"If other people want to overlook that value, then their loss is our gain." — Backbone Angels look to increase their impact in 2022
The Shopify adjacent angel investing collective launch cohort application process for businesses.
Just one year after launching, the Backbone Angels, who met working at Shopify, is already looking to increase its impact in 2022.
The investing collective coalesced around the funding—and empowering—of founders, businesses and ideas that are often overlooked in tech. Since its start in March 2021, Backbone Angels has backed over 42 companies—the majority of them Canadian—with over USD $2.3 million in capital.
The 10-person group invests its own capital into founders and companies that speak to the members’ individual interests—yet founders are able to access the vast wealth of knowledge the Angels bring to the table from their experiences on the ground floor of Shopify.
Lynsey Thornton, one of the founding partners of Backbone Angels, tells Vancouver Tech Journal that for Backbone, angel investing isn’t just about writing cheques. Instead, it’s about getting to know the founders, their teams, and being able to have a hand in the early parts of that company scaling in order to achieve its vision. This is evident with 72 percent of invested capital going to first-time founders, many of whom are solving problems they’ve experienced first-hand.
“It drives me mad when people say, ‘that’s such a nice initiative.’ It's not a nice initiative, there isn’t anything nice about it,” Thornton says about the companies and founders Backbone invests in. “We see value there that we think other people haven't seen; if other people want to overlook that value, then their loss is our gain. That's how we see it and that's the type of future that we want to create.”
After the collective’s launch on International Women’s Day 2021, Thornton and co. received hundreds of pitch decks from founders looking for capital. The response caught the Angels a bit by surprise, but they quickly realized how challenging it was to keep up with the demand while not only maintaining full-time jobs, but also providing the much-needed attention and support to companies they had already invested in.
So, on International Women’s Day 2022, Backbone Angels is introducing a cohort system where founders will be able to submit their business to Backbone to review and consider for investment, with multiple cohorts expected annually. By taking this approach, businesses can expect a faster, inclusive and transparent experience, while those who have already received capital can feel safe knowing that the collective will still be able to provide them with advice and mentoring when and where needed.
“[Women] should be afforded the same opportunity to win or lose in the game as men are,” says the Bowen Island-based Thornton. “Part of this is also about building networks. This is a long-term game and so even if these women fail at their first startup, maybe we'll be there for their second and their third. All in all, it's a difficult space and being a founder is incredibly hard.”
Applications for the first Backbone Angels cohort are open now until April 8, 2022.