Jonathan Hera, the co-founder of Toronto-based Marigold Capital, isn't all that impressed with the changes he’s seeing in the funding of entrepreneurs. "The white men funding other white men with toys is shifting to white men funding privileged white women, he says. He does think this represents some progress: "The access gap is real," he says, referring to women entrepreneurs and their ability to raise capital. “But to focus on one attribute is not in our minds appropriate or holistic enough."
So in March of 2019, Hera started raising a venture fund to complement Marigold's advisory work. The fund, he says, is a "deep gender equity social impact fund." That means that yes, Marigold is looking for female founders and people of color. But Hera wants to see those founders leading businesses that are helping marginalized populations. For him, that means focusing on two sectors. One is healthcare, and companies that are focusing on either sexual and reproductive health or mental health. The other is social justice and equity. "We’re trying to tackle modern slavery, or human trafficking, by looking at supply chain elements in fast fashion or food security," he says. Some local media companies, he says, can also fall into the category of social justice.
Hera is targeting a C$20 million fund, with a first close of C$5-6 million. It'll be looking for companies in Ontario and Quebec, as well as the Great Lakes, Midwest, and Northeast U.S. Hera anticipates that the fund will write first checks of $200,000 to $300,000 to about 30 companies. He estimates that about eight companies will need second rounds, to which Marigold could contribute $500K to $750,000. Three companies might get third-round checks from Marigold of up to $1.1 million.
So far, Marigold has invested in Ulula, a software to help stop sexual harassment and other abuses; NeedsList, which helps channel humanitarian aid and disaster relief efforts; and The Discourse, which supports locally driven community journalism.