Canada’s Inspirational Private Capital Industry – Inspiring Fifty 2018 (Part One)

May 8, 2018 | By: Jon Jackson

New in Canada, Inspiring Fifty, is a partnership with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Canada, supported of the Senate of Canada which strongly promotes the advancement of diversity in the STEM fields. Both Canada and the Netherlands recognize the recruitment and retention of women and girls in these sectors will foster greater innovation, as well as a more inclusive and impactful workforce.

Not surprising, in 2018 an incredible four CVCA members were recognized as inspirational female role models in the tech and innovation sectors, as well as advocate for increased diversity and gender-parity. Shirley Speakman, Senior Partner, Cycle Capital; Janet Bannister, Partner, Real Ventures; Jeanette Stock, New Venture Associate, Highline BETA; and, Dr. Gerri Sinclair, Managing Director (Vancouver Office), Kensington Capital were among the fifty women being recognized in 2018.

At the award ceremony that took place in the Senate offices in Parliament Hill on May 7, Dr. Parinaz Sobhani, Director Of Machine Learning, Georgian Partners presented the keynote on the importance of diversity in artificial intelligence. It was here where Sobhani reasoned why it’s urgent to address diversity in AI now to avoid incomplete AI growth; for the benefit of every individual.

In this two-part profile on the CVCA members who were recognized as part of the 2018 Inspiring Fifty, we discuss the sustainable future of the Canadian private capital industry, diversity and inclusion and what it’s like to be a role model.

Janet Bannister, Partner, Real Ventures

Can you share with us your path to your current role?

I started my first business when I was 15 years old. I baked and sold muffins to small shops up and down Yonge Street in Toronto. After graduating from the Ivey Business School at Western University, I spent four years at Procter & Gamble in brand management and then joined McKinsey & Company as a management consultant. I moved to the Bay Area in 2001 and joined eBay, where I kick-started the growth of many categories including clothing, books, home and garden, and helped transform eBay from a “collectibles” to a mainstream marketplace. After several years in the Bay Area, Canada was still “home” so we returned to Toronto. In Canada, I launched and grew Kijiji.ca and then headed the global Kijiji business, expanding Kijiji into several new markets. Then, after a couple years as CEO of a venture-back company, Real Ventures contacted me in 2014 when they were looking to hire their first partner in Toronto. I joined Real four years ago and absolutely love it. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to work with passionate, visionary, driven entrepreneurs every day.

Did you ever think you’d be a role model? Have you navigated your professional life any differently knowing you are an example of success?

I never did consider myself a role model. I believe that everyone is uniquely gifted in some way and we can learn something from everyone that we meet. I try to spend significant time supporting, encouraging, and helping others as I have been very fortunate in my life and have been helped by many others along the way. It is extremely rewarding to think that I may be able to help someone else or inspire them in some way.

Do you hope to accomplish anything specifically (for advancing diversity and inclusion) in your current role?

I am a strong believer in the power of diverse teams and the importance of working proactively to ensure that teams are diverse on many dimensions. I hope that my involvement in the entrepreneurial and tech communities helps to further the recognition of the importance of diversity and inclusiveness.  This is not just a moral imperative but a necessity if we are to meet our full potential.

How can organizations or individuals contribute and improve the private capital ecosystem (diversity and inclusion, gender parity, etc.)?

All players in the ecosystem should be thinking about diversity and inclusion. Not only from an ethnic and gender perspective, but diversity of thought, experiences, education, ages, personalities, etc. An example of a recent initiative I’ve seen is inviting female high school students to taste the life of entrepreneurs and VCs, helping them to understand different career options and showing them that these career options are attainable.

What would you tell decision-makers about the benefits of having a variety of experiences at the table?

The importance of diversity is clearly shown in multiple studies which consistently demonstrate that a diverse team is a team that delivers superior results. Companies with diverse boards deliver superior financial returns; diverse founding teams have a higher chance of success; and teams with different perspectives sell problems faster. Including and respecting people with diverse backgrounds and experiences is a prerequisite for achieving full potential.

Encouraging the next generation to consider a career in private capital is crucial to the sustainability of the industry. What is your elevator pitch for young people who may be considering a career in private capital?

