The next step on our social innovation journey
SVX is taking another exciting step in its twelve year social innovation journey. As of this month, the organization was officially spun out of MaRS to become an autonomous entity with a new Board of Directors. We wanted to share the news, how we got here, what it means for our community, who’s on our new Board of Directors, what we’ve learned, and a brief snapshot of what’s coming up in the months ahead.
There is a lot to cover, so let’s get right to it.
First proposed as an idea in 2007, SVX was incubated at MaRS as a project since 2010, completing its feasibility under Social Innovation Generation (SiG) at MaRS and then launching as one of the signature initiatives of the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing. (SVX team members also supported a number of other initiatives at the Centre, from the Social Finance Forum to the start-up of B Lab Canada to the launch of the MaRS Catalyst Fund.) SVX was incorporated as a nonprofit organization under the MaRS umbrella in 2013 given its unique financial services activities and firm registration. The plan was to become independent when the organization and the market reached the right level of maturity.
It is the right moment for us. SVX has reached a natural stage of evolution to be a fully independent organization, having achieved important progress and significant milestones from registering as a full Exempt Market Dealer (EMD) and raising over $40 million for issuers since 2017 to establishing new impact investing funds like the VERGE Breakthrough Fund and expanding operations to the US and Mexico. It is also the right moment for the impact investing market nationally and globally. There is remarkable interest and activity in impact investing, from significant growth in place-based impact investing activity to remarkable growth in overall assets dedicated to impact investing in Canada (~$15 billion) and around the world (~$500 billion).
What does it mean for our community?
We will maintain and continue to grow our support for our community of issuers, investors and partners:
- We will continue to serve our current issuers and to support new ventures, funds and organizations. We will also continue to serve and support our growing community of impact investors across the country.
- We will continue to maintain and grow partnerships in Canada and around the world. We have an outstanding group of partners including VERGE Capital / Pillar Nonprofit Network, Esplanade, CSI, Upper Canada Social Impact Fund, Ryerson Social Venture Zone (SVZ), Rhiza Capital, Tides Canada, Genus Capital Management, SVX.MX, SVX US (Cutting Edge Capital and Bequia Securities), Katipult, Mirella and Lino Saputo Foundation, J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, the Government of Ontario, Koerner Foundation, the Young Fund of the Hamilton Community Foundation, TMX Group Inc., and MaRS. And MaRS remains a committed partner and physical home for SVX. [Aside: Our new office is on the main floor of the MaRS Centre. So it is kind of like moving out of your parent’s house but we’re living in the cozy apartment on the main floor.]
- New resources and partners are being brought on board to support the next phase of growth of the organization, including our new Board of Directors and new advisors to complement our outstanding Issuer Review Committee. SVX partners and team members are working diligently to collectively drive greater scale and impact for our venture and investor community.
- Our vision remains steadfast: we are committed to a world where all investments are impact investments.
We will continue to pursue activities that can help us to achieve that vision. Looking ahead, the team has set a number of strategic priorities for the organization for the year ahead and beyond:
- Issuer Focus: We will look to focus on structured products, funds, and more mature ventures as target issuers for the platform. We believe this aligns with the interests of our current and prospective investor community, and it will allow us to mobilize more capital to achieve greater impact.
- Hands-on Issuer Advisory: We will dedicate team resources to support investment readiness for prospective issuers (ventures, funds and organizations) in order to help them design and develop offerings, from working on financial models to developing term sheets, then support capital raising through our platform. This builds upon work we have done with organizations from YWCA Toronto to Windmill Microlending to House of Friendship in Kitchener-Waterloo.
- Fund Design and Management: We will focus resources on fund design and management, particularly for place-based funds, and seek to scale existing efforts. This builds upon our past and present fund design and management work, from the MaRS Catalyst Fund to the VERGE Breakthrough Fund to the proposed EntrepreNorth Fund. One of the key components of this strategy will be our Scaling Impact initiative, a network of place-based intermediaries across Canada from Whitehorse to the Sunshine Coast to Montréal that support entrepreneurs and manage local impact investing funds.
- Investor and Venture Education: We will continue to deliver and to develop one-to-many education offerings for ventures and investors at all stages of their impact journey. Our work with venture education and place-based funds will allow us to continue to support the early stage venture community.
We will also continue to advance strategic partnerships and projects, from our work with Genus on our Impact Investment Counsel initiative to our partnerships and projects in the US, Mexico and Colombia.
And we will also look to refine our mission to reflect a wider mandate for the organization: today, SVX is a financial services firm that designs offerings, manages place-based funds, and mobilizes capital for impact ventures, funds, organizations, and investors.
Who is on the new SVX Board of Directors?
We are delighted to announce a great group of leaders who will comprise the new SVX Board of Directors:
- Lina Bowden, Advisor, VERGE Capital
- Raj Dewan, Partner, McMillan LLP
- Kevin Doyle, Vice-President, Canada Overseas Inc.
- Grace Lee Reynolds, CFO, COO, MaRS Discovery District
- Robert Peterman, Vice-President, Global Business Development, TMX Group Inc.
- Adam Spence, Director, SVX
These new Board members bring a wealth of skills, experience and commitment to the organization and to the impact investing community. You can read the outstanding bios of all of the new Board members below.
What have we learned?
There are three key lessons that emerge when reflecting on this next step in our journey:
1. Innovation, particularly social innovation, is powered by great people. The work of SVX has been carried out by a small but mighty team. But our work has been enabled by advisors, partners, and a very large group of people in partner organizations. In particular, we want to recognize team members at MaRS across multiple departments including Finance, Communications, HR, Systems, Venture Services, Events, IT/AV, Real Estate and more who have helped over the past decade or so. The next steps we take as an organization are due to their excellence and long-term commitment to our mission. Although we cannot mention them all, we want to thank and recognize them for their support, guidance, and kindness. A list seemed unwieldy, so we went artistic instead.
