About a month ago, I attended the National Angel Capital Organization World Investment Summit. For three days, more than 500 investors and community members met in Montreal to discuss innovation in the Canadian investment ecosystem. I was really impressed with the event; it was very well attended, with lively discussions and debates around current challenges faced by private investors.
...I would be lying, though, if I said that the highlight wasn't winning the Angel of the Year award!
Sophie Forest (left) pictured with Michelle Scarborough, Managing Director, Strategic Investments and Women in Tech at the BDC (middle) and Yuri Navarro, CEO & Executive Director of NACO (right)
Redefining "angel" investing
The term "angel investor" originated in 1978, a year famous for the birth of the LaserDisc and the introduction of computers in the White House – some could say that the tech world has slightly evolved since then!
For almost 40 years, angel investors have been defined as individuals that inject capital and take an active role in a growing business. Typically, angels are seen as close mentors for the management team, making full use of their networks and expertise. The name itself has always implied a superior power. If you've invested in several companies and have found some success, you become an Archangel – and that much closer to God-like authority.
Today, I see a much humbler and inclusive definition of "angels". As we become more independent with our financial decisions and go online to take action, the world of angel investment is following suit. Sophisticated assets (like venture capital) that are usually reserved for Archangels and large institutions are becoming easily accessible to the masses.
So, more and more "regular investors" are joining the ranks of the angels by investing in startups, but they don’t necessarily want (or have the time) to play an active role. The investors in our network are comfortable with us choosing the investment opportunities, and they invest simply to diversify their overall investment portfolio, edge their potential returns, and help the startup ecosystem along the way.
The times, they are a-changin'
It hasn't always been easy to be in a position of spinning a traditional industry on its head. In Brightspark's early days, when crowdfunding was still an avant-garde concept, people were sometimes dumbfounded when we explained our model. Why were we doing a venture capitalist's work of curating startups, and “going through the trouble” of gathering the capital from individual investors?
At Brightspark, we invest in innovation, but we also live it day in and day out. So, despite people’s confusion and all the challenges of building something new, we kept working at it. We focused on bulding a product that we knew Canadian accredited investors wanted: an easy way for them to invest in high-quality VC deals.
To be recognized by an industry influencer like NACO is the latest of many validations we have received since launching our model. It’s inspiring to see community leaders embrace our model and the exponential effect it has on the private funding available to Canadian startups.
This one's for you
When I look at Brightspark's network of 2,000+ "new age" angels, I see that together we are growing the tech ecosystem, creating new sources of capital for Canadian companies, and promoting a better, more inclusive space for startup investments.
To all the members of the Brightspark network, the ones that have invested in one, two, or more deals, the ones who review all our investment opportunities but haven't made the leap yet, and to all the Canadian investors who have yet to join our network, this award goes out to all of us.