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BDO Canada and The51 work to empower women’s equity in investing


While women make up 51% of the population, they only receive 2.8% of all venture capital. But The51 and BDO are determined to change that. In 2019, BDO formed a sponsorship relationship with women-founded financial platform, The51. The sponsorship is to support mobilizing capital toward other women-founded companies. BDO firmed up its commitment to minorities by appointing the Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer in 2018 and the collaboration with The51 is a key marker on the road to removing barriers for women in the corporate world.

Founded by Judy Fairburn, Shelley Kuipers, and Alice Reimer, The51 started as a private sector-driven movement with an objective to create economic value by unlocking women's capital and driving wealth creation for investors and entrepreneurs. The51 is having an impact well beyond the founders' dreams. They have seen their movement grow exponentially and with that, their goals have become bolder and more ambitious.

Today, The51 is a national platform and financial feministtm movement, with a community that is 10,000 strong after starting in a kitchen with 75 women in March 2019. There are two parts — the financial platform for investors, entrepreneurs, and those who aspire, and the not-for-profit, which advances the financial feminism movement.

Sunit Paul is a BDO partner and tax advisor for The51. When asked what The51 means to her she says, “I feel strongly that every woman should have the opportunity to write her own story. This requires courage, confidence, and access to resources. Resources that become available with financial independence. The51 promotes financial feminism and hence financial independence for women.”

Making a meaningful impact

Since their inception, The51 is seeing a large impact from their work. They have activated about $15 million in private funding and invested in 23 companies across various sectors, creating 770 jobs in Canada. In September 2020, they launched their first fund called The51 Ventures Fund 1. The money raised in this fund is made up of 90% women's capital.

Still, with all this success, there is even more to accomplish. While 30% of Alberta's tech start-ups were founded or co-founded by women, the national average is 13%. The challenge lies with the need to expand on the percentage of companies that are women-led, and that is where The51 sees themselves making a difference.

“We help companies grow, increase their market, negotiate successfully, show them how they can deal with business opportunities, and even with understanding their own financial statements,” says Judy Fairburn, The51 Co-founder, on making a difference for women-founded start-ups.

Creating a more equitable future

There are challenges for women in the investment world, but that can change as barriers lift and tools become more accessible. The51 aims to design financial products and services that cater to women. They are uniquely positioned to understand where there is a lack of accessibility to resources as 90% of their investors are women and 30% are new to investing.

The51 has big ideas for the future. They are creating live experiences between investors and founders to learn more about the companies they're investing in. Their investment membership platform will allow users to view their investor profile, see what companies The51 is investing in, and learn more about co-investing.

There are also plans to drive commercial transactions for the companies they are invested in, which is important so they can integrate their commercialization strategy with the community. The goal is to have a more robust destination platform in the future.

What really sets the founding team apart is that they have a relentless drive for cutting edge innovation. “We are very future oriented,” says The51 Co-founder Shelley Kuipers. “We sometimes say we want to invest in the future we want to see and I think that is a big part of The51's DNA.”

The BDO connection

BDO has worked hand-in-hand with The51 to provide accounting support, as well as informational sessions for entrepreneurs, investors, and community to help them grow and scale. They have also provided members of The51 access to resources in terms of financial reporting and cash flow needs including accounting, taxation, government incentives, and cash flow models.

The51 hopes to leverage their relationship with BDO as they continue to grow. There is a significant opportunity for the two organizations to collaborate and create new possibilities. If you want to learn more about how women are making a difference in the world of investing, or want to get involved directly, visit The51's website.

In the future, BDO hopes to provide financial assistance to more organizations like The51. BDO is committed to supporting organizations like The51, helping them evolve and succeed. We can assist with accounting, tax, bookkeeping and more.

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