2. Innovation, particularly social innovation, is powered by great partners. In coldly rational terms, we have undertaken a governance transition from a subsidiary to an independent organization. However, we have been pursuing a path of greater interdependence for many years by forming mutually beneficial partnerships with numerous organizations. These partnerships have made us more resilient and more capable of achieving our vision and mission. So we are not really an independent organization. We have developed an interdependent organization, working collaboratively and collectively with partners to support social entrepreneurs and impact investors across North America. As an organization that is committed to systems change in the capital markets, we believe in a collective approach to change systems, with collaboration driving greater impact, resilience, and results.
3. Technology can enable impact investing. But it doesn’t make impact investments. Our impact investing platform has been a successful endeavour and a necessary condition for our success, but it is an insufficient condition to achieve our vision. A spectrum of services is needed to advance impact investing, including education, advice, transaction supports, and management services for investors and entrepreneurs. And you also need a good ground game to move many investors from interest to action for private impact investments, which relies on relationships, trust, and in-person interaction. This lesson is reflected in our updated mission and strategy.
So what’s next for us?
Beyond the critical tasks required for transitioning to an independent organization, here are a few highlights of what’s coming up in the summer and early fall:
- We will be hosting a variety of events in the months ahead including an impact investor gathering in Vancouver on May 9th and a summer social in June in Toronto.
- We will be hosting a venture bootcamp in August.
- We will also be hosting a special invite-only gathering in September for mission-driven investors and philanthropists seeking to fully mobilize their assets and wealth towards high impact investing and philanthropy. All-in Impact will be a two day event hosted in Prince Edward County that will enable participants through an in-depth experience including executive level content, case studies, storytelling, and coaching.
- We have work to do to help a number of our current issuers raise capital for interim and final closes in the summer and fall.
- We will be raising funds and working with current and new partners to advance our strategic priorities.
We look forward to connecting with you as we take these next steps and beyond on our social innovation journey. Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions or if you would like to learn more.
Biographies: SVX Board of Directors
Lina Bowden, FCPA, FCMA, MA, is the catalyst behind VERGE Capital, a community-led collaborative that creates local investment for local impact in London and Southwestern Ontario. Since 2012, Lina has been instrumental in bringing together key community stakeholders to create a strong ecosystem for local impact investing. A program of Pillar Nonprofit Network, VERGE Capital operates two social finance funds and works to engage local impact investors. Lina has also been an advisor and coach to numerous social entrepreneurs. She is also engaged with several social finance and investment committees and roundtables across the province and the country. Prior to 2010, Lina spent 30 years in financial services, including Partner at Highstreet Asset Management and SVP, Marketing and Product Development with AGFAsset Management. In her career she has held leadership positions in finance, marketing and client service.Lina holds a Masters of Arts in Community Development from the University of New Hampshire and she is a fellow of the Society of Management Accountants
Raj Dewan is a partner in the Capital Markets and China practice groups at McMillan LLP, a national business law firm. Raj has an active legal practice that is focused on advising public and private companies in high-growth sectors (TMT, energy and agriculture), mid-market investment banks, venture capital funds and family offices. As part of the China practice group, Raj has significant experience advising on cross-border transactions in and from Canada with emerging markets, specifically in relation to structuring, sourcing, and implementing cross-border financings, inbound/outbound investments and international joint ventures between Canadian companies and corporate groups and family offices inAsia.Raj is currently a mentor with SuperCharger Accelerator, a leading fintech accelerator in Asia with offices in both Hong Kong and Malaysia. Raj was previously a director of the Toronto Chapter of TIE Global, an international network of 15,000 entrepreneurs with 61 chapters across 15 countries.
Kevin Doyle is the Executive Vice President of Canada Overseas Investments Limited, a single-family office based in Toronto. He was previously responsible for Corporate Strategy at the TMX Group for ten years, having worked as a consultant with McKinsey & Company for the three years prior. Before that, Mr. Doyle spent eight years working for the Electronic Data Systems in business development in Asia, based out of Tokyo and then later Hong Kong. Mr. Doyle also serves on the boards of Central Wire Industries, the AGO Foundation, the CAMH Foundation, and reBOOT Canada. He obtained the ICD.D designation from the Institute of Corporate Directors. Mr. Doyle holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance from the Sauder School of Business at UBC, and a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Doyle is an avid tennis player, skier and scuba diver. He lives in Toronto with his wife Michelle and their three children.
Grace Lee Reynolds, MaRS COO and CFO, oversees the operations portfolio which includes real estate & events, data & technology, finance, legal, and corporate development functions at MaRS. She is also responsible for governance and financial strategy and accountability, and serves as the Secretary-Treasurer of the Board. Committed to organizations that drive meaningful social impact, she has held leadership roles in healthcare and charitable organizations. Prior to joining MaRS in 2011, she worked at University Health Network, where she was Director, Finance in the Corporate Office, Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation and Toronto Western Hospital. She began her career at Ernst & Young before moving to the Research Institute of The Hospital for Sick Children, followed by the SickKids Foundation, where she was Senior Director, Finance. Grace is a Chartered Professional Accountant and holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Accounting degrees from the University of Waterloo.
Robert Peterman is Vice-President, Global Business Development at Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), TSX Venture Exchange (TSXV).He is responsible for domestic and international business development activities for TSX and TSXV; including the Beijing office and TSX and TSXV’s presence in the United Kingdom and Israel. His group covers new listings and investor development activities for TSX and TSXV. Combined, the exchanges are home to over 3,100 public issuers. During 2016 $62.2B was raised by companies on TSX and TSXV making it one of the largest exchanges in the world for raising equity capital.