AWARD SPOTLIGHT: Kerri Golden, Information Venture Partners Winner of Inaugural Barry Gekiere Lifetime Legacy Award
Kerri Golden was preparing for semi-retirement in 2014 when VCs Dave Unsworth and Rob Antoniades asked her to help launch Toronto-based Information Venture Partners.
After a 30-plus year career that included executive roles with mobile service providers, a leading Canadian entertainment company, and as a partner at an early-stage VC fund, Golden had a lot to be proud of as a successful finance professional and woman in male-dominated industries. But it was the idea of supporting and mentoring more Canadian entrepreneurs and investment professionals, including women who remain underrepresented, that convinced Golden to continue working full-time.
“I felt that there weren’t enough women role models in the industry for younger women to see and say, ‘hey, that’s a job I could do,’” Golden recalls.
She was also excited to work with Unsworth and Antoniades to help entrepreneurs build and grow their startups.
“I’ve developed relationships with entrepreneurs; that’s definitely a piece of the business that turns my crank,” Golden says. “I like to hear their stories, what drove them to get started, how they are solving problems and creating value for customers. I like to see them grow. I like to inspire them to be their best. I’m probably never going to come up with an idea to start a company. I’m not that person. But I am the person who can help them clear roadblocks to start their own company; a sounding board to help them find success.”
At Information VP, which primarily invests in early-stage North American B2B fintech and enterprise software companies, Golden and the team have helped build several Canadian startups. Some of its high-profile exits include Newfoundland-based fraud detection company Verafin Inc., bought by Nasdaq last year, and cloud-based business planning and financial modelling company Adaptive Insights, purchased by Workday in 2018, to name just two. Its current roster includes companies such as Coconut Software, Flybits, ThoughtExchange, and Arteria AI.
Golden’s passion for volunteer advisory work at MaRS led her to team up with Sue McGill and co-found JOLT, a technology accelerator. It offered mentoring support from MaRS advisors and capital from a micro-investment fund backed by angels. JOLT’s investments include Turnstyle Solutions, bought by Yelp in 2017, Nudge Rewards, PUSH, and Venngage.
The combination of industry experience, success, and leadership led to Golden becoming the first recipient of the Barry Gekiere Lifetime Legacy Award created at the 2020 Invest Canada conference. The award is named after Barry Gekiere, a legend in the VC space, who passed away suddenly in May 2020, at age 68, due to complications from cancer treatment for an aggressive form of lymphoma.
The award recognizes people who positively impact the industry through selfless, collaborative and authentic leadership. The winner has been a catalyst to drive innovation and value creation, demonstrated a history of mentorship to team members and entrepreneurs, and is an active participant within industry associations. Golden was nominated by Information VP general partners Unsworth and Antoniades as well as Michelle McBane, managing director at StandUp Ventures.
In the nomination form, Golden is described as a “trailblazing financial professional” and “pioneer in the private capital industry in Canada.”
Unsworth says it’s fitting that Golden is the first recipient of the award, given how well they worked together at MaRS and in other industry roles.
“I think he found a like-minded and aligned person in Kerri, and I know he had a great deal of respect for her,” Unsworth says. “I can’t think of somebody else who would be more deserving of this award.”
He says Golden played a pivotal role in helping get Information VP off the ground seven years ago and has been critical to its success since. He describes her as a “deeply valued confidant, mentor and friend.”
Golden has also been a trusted advisor to many in the startup ecosystem. “She’s very experienced across multiple industries and has a steady hand that instills a lot of confidence,” Unsworth says.
McBane says Golden was also key to the success of StandUp Ventures, a new fund franchise in the Canadian ecosystem investing at the seed stage in high-growth ventures founded or co-founded by women. It was spun out of MaRS IAF, the program that Gekiere managed before he passed away.
“I’ve been fortunate to have the support of many leaders in the community; however, it is fair to say that Kerri has been instrumental in the success of the fund to date,” McBane wrote in the nomination. “Kerri and Barry were active investment committee members for the fund and provided their sponsorship as the fund successfully raised commitments from institutional LPs. Kerri makes herself available to provide mentorship, guidance and honest feedback to me as a first-time GP.”
Golden says she cried when she first learned that she won the award. “It means a ton to me that it’s an award given in Barry’s name,” she says.
She first met Gekiere about 20 years ago as a co-investor in a deal and helped recruit him to his role as head of the MaRS investment accelerator fund. The two also worked together as volunteer general partners on the MaRS JOLT Fund.
“He was an absolutely incredible human being,” Golden says. “He certainly gave a ton of energy to the industry; was a very fair guy and always a gentleman. He never made me feel like, ‘oh, you’re a woman, so you don’t belong in this industry,’ which unfortunately some did over the early years.”
She’s also honoured to be the first winner of the award — and a woman.
“I’m hoping that for Canada, that says something good about the ecosystem: That a group that is largely male-dominated support a woman winning this award. I was particularly touched that my nomination was supported by input from several women. They are former and current colleagues, limited partners, and founders that I’ve funded and mentored. We still have work to do, but I’d like to think that this is a sign of progress.”
Golden is once again looking at semi-retirement this fall and is in the process of grooming her successor, also a woman.
“I really do believe that by having more women at the table helping make decisions on investments that, women are going to get a fair shot,” says Golden, who is also an advocate for more racial diversity. “I think our industry needs to think more about how we find different candidates. You have to work hard at it because it’s not something that comes easily.”
To Golden, it means being open to people with different experiences and backgrounds to help build a sustainable startup ecosystem that Gekiere would also be very proud of.