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Issue Brief on Seed-Stage Impact Investing in Canada: Insights from the field

Issue Brief on Seed-Stage Impact InvestingSeed-stage investing is attracting an increasing amount of attention from Canadian impact investors.1 At the same time, new accelerator programs tailored to the needs of seed-stage impact ventures are emerging across the country. These trends point to a growing interest in seed-stage impact ventures and their capital needs.

As impact investing market builders, we at the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing also believe that seed-stage impact investing is vital. Seed-stage investing provides capital and knowhow to the earliest ventures with the potential to produce blended financial and social/environmental returns. Without both financial and human capital, startups can die on the vine. Seed-stage investing also develops the impact investment market overall by building the pipeline for later-stage investors. As noted in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, “It is today’s fledgling innovator who sets the stage for tomorrow’s next great scalable innovation that can also produce strong financial returns.”2

However, to many entrepreneurs and investors, the seed-stage investment process is opaque, with no Canadian resources addressing seed-stage impact investing in Canada today. The Centre seeks to begin to fill that gap. Hard data is scarce in a nascent market, so we conducted interviews with market players to access their insights.

This brief serves as a snapshot of the market in 2015. It summarizes what market players told us about seed-stage impact investing in Canada and offers insight into how, in practical terms, these investments happen. This paper is aimed at potential investors, entrepreneurs and capacity-builders who wish to understand how seed-stage impact investing works in Canada today.

Published in 2015

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