The Upside Of Giving

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The Upside Of Giving is part of a three-part series on how the VC & PE industry is giving back to Canadian communities. For more information about the Upside Foundation of Canada, visit their website.

Giving Tuesday began in 2012 as a day meant to offset the commercialization and consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Over the years it has continued to grow in popularity, marking the beginning of charitable giving during the holiday season. In the weeks that follow there are ample opportunities to give back to causes of all kinds, whether through gifts of time or money. But certain circumstances make it difficult to spare both of these things, including being at the early stages of building a start-up company.

Venture capitalists Mark Skapinker of Brightspark Ventures and Rob Antoniades of Information Venture Partners, and business consultant Janie Goldstein took notice of this. They identified a disconnect between the increasing number OF successful Canadian tech companies and a limited amount of charitable giving happening. In response, they introduced a more feasible way for early stage, high growth companies to give back, with the launch of the Upside Foundation.

Our founders recognized that with the growing success of the tech industry, there was an enormous opportunity to make a difference,” says Jennifer Couldrey, Executive Director of the Upside Foundation. They wanted to build a natural mechanism for companies to give back to their communities as they achieved success.”

Through the Upside Foundation, startup companies have the opportunity to give back by donating equity in the form of options or warrants to any of the 85,000 registered charities in Canada. When the company has a liquidity event, that donation converts to cash for the charities they choose to support.

Couldrey explains the Upside Foundation’s structure ensures that as companies achieve success, the greater community does too. It’s not just the founders and investors who are winning and reaping the rewards of a thriving tech community. It’s the country as a whole.”

In the past five years the organization has reported a total of five exits resulting in donations to seven different charities, with pledges made by more than 200 companies.

Beyond the community benefit and the feel-good notion of giving back, the Upside Foundation offers startups the competitive advantage of baking corporate responsibility into their culture from the outset.

There is a strong business case for embedding social responsibility into your company,” says Couldrey. Establishing and practicing strong values is important for attracting potential future employees, engaging and retaining current employees and sharing with your customers what you’re all about.”

In fact, 81% of Canadians agree that all companies should give back, according to a recent #GivingTuesday report released by the Upside Foundation, in collaboration with Interac Corp. The report also details that 70% of Canadians are more likely to purchase from companies that support charities, with 68% saying they would be more loyal to companies that have a corporate giving mandate.

So, how can you, as an investor, get involved with the Upside Foundation? 

Firstly, you can share your upside, by allocating equity or proceeds in your own company, or in the companies you invest in, to any Canadian charity through the Upside Foundation.

You can also encourage your portfolio companies to consider sharing their upside, which will help ensure their greatest level of success, as you’re sharing something they might not have heard of that will add value as the company grows.

Lastly, you can choose to support the Upside directly. This demonstrates industry support for the foundation’s work, which is enabling the Canadian tech industry to have the greatest possible impact.

However you choose to support the Upside, doing so puts you in good company, with Brightspark Ventures and Espresso Capital—both CVCA members that have made a pledge through the Upside Foundation. Members that have partnered with or supported the Upside in some way include Information Venture Partners, MaRS IAF and CIBC Innovation Banking.

As you celebrate the wins of 2018 and re-evaluate opportunities for the year to come, the Upside Foundation invites you to Share the Upside and join them in building a thriving Canadian Tech community, while giving back and positively impacting the country.

To learn more about the Upside Foundation and how you can support, visit their website.