VCs Share Their Upside
Photo: The Upside Foundation founders open the TSX. Courtesy: Upside Foundation.
The Canadian tech community is in the midst of an unprecedented time of growth and expansion, with nine of the top 25 Canadian tech exits having occurred since January of 2020. Upside enables Canadian tech companies who are seeing these huge wins convert those successes into meaningful community investments. Historically, Upside has focused on working with founders to facilitate equity donations directly from the company or the founders themselves, with over 300 companies having pledged to give back. Recently, more VCs have pledged a portion of their own personal upside.
A tale of two pandemics
An uneven recovery is amplifying economic disparities that existed pre-pandemic. In 2020, 2 in 5 Canadians reported a deterioration in their personal finances, and an estimated 200,000 businesses could permanently close, putting 2.4 million jobs at risk. Meanwhile, venture backed companies are achieving scale and sizeable exits at a velocity unseen ever before.
These divergent experiences of Canadians during COVID have served to underscore the need for community-led support. However, 68% of charities have seen a decline in donations since the onset of the pandemic, 70% of charities report a decline in the number of volunteers, and 81% believe the need for charitable services has risen (source: Imagine Canada’s Sector Monitor). Overall charitable giving declined 10% year on year, and charities are not optimistic that things will improve in the near future.
Founded 8 years ago, the mission and vision behind The Upside Foundation is one of a thriving tech community who’s success powers opportunity for all Canadians. The foundation was co-founded by Robert Antoniades, General Partner of Information Venture Partners; Mark Skapinker, Managing Partner at Brightspark Ventures; and consultant Janie Goldstein. The founders were searching for a way to encourage their portfolio companies to give back, noting that this generation of entrepreneurs strives to make an impact. Drawing on the experience of similar organizations, such as Israel’s Tmura and Silicon Valley’s Entrepreneurs Foundation (subsequently Pledge 1%), the trio designed a model built by Canadians for Canadians to enable successful entrepreneurs to give back to their communities.
Upside Members have already generated significant value for their communities: 9 liquidity events, over $1.32M raised for charity, and 19 charities supported so far: with over 300 companies also pledged to follow suit once they see a successful liquidity event. Typically, it is founders making the decision to donate, and who become active Members in the Upside community through networking events and social impact programming to support company social responsibility, with a focus on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.
The Upside Foundation was born of support from the VC community, and has long been supported by prominent industry leaders, including on its Board of Directors, and with Howard Gwin, Salim Teja and Gerry Pond as early champions. Upside has partnered with the community to honour the legacies of VCs Derek Smyth and Barry Gekiere through Memorial Funds. Many VCs have supported Upside’s operations as Scaling Partners and through the newly launched Patron Program. A few are already Upside Members, having pledged to donate personal or corporate equity through the success of their funds, including Brightspark Ventures, Alkarim Jivraj of Espresso Capital, and Eva Lau of Two Small Fish Ventures.
With the success that many VCs are seeing from company exits this year, more and more are looking to share their own personal upsides to align their personal success with giving back to the community. In response to this demand, The Upside Foundation has officially launched the Individual Upsides program enabling individual VCs to donate 1% of their personal carry to the charities of their choice through The Upside Foundation.
“The Upside Foundation is building the movement to make giving back the industry norm in Canadian tech. Our goal is to bring everyone in the VC ecosystem together to give back to our community” Amy Olah, Managing Director, CIBC Innovation Banking
As you celebrate the wins of 2021 and re-evaluate the upcoming opportunities, the Upside Foundation invites you to consider joining together with other VCs to share your upside with the charities of your choice. Let’s build a Canadian tech community whose wins power opportunities for all Canadians. Click here to learn more about sharing your upside or email firstname.lastname@example.org to chat with someone from our team.