MaRS Catalyst Fund Seeks Startups with Both Social Impact and Financial Returns

The MaRS Catalyst Fund, a national impact venture fund, has raised $3 million and plans to raise a total of $5 million, which will be used to invest in early-stage Canadian startups tackling social and environment issues with potential for profit.

Backed by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Unite Foundation, MaRS Catalyst is “a major step in the fast-growing field of social finance,” a new kind of investing that puts the advancement of society alongside financial returns as a key goal. “We have no shortage of entrepreneurs who are finding innovative ways to push social progress or tackle environmental problems while making profits, but there was a gap in the market for early-stage funding. MaRS Catalyst is helping to address that,” says Kathryn Wortsman, Investment Director, MaRS Catalyst Fund.

The fund will leverage the investment pipeline and expertise at MaRS, Canada’s largest innovation hub, to find promising ventures and help them grow. It is currently looking to close two seed-stage investments for $250,000 each in the health and education markets.

“Business as usual should no longer be an option, we have to make business a force for good. By supporting entrepreneurs that put their people, and the planet first, we’re going to help build successful companies,” said Branson.

The fund is managed by the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing. MaRS Catalyst expects to invest in 10 to 12 ventures in total and is in final negotiations for the first two investments.

“We have to nurture these inspirational companies if we’re to create a sustainable future and the MaRS Catalyst Fund is a key component of our approach to doing that in Canada. The fund is uniquely placed to help these businesses grow and positively impact their communities as it connects with MaRS Discovery District and other innovation centres across the country,” says Rosanne Gray, Managing Director, Virgin Unite.