Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

CEO of Future Capital Marlon Thompson said Tuesday that with a shaky economy shifting the priorities of many companies away from diversity and inclusion, now is the time to fold Future Capital into a larger vehicle.Jimmy Jeong/The Globe and Mail

Marlon Thompson launched Future Capital in 2020, the year the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis brought into sharp focus the gaping disparities experienced by Black people and other minority groups. He set up the company to act as a venture capital and entrepreneurship training ground for people of colour, women, LGBTQ people and others whose ethnicities or identities are under-represented in the field.

Now, he is selling Future Capital to Spring Activator, a venture-capital firm with its own educational and networking arms for new entrants into what is known as impact investing – investing that promotes environmental and societal benefits alongside financial returns. The companies, both based in Vancouver, have not disclosed the terms of the deal.

Mr. Thompson, an angel investor and startup founder, said Tuesday that with a shaky economy shifting the priorities of many companies away from diversity and inclusion, now is the time to fold Future Capital into a larger vehicle.

“In 2020 we saw many calls to action after the death of George Floyd – a spring of initiatives, ourselves included, to address a solution. I think what we’ve seen in the industry, in particular the past two to three quarters, is a fairly significant backslide in the progress that we have made to level the playing field for underrepresented investors and founders,” he said.

“So I think this is a moment for a partnership like ours, for initiatives like ours, to continue the momentum.”

The deal brings together two complementary outfits, said Keith Ippel, co-chief executive of Spring Activator, which operates in Canada, the United States, Peru, Guatemala and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Spring’s investors and founders have mostly concentrated on financing businesses that emphasize climate-change solutions, access to health care and sustainable food production.

“Spring and Future Capital have been allies over the three years that Future Capital has existed. Spring really brings the combination of capacity-building with impact entrepreneurs and getting them to growth readiness and capital readiness, as well as having developed our own community of impact investors across Canada, and really powering that through education,” Mr. Ippel said.

Spring’s investors have led $50-million in early-stage financings, and many have shown passion for creating access to capital for the communities Future Capital has concentrated on, he said.

Spring has worked with partners such as the Telus Pollinator Fund, the Digital Technology Supercluster, the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program, the Business Development Bank of Canada, the United States Agency for International Development and Swisscontact.

Mr. Thompson is joining Spring as its chief experience officer. The combined company will have 40 staff members.

Research has shown that the sustainability field – including impact investing and environmental, social and governance disciplines – lacks diversity. In a 2021 survey, the non-profit Diversity in Sustainability found that professionals in the field in Canada, the United States and Britain are disproportionately white and from middle-class backgrounds.

In a statement, Spring and Future Capital pointed to predictions that North America’s current minority populations will collectively be the majority by 2044, and that in 30 years diverse communities and women will control more than US$68-trillion of intergenerational wealth. Those stats show the need for more investment training for members of those groups, the companies said.

Some of the startups funded by Spring and its trainees have included Gotcare, a business that provides home care services; Moment Energy, a provider of energy storage from retired electric-vehicle batteries; and Open Ocean Robotics, whose autonomous solar-powered boats collect and relay ocean data.

Future Capital says it has trained about 700 professionals from underrepresented groups. Companies supported by its trainees include Haloo, a machine-learning legal and trademark technology platform; BelliWelli, which makes probiotic snack foods; Sunscoop, a maker of plant-based ice-cream; and personal care products maker Curie Co. The latter three companies were founded by women.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe