Simon Fraser University (SFU) is the first university to invest in the Raven Indigenous Impact Fund (RIIF), a B.C.-based fund supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs.
The $1-million investment, offered through Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, will help Indigenous people overcome the systemic inequalities created through colonization, and is a concrete step towards advancing economic reconciliation.
“SFU has invested $1 million in the Raven Indigenous Impact Fund to support Indigenous entrepreneurs, the Indigenous economy and Indigenous social enterprise,” says SFU Vice-President Finance and Administration, Martin Pochurko. “We are counting on this investment to make a difference, both to the Indigenous community and to the SFU endowment fund, which supports researchers and students.”
Created in 2019, the RIIF has supported five Canadian Indigenous enterprises that specialize in digital media, software, fin-tech and natural products. The enterprises are: PLATO Testing, Cheekbone Beauty, VirtualGurus, OneFeather and Animikii Indigenous Technology.
Animikii was the first company to receive an investment through RIIF. Initially turned down by the big banks, the $750,000-equity-investment provided company founder and CEO Jeff Ward with a critical opportunity to move forward with confidence and continue growing his business.
“The funds allowed us to seize the opportunities that were before us, which involved building out the team, our products and services,” says Ward, who is Ojibwe and Métis.
The company has sustained year-over-year revenue growth and has doubled its team in the last year.
“I’m excited to partner with Raven because they’re helping me realize my vision of building the Indigenous technology ecosystem at a level we’ve never seen before,” he adds. “I’m proud to have been the first investee in their fund and I’m proud to be among a cohort of really talented and passionate Indigenous entrepreneurs.”
All entrepreneurs considered for investment from the fund are evaluated on four criteria:
- Commercial viability
- Potential for scale
- Indigeneity management, ownership and governance
- Purpose-driven – intention to have positive social and/or environmental Indigenous community benefit streams such as upskilling, direct employment, procurement or access to improved goods and services
“Simon Fraser University’s commitment to the Raven Indigenous Impact Fund underscores its commitment to advancing economic reconciliation in Canada by supporting innovative, scalable Indigenous enterprises with measurable community benefit streams,” says Stephen Nairne, chief investment officer, Raven Indigenous Capital Partners.
Raven Indigenous Capital Partners has raised $15 million for RIIF with a target of $20 million from investors by close on December 15, 2020.
This month, SFU also signed the new Canadian Investor Statement on Diversity & Inclusion, an initiative coordinated by the Responsible Investment Association (RIA). Signing the agreement is SFU’s pledge to be accountable, ethical and transparent across investment portfolios and within the organization. “Simon Fraser University is committed to addressing systematic racism and social inequities beyond the classroom,” says SFU President and Vice-Chancellor Joy Johnson. “By signing the Canadian Investor Statement on Diversity & Inclusion we are further increasing our efforts to take intentional steps to promote diversity and inclusion across our investment portfolios, and within our organization.”
These announcements build on SFU’s responsible investment policy since signing on to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UN PRI) in 2014. In the PRI’s latest Assessment Report’s Strategy and Governance scorecard, which measures an institutions’ overall approach to responsible investment, SFU scored 29 points out of 30.
In the 2020 fiscal year the SFU endowment will allocate at least $20 million to support research, teaching and learning, and community engagement.