAN, which has nearly doubled its membership from two years ago and added more bench strength with experts from emerging fields such as cleantech and biotech.
“We’ve got a lot of new members that are very young, very dynamic, across multiple sectors,” she told Techopia. “The collective intelligence of the organization is phenomenal. I’m looking forward to learning.”
Francis said the organization has made a concerted effort to broaden its knowledge base by adding more experienced professionals such as lawyers, doctors and financial experts to its team. Bringing Grant on board will accelerate that process, she added.
“That diversity is really helping us in bringing in more deals, more sectors and better-quality analysis,” Francis said. “With Suzanne, we want to just take that to the next level.”
Pointing to Rewind’s recent raise, the veteran angel investor said she believes the city is turning the corner after a recent funding drought and is now poised to enter a new golden age of tech entrepreneurship.
“Bringing that kind of money into Ottawa is a really, really good sign,” Francis said. “We’ve seen it happening recently in Toronto. Now we’re starting to see those larger deals in Ottawa. We’ve got a lot of exciting companies starting up.”