Black Innovation Capital’s Lise Birikundavyi

From our Women's PE Briefs - week commencing June 14, 2021

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Lise Birikundavyi is now the first Black female to lead an institutionally backed venture fund in Canada. The Black Innovation Fund, which Lise is managing, held an initial close of 6.4 million Canadian. Launched by Black Innovation Capital and BDC Capital, the fund will invest in Canadian pre-seed and seed-stage technology companies founded by Black entrepreneurs. Other investors in the first close include RBC Ventures, Globalive Capital and TELUS Ventures. The fund has a $10 million target.

Black Innovation Capital was established to address a need uncovered through a strategic collaboration between Dream Maker Ventures and the DMZ at Ryerson University. The result was the 2019 launch of the Black Innovation Programs to support Black-owned startups and entrepreneurs. Both Black Innovation Capital and Dream Maker were founded by Isaac Olowolafe Jr.

Lise joined Black Innovation Capital last fall as a principal. She was previously investment manager/deputy country director for TRECC – Transforming Education in Cocoa Communities in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

In a statement, Lise said, “unconscious bias exists everywhere, including in investing. People typically invest in individuals and concepts they are familiar with, not always based on their values, experience or a sound business case. Our hope is to help build successful, Black-led businesses, deliver returns to our investors, and increase the diversity in the venture capital ecosystem.”

According to a 2019 CVCA study, only 18 percent of partners at Canadian venture capital firms were “visible minorities,” and that number dropped to 6 percent in private equity.

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