When bootstrapped tech entrepreneurs need to take the next step in their development, who do they turn to? In Ottawa, there is a group of early-stage investors who are willing to test assumptions, provide capital and offer guidance. That group is the Capital Angel Network. OBJ publisher Michael Curran talks with its executive director, Suzanne Grant in this episode of Techopia Live.
OBJ: I am happy, Suzanne, we've bumped into each other many times over the years and you're in this role of executive director. Let's start there. I want to make sure people understand who you are. You've had a long and successful career, you've been in Ottawa, you've been in Qatar, you've been in San Francisco. Tell us about your career.
SG: I guess it has three chapters. I kicked off my career with a scholarship for military engineering. So I'm a veteran of 13 years, but I really had a calling to become an entrepreneur. Took me some time to figure that out. And at the same time,I did an adventure move to the Middle East and bootstrapped a number of companies over there that were wildly successful. I came back home in 2010 for my kids to start university, and I was invited to co-found a med tech company back in 2015. As of late, I've been in the nonprofit leadership side in technology and now at Capital Angels.
OBJ: Thanks, Suzanne. I think you were very modest in introducing yourself, but we appreciate you keeping it brief. Let's talk about Capital Angel Network. As I mentioned, it's been around for many years, but just give us the brief history and then we'll talk about some of the things that Capital Angel Network has achieved over the years. So, when was it started and what is its purpose?
SG: So, Capital Angel Network's purpose is to help grow the ecosystem in Ottawa and in the Ottawa region. It was named Capital Network in 2005, 2009. It originally started in 2005 under a different name. And over the years, we've helped 150 companies get off the ground. A lot of well-known scaling companies, if you go back in their history, you see they have ties to Capital Angels. The angels themselves are members and are there to not only provide funding for the startups, but to also contribute their expertise, guidance and advice. And I have to say, I just wrapped up my second quarter. So, I'm relatively new here. And what struck me is the caliber of the people, board, members, and volunteers we have. You can't ask me exactly what we're investing in because it's a very individual decision. And we're also very active in changing access to investment through a program we support called SheBoot. We're drawing in women angel investors who are just dipping their toe in the water and we're seeing a really wonderful outcome from that. We're way beyond the days where a diverse founder has to come and just look at a panel of white guys.
OBJ: That's important. I'm glad. I think I saw a stat, 20 per cent of the angel investors are women?
SG: That's right. 20 per cent of our members are women and in 2021, 32 per cent of the money we invested went to companies with women co-founders. We're really leading the pack in Ontario and that side of things.
OBJ: I know the investors are probably a variety of genders from a variety of sectors and educational and professional background, but just give people a sense of who an angel investor would be in this group.
SG: They're all unique, but you could probably put them into three buckets. So we have people who are exploring, maybe they've been doing angel investment alone and they want the opportunity, the learning and the peer learning and some help around due diligence. We have new investors, some come in and just do our training program and learn by watching and some jump right in and start making investments right away. And then we have a group that have been executives in companies that have scaled. We also have a lot of CEO founders who have exited their companies and they come back to give back. We have another group that actually are family offices that maybe are diversifying their investment portfolios. BDC is with us, Ontario Centers of Innovation are part of our group and we also have venture capitalists who are members of CAN.
OBJ: And that's excellent, thank you very much for giving us that sense. We probably have people listening who're probably thinking "Dragons' Den.”
SG: No, nothing like "Dragons' Den." No, nice people, just beautiful people.