MaRS and Virgin Unite partner to invest in business as a force for good

TORONTO, Dec. 12, 2014 – MaRS and Virgin Unite Canada, the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group, announced today that they have joined forces to support Canadian entrepreneurs tackling social and environmental challenges. Today, Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder was at the MaRS Centre to announce the new partnership, which includes the development of a new, national impact venture fund. This fund has $1 million in seed capital provided by Virgin Unite Canada and the Vancouver-based Mindset Social Innovation Foundation, founded by Alison Lawton.

The impact venture fund, managed by the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, will invest in early-stage for-profit companies with a core social and/or environmental mission, measurable positive impact and the potential for strong financial returns.

“I strongly believe that entrepreneurs have a key role in tackling environmental and social issues with solutions that will last for the long run and help create jobs,” said Sir Richard. “Our partnership with MaRS will support inspiring entrepreneurs with the mentoring, training and investments they need to succeed.”

“The creation of this new venture fund will make a big difference to Canada’s many high-impact ventures,” said Tim Jackson, EVP Corporate and Community Development, MaRS and Lead Executive, MaRS Centre for Impact Investing. “Virgin Unite, the Mindset Foundation and the other fund investors are showing tremendous leadership in driving business as a force for good.”

On top of the initial investment from Virgin Unite and Mindset, the Fund has secured additional commitments of $500K. MaRS will continue to fundraise, up to a total of $5 million, in 2015.

The collaboration with Virgin Unite will also enhance the critical support provided to early stage ventures by Canadian accelerator programs, including MaRS’ Impact8 in Toronto, RADIUS Ventures in Vancouver and Esplanade in Montreal. These programs will play a key role as regional pipeline partners for the national Fund.

The Canadian implementation of Virgin Unite’s online entrepreneurship platform will help MaRS and partners to expand their venture services by connecting more entrepreneurs across the country to talented mentors who have the skills, advice and networks entrepreneurs need to thrive and scale their businesses.

About MaRS Centre for Impact Investing
The MaRS Centre for Impact Investing is a national hub designed to increase the awareness and effectiveness of social finance to catalyze new capital, talent and initiatives dedicated to tackling social and environmental problems in Canada. The Centre builds on the foundational work of MaRS and Social Innovation Generation (SiG), including the landmark report by the Canadian Task Force on Social Finance.

About MaRS Discovery District
MaRS Discovery District (@MaRSDD) in Toronto is one of the world’s largest urban innovation hubs. MaRS cultivates high-impact ventures and equips innovators to drive economic and societal prosperity. MaRS provides expert advice and market research, and makes connections to talent, customers and capital. MaRS startup ventures have created 6,500 jobs and, in the last three years alone, they have raised $1 billion in capital and generated $500 million in revenue.

About Virgin Unite
Virgin Unite is the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group. We connect people and entrepreneurial ideas to catalyze a better way of doing business for the wellbeing of people and planet. As a charitable organization operating in Canada, Virgin Unite Canada receives support through Sir Richard Branson and the Virgin Unite community. Virgin Unite Canada also partners with Virgin Mobile Canada to support at-risk and homeless youth through the Virgin Mobile RE*Generation program.

About Mindset Social Innovation Foundation
Mindset Social Innovation Foundation is a private charitable Foundation based in Vancouver and founded by Alison Lawton that explores complex social problems that will only be solved by radical new ways of thinking and organizing.

RADIUS is a social innovation lab and venture incubator focused on getting impact ventures investor ready, market ready and growth ready.  Housed at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business and partially funded by Vancity Credit Union, RADIUS applies business innovation and entrepreneurship to address challenging social and environmental problems.

About Esplanade
The Esplanade is a collaborative space in Montreal dedicated to social innovation. Part co-working space, part accelerator and part social lab, its mission is to foster and accelerate the impact of an ambitious community of business people and citizens whose vision is to solve together the economic, social and environmental challenges of today.


For more information, please contact:
Lara Torvi
Manager, Media & Community
MaRS Discovery District