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About MaRS Catalyst Fund

Investing in business as a force for good

MaRS Catalyst Fund provides early-stage venture capital funding and support to Canadian companies that are building strong businesses while pursuing social and environmental outcomes. We’re focused on generating both measurable social impact and strong financial returns.

After seeing a lack of impact investors in Canada, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Unite, along with the Mindset Foundation, seeded the MaRS Catalyst Fund.

We back passionate entrepreneurs who are creating technology solutions that address society’s biggest challenges. They’re delivering better health outcomes, creating a more sustainable planet, and making students and workers more career-ready through innovative education technologies.

The fund is GIIRS rated and will measure specific impact metrics on a per-investment basis.

What is impact investment?

First coined in 2007, the term impact investing was defined in a 2010 report by J.P. Morgan, the Global Impact Investing Network and the Rockefeller Foundation as “investments intended to create positive impact beyond financial returns.”

Impact investment is differentiated from traditional investment by:

  • Investor intention: Investors seek to allocate capital (debt, equity or hybrid forms) to investments where they expect both a financial return (ranging from return of principal to market-beating returns) and a defined social impact.
  • Investee intention: Business models for investees (whether they are for-profit or non-profit enterprises, funds or other financial vehicles) are intentionally constructed to seek financial and social value.
  • Impact measurement: Investors are committed to measuring and reporting the social and environmental performance and progress of underlying investments, ensuring transparency and accountability, while informing the practice of impact investing. 

Measuring impact

Recognized across institutions and geographic regions, the UN Sustainable Development Goals are a popular framework for measuring impact. In addition to clearly articulating standards for sustainable development, the SDGs offer guiding quantitative metrics to achieve each goal. For example, for Goal #3: Good Health and Well-Being, one metric is the mortality rate attributed to cardiovascular disease (3.4.1) or Goal #7: Affordable and Clean Energy, which has a measure of renewable energy share of total energy consumption.

MaRS Catalyst Fund focuses on impact that aligns most closely with the following SDGs:

  • #3 Good Health and Well-Being
  • #4 Quality Education
  • #7 Affordable and Clean Energy

 

Why is impact investment important?

In our research and experience so far, we believe mission-driven entrepreneurs outperform non-mission driven peers. We believe impact investment is essential for the long-term sustainability of our world. In Canada and around the world, our future ability to meet growing needs in the workplace, and in the healthcare and energy sectors requires an integrated approach to unlock economic and social value.

How MaRS Catalyst Fund serves ventures

Our experienced team of investment managers and advisors seeks out innovative, early-stage, for-profit Canadian ventures working in the sectors of clean energy, healthcare, and education and employment. MaRS Catalyst Fund makes first-round investments of between $150,000 and $350,000. We will also make second-round, series A-stage investments of one to two times the first-round amount when appropriate. By leveraging the expertise and extensive networks available through MaRS Discovery District, we help ventures prosper and generate strong returns.

We look for an outstanding leadership team that has identified a clear opportunity to make a social or environmental impact alongside building a viable business. The impact must be measurable, aligned with the business model and targeting a large market opportunity. We seek businesses with validated products or services and a track record with a revenue stream or signed contracts.

MaRS Catalyst Fund plays an active role in helping the businesses we invest in to grow. As well as gaining access to the unparalleled expertise available at the world’s largest urban innovation hub, the entrepreneurs we work with can count on support from MaRS Discovery District’s partners in social innovation, including MaRS Venture Services, MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, SVX, and our network of accelerators and venture capital firms across Canada.

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