My parents came to Toronto in the 1970s from India with the objective of making sure their children had better lives than they did. Honouring their sacrifice and making them proud is one of my guiding lights.
They believed science, technology, engineering and math would be the way for us to succeed. My older sister, younger brother and I are all Toronto Metropolitan University alumni. My sister and I studied business technology and my brother did an engineering degree. The Information Technology Management program gave me the ability to speak two different languages and liaise between the tech and business folks.
Right out of school I worked with IBM, earned my project management designation and an MBA. My mother had a master’s of art and was a teacher in India and my dad was an engineer but their education wasn’t recognized here. Part of the reason I got an MBA was to show my mother her hard work was an inspiration to the next generation.
I joined the Herjavec Group in 2013 as a project manager. My skills weren’t being fully utilized in that capacity and I was honest about that, so the organization made a role for me in business development where I sharpened my business skills. Through that experience I supported Robert Herjavec’s Shark Tank portfolio. Once a handshake was made on air, I dove into diligence and when a deal was finalized, we supported portfolio companies with business strategy and advisory calls. That was my entry point into the venture capital space.
I joined the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund (IAF) and learned how venture capital operates here in Canada and how to focus on Canadian tech companies. I enjoy the insightful conversations that happen around the table and working with entrepreneurs energizes me.
In 2022, with the blessing of MaRS, the entire MaRS IAF team launched Graphite Ventures. We are raising a $100-million fund, of which $77 million closed in late 2021. It’s an opportunity for our team to commit increased dollars at the critical early stages of a business.
The Canadian startup ecosystem has so many more entry points and resources for founders to build their businesses that just were not available before. In addition to the great funds and startup founders, the community is coming together with grassroots organizations to strengthen the community’s fabric.
Canadian Women in the VC Community started with five of us and now there are nearly 200 women in the group in all types of roles in venture capital. The Diversity and Inclusion Small Council started as a way to bring together investors to support under-represented founders. These founders may never have pitched to investors before and now have an opportunity to present their business and get feedback from investors in a friendly environment.
High tides raise all ships, and it takes community involvement to build a strong startup ecosystem. Having more diverse individuals building diverse business solutions is better for everyone because our population is so diverse. There is a lot more work to be done but we are starting to open the door.