MaRS Centre for Impact Investing Expands to Quebec, Eyes Further Growth

Toronto-based impact investing platform Social Venture Connexion (SVX) has expanded to Quebec.

It’s the first step in a plan to expand the platform across North America.

Part of the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, the SVX, helps investors connect with social ventures, businesses and non-profits that will have a positive impact in their community.

“We’re really motivated by the quality and quantity of impact entrepreneurs and the strength of institutions, partners and community leaders in Quebec,” says Adam Spence, the associate director of MaRS Centre for Impact Investing and the founder of the SVX. “It’s a really vibrant marketplace.”

Those parters will be playing a big role, he says.

“Our philosophy is to be locally-led, locally shaped,” Spence says. “We believe that will generate the most success in terms of the number and quality of ventures … also there’s a tremendous amount of knowledge and skills and experience that each of these institutions and organizations are contributing.”

He says there’s already a diverse group of startups trying to connect with investors through the platform.

The issuers on the platform range from ed-tech startup Learning Bird; to the sustainability-focused Ecotierra; to clean-tech company CoPower; and UTILE, which is working to create affordable and sustainable housing for students.

Spence says the goal for the SVX in Quebec is to secure at least $1 million in investments through the platform over the next year, and to have 20 ventures and funds listed.

Along with the SVX, another program from the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing is expanding to Quebec. The Impact8, an accelerator for social ventures, will see its first Montreal cohort start the program in September.

That program will also be expanding to Vancouver.

The Centre also has its own impact investment fund, which is currently raising capital, and “will help to finance some of the ventures that are going through the accelerator programs in Toronto and Montreal as well as in Vancouver,” Spence says.

Canadian cities aren’t the only ones Spence has in his sights.

“Our next milestones are going to be around expansion in the U.S. and Mexico and also across Canada,” he says.

Those expansions will also involve working closely with local partners and sharing knowledge and expertise, Spence says. And he says that a two-way street, with good ideas being imported back into Canada.

He also hopes to see the platform, which is currently only open to accredited investors (high net-worth individuals and institutions) opened up to the general public. That’s something he expects will be possible under new crowdfunding exemptions provincial securities regulators are expected to introduce.

For Spence, there are a lot of good reasons for impact investing.

“We’re faced with tremendously pressing problems at a global and a local level, from climate change to persistent poverty to sustainable energy,” he says. “On the other side, we know that there are investors who are keen on these opportunities and entrepreneurs that are building business models to tackle these problems.”

It also makes good business sense.

“If business is going to be economically successful and if investment is going to continue to deliver the returns that we seek, it will have to take into account social, environmental and economic conditions,” he says.