NACO names Backbone Angels’ Arati Sharma 2021 Angel of the Year


Former Shopify CEO and current Founding Partner of Backbone Angels, Arati Sharma, has been named Angel of the Year in Canada by the National Angel Capital Organization (NACO).

It’s been a busy year for Sharma, who left Shopify in January, co-founded a new women-focused angel investment group, Backbone Angels, in March, and has supported 28 startups and four funds, including StandUp Ventures.

“I hope this will inspire more people to write checks and support women.”
-Arati Sharma

In an interview, Sharma told BetaKit that the award means people care about the work she does to help more diverse entrepreneurs succeed. “I hope this will inspire more people to write checks and support women, as the data shows women are still not being supported and invested as much as we should be,” she said.

NACO CEO Claudio Rojas told BetaKit that the Angel of the Year award isn’t just about investing: it’s about recognizing someone “who has made a significant contribution to supporting Canadian entrepreneurs. “. He added that Sharma’s support for under-represented groups resonated strongly with the award’s nominations committee.

The Angel of the Year award, which is supported by BDC Capital, was first launched by NACO in 2014. Its previous winners are Mark Dobbin, President of Killick Capital and first investor in Verafin, and Sophie Forest , Managing Partner of Brightspark Ventures, who was instrumental in the investment, growth and exit of Radian6.

Sharma first joined Shopify after the small Toronto-based digital design agency she worked for, Jet Cooper, was acquired by Shopify in 2013.

Her angel investing journey began while working at Shopify, when she began writing little checks to tech entrepreneurs alongside her husband, also a Shopify employee, capitalizing on the windfall that she received when the retail giant went public.

At Shopify, Sharma held various roles including Director of Product Marketing from January 2017 to January 2021. She then left the company to focus on angel investing and Ghlee, the skin care brand based on ghee that she co-founded. in 2019 with his brother.

RELATED: Women Shopify Executives Launch Angel Investor Group to Support Women and Non-Binary Founders

As an angel investor, Sharma said she took a passive approach to begin with, but after taking a closer look at her portfolio, Sharma realized that she supported a lot of white men and few women. .

To change that, Sharma launched Backbone Angels in March alongside nine other first Shopify employees who held senior positions at the company.

Backbone Angels is a newly formed group of angel investors in Canada focused on investing in women and non-binary founders, with a particular eye on businesses run by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC ).

To date, Sharma has invested in 50 companies. It focuses primarily on Canada, but it also invests outside the country, notably starting with India. Sharma’s investment portfolio includes startups like Willful, Disco, Fable, Sheertex, Kotn, and #paid.

Sharma’s strategy this year was to invest in many types of businesses, from space to direct-to-consumer, wellness and technology.

RELATED: StandUp Ventures Unveils Second Fund Dedicated to Women-Led Startups

She said she had decided this year to meet “all those who bring up.” She takes a lot of calls and estimates that she has met at least 300 founders this year. “A deck can only tell you as much as it is at the nascent stage,” she said.

“I’m really excited to talk to women,” said Sharma, who added that she relished the opportunity to give confidence boost, constructive feedback and potentially, some capital.

Sharma advised potential angel investors to have a clear idea of ​​who you want to support and invest in the founders and entrepreneurs they want to see. She added that for entrepreneurs, “I just want more women to know that this capital exists because so many people don’t have it,” Sharma said.

“I just want more women to know that this capital exists.”

Rojas said he saw Sharma’s approach to community investing reflected in Canada’s angel investing ecosystem with groups like The51 and Halo Health.

The CEO of NACO argued that it is “essential” for the angel asset class to become more accessible, from the perspective of economic inclusion and social progress, adding that “we cannot risk leaving an entrepreneur behind us “.

“Angels are everywhere, in all communities and come from all walks of life, so they can play an important role in finding the next Verafin, for example, who was in hiding in St. John’s,” Rojas said.

To better reflect the changing world of angel investing, Rojas said that NACO has revised its historical definition of an angel investor from individuals who invest their capital directly in companies to investors who put capital at risk in the ecosystem at a wider stage, including towards funds. Next year, the organization plans to introduce a new award to recognize the LP Fund of the Year.

Feature image courtesy of Arati Sharma


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