I’m proud to share that I am the recipient of the 2018 YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. The award is in recognition of the work of Pique Ventures, to challenge the status quo within the financial and technology industries and create an investment environment that promotes gender equality, diversity, and inclusion.
I have previously written about the impact that Pique Fund is having, as well as why investing in leadership diversity matters. Being recognized with this recent award inspired me to reflect upon the journey of building an impact asset management company from scratch.
I have the honour and privilege of working with and serving an amazing community of investors and entrepreneurs. Each and every Pique Ventures relationship has a story attached to it. Everyone I’ve met along the way played a unique and important part in the journey, development, and impact of Pique Ventures and Pique Fund.
I tried new things. I invited people to be part of the experiment. There was uncertainty. I received feedback – good and bad. It was stressful at times. I made mistakes and fortunately, I worked with great partners who helped me undo those mistakes, get it right, and build great processes. It is a constant path of improvement, growth, and impact. The result is the opportunity to learn every day and to experience joy and have fun while doing it.
On the one hand, being recognized for the work and impact of Pique Ventures felt like a great milestone and on the other hand, I feel like the work is just beginning! This post is to thank the people that had made a difference and helped make Pique Ventures possible, as well as to show how a business like this got built.
The Early Adopters: Pioneering
I’ve been working with entrepreneurs all my career but never thought of myself as one until recently. In 2012, I took a stab at building my own business (it was a second attempt). I wasn’t sure what being an entrepreneur in the investment industry meant, but I took a page out of the books of startups and started with early adopters. I got out of the building, met with my community and potential investors and began the exercise of discovering and developing my customers and looking for product-market fit.
Pique Ventures launch in April 2012. Pique Ventures was a consulting and advisory company initially. I advised other organizations on developing venture funds. In attendance at our launch event were Jill Earthy, who went on to be one of Pique Fund’s pioneering first investors, and Madeleine Shaw, who recently joined Pique Fund as an investor.
I tested out a “slow-dating”, investor-entrepreneur network format. I preferred meeting and getting to know entrepreneurs over coffee or tea (part of Pique’s experiential due diligence) and I wondered whether coffee meetings could be done “at scale”. Pioneering Pique Fund investor Sandy Garossino attended and at the end of it, she suggested I start a fund. Catherine Dahl, CEO of Beanworks was also there. Pique Fund went on to invest in Beanworks (and again and again) after the fund launched.
The Partners: Bootstrapping
Creating an impact asset management company and launching a venture fund from scratch isn’t easy. To do so, I bootstrapped with consulting and fee-for-service engagements with Ogunte, Purpose Capital, and Invoke Labs. In 2014, leading up to the launch of Pique Fund, I co-founded Spring Activator with Keith Ippel and in 2015, I picked up a sizable asset management opportunity with long-time mentor Ronald E. Roark.
Some people were critical, offering questions and cautions about whether these various projects supported or hindered Pique Fund. Some of the feedback felt harsh at the time, but I persevered.
The Champions: Leading and Lifting
Meeting Jackie VanderBrug, Joy Anderson, and Criterion Institute in Fall 2011, before the seed of Pique Ventures was sowed, helped me find the community of impact investors and gender lens investors that were on parallel journeys. I felt I was not alone. Meeting Andy McCarroll in Summer 2013 at one of the darkest points of Pique Ventures when I was on the verge of giving up, who told me I was onto something, was just the nudge I needed to keep going. Meeting Lally Rementilla, also in Summer 2013, was a turning point. With her leadership and risk-taking, I felt fuelled and lifted up enough to launch Pique Fund.
Some champions provided candid advice and even permission to slow things down or re-prioritize as the ups and downs of growing Pique Ventures and Pique Fund persisted. Even if I didn’t follow their advice, knowing that I had choices and a patient community supporting me, gave me the foundation and energy to pursue Pique’s vision.
The Entrepreneurs and Investors: Building
Pique Fund launched in October 2014 and we’ve invested in seven women-founded and led ventures in British Columbia, Canada since launch. It is a pleasure to work with, invest in, and champion ventures founded by Dr. Alexandra Greenhill, Lisa Fraser, Catherine Dahl, Christine Sommers, Jennifer Li Chiang, and Jessica Pautsch.
At the time of writing this post, Pique Fund has 39 investors, of which 31 are women representing 80% of the fund’s capital. The aggregate workforce and management teams of our portfolio companies are diverse and based on current valuations, our fund is tracking its target returns.
Pique was one of only two gender lens investing funds in Canada picked up in Wharton Social Impact’s Project Sage scan of impact investment opportunities. I’ve been recognized as one of BC’s Most Influential Women and mentors in 2017 and in STEM in 2018. As someone who grew up with no exposure to entrepreneurship and venture capital, being recognized recently with a YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Entrepreneurship & Innovation means a lot to me.
What an honour to be nominated in the Entrepreneurship & Innovation category alongside Noel Asmar, Becky Brauer, Lauren Carbis, Mandy Gill, Melanie Greenough, Debra Lykkemark, Tea Nicola, Edoye Porbeni, and Carol Robinson.
What I’ve Learned
I feel like our work is just beginning, however I have learned a few things so far on this entrepreneurial journey:
- Even when people tell you it can’t be done, keep testing and improving your idea and vision. Just start. Start something, keep learning and improving.
- Study math – you never know where it’ll take you.
- Study whatever you want – design, marketing, accounting – do something with your knowledge, add to it, add something completely different to it, and see what happens.
- Let emotions into your decision-making. There are lots of recognition and awards programs out there and I was particularly moved to be nominated for an award hosted by and benefiting YWCA Metro Vancouver. I meant it when I acknowledged the hard and meaningful work that the YWCA does.
I can’t remember another time in my career when I felt so strongly about my work and livelihood. I feel excited, exhilarated, joyful, and grateful about the work I do through Pique Ventures. We should be driven to do work and invest our time in things that move us to tears sometimes. We don’t have to be moved by our work all of the time, but why not more often?
Learn how you too can be part of the Pique investor community. Pique Ventures is hosting two video conference calls to share information on our impact venture funds.
Pique Fund II: Friday, June 22, 9am PT/ 12pm ET: Join me to learn more about our new venture fund, that builds upon the outcomes and impact of our first fund, Pique Fund, and will be investing in companies that care, connect & protect. For accredited investors (worldwide) only, register here: https://www.picatic.com/PiqueFund2June2018
Pique Fund: Thursday June 28, 12pm PT / 3pm ET: Join me to learn more about Pique Fund, our inclusive angel fund that has been investing in leadership diversity for over three years. This call is for accredited investors, as well as non-accredited investors based in BC that are part of the Pique community (i.e. friends and business associates). Please register here: https://www.picatic.com/PiqueFundJune2018
For more impact investing tools, check out Integrated Investing: Impact Investing with Head, Heart, Body, and Soul, available at all major online book retailers.
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