Cross-Border Impact Ventures (CBIV), a Toronto, Canada-based women-owned impact venture capital firm, has just announced the closing of its first fund, at over US$90m.
In conjunction with the announcement, Annie Theriault, CBIV Managing Partner, replied to our questions about herself, the firm and their overall strategy, and shared with us some thoughts about entrepreneurs and the future of the tech landscape.
VCWire: Can you please tell us a bit more about you? What’s your background?
I am Managing Partner and a co-founder at CBIV. Over my career, I have been immersed in impact investing, venture capital, royalty financing, and capital markets through my various roles. As a venture capital investor and venture advisor, I have worked with high-impact companies to mobilize more than $100 million in non-dilutive capital. I have previously been a director on the boards of several North American venture-backed companies, an advisor to crowdfunding fintech company FrontFundr, and, immediately prior to the launch of CBIV, I was Chief Investment Officer at Grand Challenges Canada, one of the most sophisticated funders of health innovations in global health.
As part of my role, I am often asked to speak in the areas of inclusive health technology investing with a gender and impact lens and am a frequent speaker at women’s health innovation conferences and World Health Assembly related events. I am an advisor with FemTech Canada; a member of the UAE Global Council for the Sustainable Development Goals (Health and Health Financing committees); and a mentor with Canada Forum for Impact Investment and Development (CAFIID).
I obtained a PhD in Management from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, have completed the CFA program, and hold the ICD.D designation. I also have a master’s degree in Business Economics from Wilfrid Laurier University and a Bachelor of Science with First Class Honours in Chemistry from Mount Allison University.
VCWire: Can you introduce your firm?
Cross-Border Impact Ventures was founded in 2021 by myself, Donna Parr and two additional investment professionals who were working with me at Grand Challenges Canada, an organization which we had joined to learn about impact investing in healthcare. We are an impact-driven venture capital firm based in Toronto, Canada with a global mandate to focus on scalable, healthcare technology solutions that have the greatest potential for large scale adoption across multiple markets to benefit underserved women, children, and adolescents to reduce health inequities globally while earning venture returns. Cross-Border Impact Ventures uses a gender lens to invest and we work with our portfolio companies to improve their diversity to ensure products reach a broader audience. We are not your typical VC firm – we are a multiple award-winning firm that employs a dual-market approach to ensure that all of the technologies that we invest in have to be applicable in emerging markets, and we assess impact rigorously to ensure that on top of seeking returns we can meet an impact target of saving 400,000 lives and improving the lives of 8 million women and children in emerging markets.
Since launching, the firm has added four additional full-time employees, bringing us to a full-time team of 8 and we also employ three contractors part-time. Our team is incredibly diverse, experienced, and driven to achieve success for the investors who trust us to be good stewards of their capital.
VCWire: Which is your overall strategy?
We’re thrilled to announce that we just closed our first fund, the Women’s and Children’s Health Technology Fund, with over US $90 million in investor commitments.
The Women’s and Children’s Health Technology Fund is focused on investing in health technology companies, including digital therapies and software, medical devices, diagnostic tools, and therapeutics that address women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health issues or make health systems more resilient. The companies we invest in primarily operate in large markets, typically North America and Europe, and have potential to generate meaningful impact in international markets, including in emerging markets inclusive of sub-Saharan Africa.
VCWire: Beyond capital, how do you support startups?
Cross-Border Impact Ventures leverages its experienced team, Fund Advisors and network of commercial and impact-first partners to provide tailored to support our portfolio companies in accomplishing activities in developed and emerging markets.
This support can look like helping our portfolio companies with their fundraising strategies, including raising additional equity or funds from global health donors, thinking through their entire capital structure creatively to bring in unique investors and funders in the health space to the table (i.e. government-related capital providers, global health foundations, multilaterals, private foundations, family offices, impact funds, etc.).
In addition, we often bring in technology and global experts who have deep expertise and understanding of competing technologies and issues to help leverage what our companies are doing well towards additional growth or course correct when needed. We also bring in connections to strategic investors and acquirers when companies are ready.
It’s an extremely unique value add for each investee that comes out of having such a diverse team that Donna and I handpicked to combine various skills needed to succeed in healthcare. This includes team members and advisors with decades of operational experience (including with exits), financial operations, biomedical engineering, AI, ML, clinical research or practice and experience driving impact in LMICs, amongst other areas of expertise. We have access to both traditional networks in health technology from our team’s experience in prior roles and non-traditional networks in the global health community via our work with our impact partner Grand Challenges Canada, which allows us to tap into resources that can really accelerate the scaling efforts of our portfolio companies in emerging markets.
VCWire: What do you like to see in founders?….And what don’t you like to see in them? I mean, is there something which impresses you at a first glance?
- High Say/Do Ratio
- Expertise in their field – women’s health is a tight community, so is child health
- Prior successes growing companies and/or if a first-time founder, hire high caliber team with such track record
- Hires diverse team (by age, gender, experience, etc)
- Hungry for both impact and financial success (not one without the other)
- Collaborative, but not pushovers – we want to invest in teams that have confidence and take inputs from their investors, but know what they are doing
- Don’t like:
- Talking too much about the stats around the health conditions – we know them and it should be obvious to them we do as a specialty fund
- Hire B-rated teams; want to be the smartest person in the room
- Overnegotiators who are overly concerned about valuation vs aligning interest of their partners
- Founders that try to both sell us on investing in them while telling us they don’t need us
- Assholes… life is too short!
VCWire: Please, tell us a bit more about the portfolio. You can list the startups their path have made you particularly proud of.
- Daye – Have expanded from the UK market into the US and made great progress on their diagnostic tampon platform, generating evidence with large corporate partners for HPV testing and STI testing along with their vagina microbiome testing
- Sonio – Currently deploying their software within Pediatrix, one of the largest providers of prenatal, neonatal and pediatric services in the US
- mOm Incubators – Their products are currently in use in the Ukraine and saving babies daily. The company is working to reach other humanitarian clients serving high risk areas where such technologies could save babies.
VCWire: Which sector/s would you bet 2 cents in the next five years?
- This year we’ve been particularly focused on maternal and newborn health. What we see in that space is that the lack of investment in novel technologies of the past decades is opening many opportunities for high returns for investors with the relevant expertise and networks to enable success.
- We’ve also been looking at investment opportunities related to the gut microbiome and scalable approaches to diagnosing and monitoring the progress of cancer treatments. We are also interested in the area of cardiology with emphasis on diagnostic approaches that consider gender as a key input.
- In these areas, we invest in solutions used in hospitals and are also quite interested in technologies that enable patients to be treated in their home or community. We also like solutions that provide automation and leverage AI and ML to provide feedback to the user, which facilitates training to upskill various levels of healthcare workers. This is deeply needed to address shortages in health workers across levels and economies in the coming decade.
We’ve also been looking at investment opportunities related to the gut microbiome and scalable approaches to diagnosing and monitoring the progress of cancer treatments. We are also interested in the area of cardiology with emphasis on diagnostic approaches that consider gender as a key input.