Venture capital is an amazing career that is extremely challenging and rewarding. It is a career where relationships, trust, business acumen, and big ideas come together. It is a career where every day is spent working with driven people who are pushing the boundaries, solving big problems, and changing the world. The best route to venture capital is likely being an entrepreneur and/or having extensive operating experience. This foundational experience can give you the credibility, empathy, insights and experience that are required to be successful in venture capital.

Jeanette Stock, New Venture, Associate Highline BETA, & Co-founder, Venture Out Conference

Jeanette Stock receiving Inspiring Fifty Award, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, May. 7, 2018

Can you share with us your path to your current role?

For the last two years, I’ve had what I jokingly call my “day job and my gay job”.

I’m fortunate today to work as a New Venture Associate at Highline BETA – a new venture development company focused on discovering, co-creating, and funding the future of industries.

Since 2016 I’ve also been moonlighting as the co-founder of Venture Out, connecting LGBTQA+ people in tech to career opportunities, role models, and each other. The all-volunteer team behind Venture Out has reached over 1000 people in that time, connecting founders, investors, tech talent, and companies through events and our annual conference.

My career path to here has been anything but a straight line: I studied life sciences and spent a semester in Shanghai studying global development before ultimately graduating with a degree in English Literature. My work experience ranges from SaaS sales and account management to tripling the size of a mental health promotion program.

Somewhere along the way I realized that I do my best work when I’m given the chance to take something that’s barely more than an idea, and, see it through to launch. Now, I chase the opportunity to do that whenever I can.

Did you ever think you’d be a role model? Do you think that will change any way that you move forward professionally?

When I started my career (which was not that long ago), I didn’t know a single out gay woman – let alone one who worked in tech and innovation. And even though I’m impacted every day by LGBTQ+ tech pioneers like Alan Turing, without who we would have no computers, and Sophie Wilson, who created the ARM processors that power our smartphones, I didn’t know their stories.

They say, “You can’t be what you can’t see”, and I felt that. When I looked to people who held the roles that I aimed for in one year, five years, ten years, I had a hard time imagining myself in their shoes.

Connecting with role models through Venture Out like Larissa Holmes and the increasing visibility of other leading queer women like VC Arlan Hamilton and Kara Swisher have been game-changing for me. Seeing other out women who are thriving and continuously growing has fundamentally shifted the scale of my ambitions.

Realizing the impact that these role models have had on me, I hope I can do the same for someone else. I still have a lot to learn – I’m really just getting stayed in my career – but if I can provide a window into where someone hopes to be even six months down the road, that’s a win.

Do you hope to accomplish anything specifically (for advancing diversity and inclusion) in your current role?

Part of the reason I joined Highline BETA was to work under leadership who view diversity and inclusion as both an urgent challenge and a long-term play. In 2017 the team acquired Female Funders, to equip women technology and corporate executives to become standout angel investors.

Working under our COO and Female Funders Executive Director, Lauren Robinson, for the last few months has given me an appreciation of the importance of representation among angel investors and VCs, and the change this has the potential to drive on both sides of the table. I’m excited to support the impact Female Funders can drive, both by directly increasing the number of women investors and by indirectly impacting the founders who find themselves on the other side of the table.

What would you tell decision-makers about the benefits of having a variety of experiences at the table?

The business case for diversity has been thoroughly documented by work done by everyone from Project Include to McKinsey to the Kapor Center to the Harvard Business Review. Building diverse teams where all members are treated equitably isn’t just the right thing to do—it’s also the right business decision.

For those in the business of discovering great founders and companies, the edge that comes from having a variety of perspectives – in a team, in a company, in a portfolio –is an advantage that’s too big for ignore.

After all, “different isn’t always better, but better is always different.”

This is part one of a two-part profile on the CVCA members who were recognized as part of the 2018 Inspiring Fifty. In 2018 an incredible four CVCA members were recognized as inspirational female role models in the tech and innovation sectors, as well as advocate for increased diversity and gender-parity.

If you would like to submit an idea for content, contribute to an article, or are interested in submitting an op-ed, contact the CVCA’s editorial department here.