Shopify’s global head of indigenous programs has left the company to join indigenous digital agency Animikii, as she seeks to raise a Series A round.
David Pereira joined Animikii this week as COO, bringing with him to the startup more than a decade of experience in global business and capital markets.
Pereira joins Animikii after nearly four years at Shopify where he held a variety of positions including Monetary Solutions Specialist, Growth Strategist for Shopify for Startups and most recently Head of Global Indigenous Programs, a role he assumed in October 2020.
âWe’re trying to decolonize technology, we’re trying to decolonize the way we do business and how we operate. “
Founded in 2003 by Jeff Ward, Animikii was the first Indigenous B Corp Certified Business in Canada, and is also a member of a Certified Indigenous Business of the Canadian Council for Indigenous Business (CCAB). Animikii provides a variety of services including website design, custom software, branding and design, and digital communications.
In addition to offering technological services, Animikii defines itself as a social enterprise.
âAs a purpose-driven social enterprise with indigenous values, we try to create technology and operate a business through the prism of an indigenous worldview,â Ward told BetaKit. âBut also, in broad terms, it’s about bringing Indigenous web technology to the world and finding opportunities through technology to advance reconciliation, economic justice and create equitable outcomes for Indigenous peoples. “
“We are trying to decolonize technology, we are trying to decolonize the way we work in business and how we operate, having to operate within certain colonial structures,” added the CEO, pointing to the Government of Canada and the law. on Canadian corporations. like two of these structures.
Ward explained that Animikii’s approach is to work within these structures with the aim of empowering future indigenous generations.
âHow can we work in these settings? How to do business a little differently [and] try to make technology a little different, with a long term, seven generations thinking about what we can create today that will last and benefit generations to come, âhe said.
All of Animikii’s work and relationships are rooted in seven values, which stem from the 7 teachings of the grandfathers of Anishinaabe culture. These include humility, truth, honesty, wisdom, respect, courage, and love.
Ward explained that doing business from this angle helped Animikii create its policy of fairness on the board, a requirement to have 50 percent female or non-binary and 50 percent female. percent of Indigenous representation. To date, Animikii’s board of directors is made up of four people, including two women and two indigenous people.
Animikii is backed by Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, who led a $ 1 million fundraising round at Animikii in 2019. The round also included a loan from BDC’s Indigenous Entrepreneur Loan Program.
Since then, Animikii has grown from 11 employees to a team of 32. Ward told BetaKit his company has also seen strong year-over-year growth, but did not share financial details.
âAnimikii is an outstanding example of an Indigenous tech company,â Paul Lacerte, Managing Partner of Raven Capital, told BetaKit in a recent interview for the BetaKit podcast. âThey are a national beacon of what Indigenous integrity looks like and that’s why people want to do business with them.
Lacerte called Ward someone who is “laser-focused” to change the narrative of the Canadian tech ecosystem from a discourse that sees Indigenous peoples and entrepreneurs as in need of help to one who sees success as they are. ‘they have in space. Lacerte called this process the ârecolonization of virtual spaceâ into a process that respects cultures and gender.
“Public holidays provide an opportunity for an act of decolonization – replacing western interpretations and celebrations of history with an indigenous perspective.”
During the past year at Shopify, Pereira has helped create and lead Indigenous programs within the company. These programs include a partnership announced last year between Shopify and indigenous-led organizations in Turtle Island (Canada) and Aotearoa (New Zealand), including Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, EntrepreNorth, Te Whare Hukahuka and Rise2025.
The initiative co-created local and âculturally relevantâ e-commerce training and provided participants with free access to the Shopify platform for six months. In addition, Shopify has also pledged to provide program partners with undisclosed financial contributions to support the scale of their programs.
Earlier this year, Shopify partnered with Raven Indigenous Capital Partners again when it launched an initiative alongside the Canadian Council for Indigenous Business, EntrepreNorth, Pow Wow Pitch and Facebook, offering a social media campaign featuring featuring Indigenous-owned businesses in Canada.
Animikii is also a Shopify partner, having established a scholarship fund for natives last year as part of the e-commerce giant’s Dev Degree program.
For his part, Pereira said that seeing one of Canada’s most important and valuable companies make Indigenous peoples and programming a goal was both exciting and what he hoped to see happen.
âAt the same time, there is always a fear [around] non-native businesses … [and] what are their motivations, âhe said in an interview. âI can tell you that Shopify’s motives, from what I could see, were pure and right. And this even if it did not make financial sense in the short term … [Shopify has said it is] here for the long haul, it’s the right thing to do, we’re a Canadian company, and we will.
It was this corporate recognition and a shift in consumer awareness towards social issues that led Pereira, in part, to join Animikii.
âI have seen the change in consumers who care about the planet, concerned about the values ââaround sustainability. These creative and mindful merchants and sellers, who have created more mindful businesses, âhe said. âThey all came back to the indigenous worldview and values ââthat existed, and which were then disconnected from a Western society. And, so, these teachings are coming and, and I see the opportunity to build something really special [with Animikii]. “
RELATED: Canadian Tech Must Embrace Indigenous Reconciliation
Pereira joins Animikii as Canada celebrates the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. A commemoration in honor of the children who died while attending residential schools in Canada, as well as the survivors, families and communities who continue to be affected by the legacy of the residential school system, it is a day for which many, including Animikii, have advocated over the years.
Many provinces and territories have made this day a designated holiday. However, Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario have chosen not to recognize September 30 as a statutory holiday, a move that has been criticized by Indigenous groups.
Animikii recognizes the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, but when it comes to other holidays, the startup has its own opinion.
âThese legal holidays are based on nationalist, cultural and religious criteria determined by each country (and regions within countries),â the company’s website says. “While some holidays may be of particular significance to certain groups of people, other groups may not identify with the meaning or even understand the meaning of the holiday.”
âPublic holidays provide an opportunity for an act of decolonization – replacing Western interpretations and celebrations of history with an Indigenous perspective. We can create a space to support Indigenous worldviews and celebrate diversity by the way we treat holidays, âthe company said.
With this in mind, Animikii has developed a practice where it allows its employees to choose when they take their holidays.
Regarding the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Ward hopes the day will provide a space for conversation.
âCalls to action have been issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. There are 94 calls to action and the 92 call to action is for the corporate sector, it is for business, âWard said. âThe tech sector and the corporate sector have been called upon to do better. And it’s a responsibility that I think a lot of tech companies might not think they have. So, especially today, that’s why, like in Animikii, and personally, I pleaded for a new holiday.
“It provokes more and more conversations, it leads to conversations around, yes, the dinner table, but also around the board table,” said the CEO. “[At Animikii] we’re trying toâ¦ hopefully be a good example of an aboriginal tech company, or a company that values ââthese movements.