Convening at a table in Toronto’s OneEleven, North America’s largest innovation Hub, the CVCA and Anna Mackenzie, Front-End Developer, Nudge.ai, are discussing some of the interesting startups in the Silicon Valley-esque shared offices. OneEleven may be the workspace for companies like 360insights, Nudge and Hockeystick; but some of the folks working here are doing extraordinary things for the tech community when they aren’t busy building companies.
Anna Mackenzie isn’t just coding design elements for Nudge. Anna is currently serving as Toronto City Director for The Vinetta Project. As Anna explains, The Vinetta (“Vinetta” means prevailing and influential) Project was an idea the project’s founder, Vanessa Dawson, came up with during a one-off pitch night in August 2013. Vanessa’s idea behind Vinetta was to create opportunities for female founders to come into contact with experts, leaders in the field, community peers, and advisors.
“It’s so much harder for female founders to get funding,” explains Mackenzie. “When it comes to working with VC’s, people often choose people who are familiar to them. And so, a lot of the time, it ends up being four times harder for women to get funding, even if their idea is really good,” referring to a recent study published in the journal of Venture Capital.
The Vinetta Project is trying to create opportunities for female founders through three different event types. The first and most notable event is probably Vinetta’s pitch competitions. Vinetta sources high network individuals and gathers two successful founders and two well know industry venture capitalists.
“We try to make them (VCs) women as much as possible. But of course, that’s not always possible,” concedes Mackenzie.
In addition to the pitch competition, the project gathers experts and industry leaders with female founders through fireside chats and an intimate dinner—all designed to connect women in an authentic way.
Female Canadian VCs are getting involved as judges, through speaking engagements, or volunteering and coaching—which is providing a source of deal flow back to the VCs.
FameBit, a YouTube marketing platform that enable brands to collaborate with YouTube influencers and create videos that get shared and go viral, is one of the success stories from The Vinetta Project.
“It was one of original companies that (Vanessa) brought out to a pitch competition,” Mackenzie points out. “After they got the exposure at the pitch event, they were accepted by 500 Startups. Then they moved to L.A., and then they got investment from Science Labs and finally exited through an acquisition by YouTube. This was over a period of three years.”
From pitch competition to successful exit is just one example of Vinetta’s ability to source really good companies and put them in front of people at an early stage. The project is planning to really bring the Vinetta experience full circle moving forward, Mackenzie says.
“We actually have a lot of data and analytics on what we’ve been able to do with the past and the amount of funding our members have been able to get. We’re going to try to leverage that to start our own funds so that we can start investing back.”
In the immediate horizon, you can check out the next Vinetta Project pitch event which is happening August 28th in Toronto at BrainStation (King & Spadina) at 6:30pm.
Click here to register for the Vinetta Showcase Pitch & Panel on August 28th.