iNovia’s Empower Initiative hopes to help founders of all backgrounds

“We believe in the power of community to solve the world’s biggest challenges,” begins a blog post published to Medium yesterday by the iNovia Capital team.

“In our 10 years supporting Canadian founders and startups, we’ve seen how the democratization of information and the mobilization of small, motivated teams have disrupted powerful systems of business and government; how access to affordable technology and skills have created pipelines for people to turn good ideas and hard work into incredible companies.”

The blog post is an invitation to Montreal and Toronto founders who “may not yet have a foothold” in the startup space to apply to iNovia’s newly launched Empower Initiative. The initiative is an effort to make the firm’s expertise more readily available to founders of all backgrounds, especially those who may face more systemic barriers.

The program is open to founders from all backgrounds, but the hope is that founders from traditionally underrepresented groups in tech—such as women, people of colour, people with disabilities and people from the LGBTQ+ community—will especially benefit.

“iNovia has been investing in startups in Montreal and Toronto for over 10 years, and yet as we looked over the raw numbers, we saw that only 23% of our current portfolio includes founders from underrepresented groups,” Chris Arsenault, Managing Partner at iNovia, told MTLinTECH. “As we see ourselves as a “people first” fund, we have come to see how — without specific emphasis to break through engrained barriers — that we may be inadvertently perpetuating a cycle that is ultimately limiting for many people. One of the greatest assets we have is our network, and so we recognize that community, access, and a top-notch sounding board is a critical pillar of strength for successful startups. While this initiative may be just a first step, we believe that making sure people see the door is open can be invaluable.”

Research conducted by iNovia showed that mentorship, community, and capital were the key barriers preventing high-potential founders from succeeding.

“Montréal is our home, and we feel connected to many of the institutions that help people who are already in the tech startup pipeline, like CDL and McGill,” Salima Ladha, Head of Talent and People, told MTLinTECH. “We recognize however, that these organizations represent just a small subset of the community — and brilliant people with passion and commitment that we believe could build the next great Canadian startup. We know that Montréal — thanks to our multilingual heritage, the fact that diversity is part of our core DNA, and our incredible tech talent — is positioned for exponential growth over the next 5 years. It’s important to us that everyone can have access to this updraft — because we believe it will ultimately make us all that much stronger.”

By setting aside time each week to spend with founders, helping them with challenges, giving feedback, and evaluating them for investment, iNovia hopes that they can enable all types of founders to improve and succeed.

The program is currently open to founders in Montreal and Toronto, but the firm hopes to expand it across Canada eventually.

Interested founders can apply here.

Photo by on Unsplash

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