“An important and strategic shift” is how impact investor Paul Lacerte describes the launch of InBC Investment Corp.
The $500 million fund was announced April 27, 2021 as “a first-of-its-kind strategic investment fund” to drive innovation, sustainability and inclusiveness into B.C.’s economy. InBC will support startups, help promising companies scale up, attract investment, create family-supporting jobs and diversify B.C.’s economy, according to a B.C. Government media release.
“As Canada’s first and only Indigenous owned VC/Impact Fund in Canada, headquartered in B.C., Raven Indigenous Capital Partners sees this fund as an opportunity for the Province to partner with us in a variety of ways including planning, Indigenous approaches to impact measurement, deal sourcing, and possibly co-investment,” says its Managing Partner Paul Lacerte.
He says the announcement is both timely and welcome given the “real and positive change and growth” Indigenous innovators are driving in the B.C. economy, and is interested to see “how the reconciliation lens will manifest in the investment decisions, practices and partnerships under this initiative. This is good news and an important step as we work to build back better.”
Dan Gunn, CEO of Victoria’s VIATEC (the advocacy and support hub for the city’s tech sector) says the Fund means B.C. companies become much more competitive on the world stage and it enables them to leverage provincial investment to create greater opportunity. Raising capital in Canada has traditionally been seen as a lot more difficult than it is, say in the U.S., and “so having this Fund in place specifically designed to identify B.C. innovations with high potential and to help them scale shows not only faith in their potential, but also unlocks support and funding from private investors.”
The fund is a major initiative under StrongerBC: BC’s Economic Recovery Plan and under Budget 2021. The Province says InBC will invest in high-growth potential businesses in British Columbia and leverage investments from the private and public sectors to help businesses grow. InBC will have a “triple bottom line” investment mandate, aiming to:
- establish B.C. as a globally competitive low-carbon jurisdiction;
- promote values that make life better for people in B.C., including job creation, advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, promoting diversity and inclusion; and
- achieve a financial return on investment.
InBC will operate independently from government, with investment decisions made by a chief investment officer and a team of investment professionals. The chief investment officer will be held accountable by a nine-member board of directors, the majority of whom will be from the private sector. The full board is expected to be in place in May 2021. The chief investment officer is expected to be in place by Fall 2021.
“As we deal with the challenges of COVID-19, we must lay the foundation for a strong and vibrant economic recovery,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation. “The global economy is undergoing rapid changes, and InBC will position our province for the long term.”
Without testing InBC for its accessibility and flexibility in supporting startups and innovation, Gunn says it’s hard to predict exactly the impact it will have. But he says, “InBC aligns with our strategic focus to help companies get to a greater scale. It’s a slog to raise money if you’re a startup, and it’s a slog to raise it locally. And if you are raising money from outside your community, then you can expect that it’s going to come with influence, if not pressure, to consider moving your location, since most venture capitalists like you to be nearby and close. The Fund is a step in the right direction, and we look forward to seeing the details of their plan to roll it out.”