Raven Indigenous Capital Partners is providing the resources and expertise necessary to power the reconciliation economy. They are Canada’s first Indigenous financial intermediary, an Indigenous-led impact investing firm that bridges the space between private capital and Indigenous businesses through an Indigenous lens. “What we bring to the table is entrepreneur-friendly financial arrangements and an opportunity for investors to have a pathway into the economic reconciliation space,” says Co-Founder and Managing Partner Paul Lacerte. Lacerte, a member of the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation, launched Raven Capital in 2017 together with Jeff Cyr, who is Métis from Manitoba, and Stephen Nairne, who is non-Indigenous. All three have decades of combined experience in the impact investing and Indigenous social innovation ecosystems. Lacerte, Cyr, and Nairne understood that Indigenous entrepreneurs don’t have access to the same resources in terms of capacity-building support and access to capital as their non-Indigenous counterparts. Under such conditions, entrepreneurs are rarely able to scale their businesses, no matter how strong their ideas. The financing options that do exist are often debt, rather than equity-based, and have limits that make growth difficult. “There’s a long history of providing debt up to $250,000,” says Lacerte. “While it is a critically important source of financing, it has also been one of the ceilings that a lot of Indigenous business owners have been working under: not being able to access equity-based growth capital.” Before the arrival of Raven Capital, Lacerte says, “There was really no other equity providers other than venture capitalists who can be predatory when it comes to working with Indigenous entrepreneurs.” With the arrival of Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, Indigenous innovators and entrepreneurs now have a pathway to equity financing that won’t hold them back. I N D I G E N O M I C S 1 0 T O W A T C H L I S T J U N E 2 0 1 9 | I N D I G E N O M I C S I N S T I T U T E ‘ S I N V E S T M E N T “There’s so much potential in the Indigenous entrepreneurship ecosystem, ” states Lacerte. I N V E S T M E N T To protect that philosophy and the Indigenous ways of knowing embedded in every investment, Raven Capital has a 66% Indigenous ownership mandate that can’t be changed. As the third component of their Indigenous approach to investment, Lacerte and his colleagues have begun to create a decolonization framework. “We’re working with a lawyer now to try and find a way to rearticulate our investment documents through a lens of decolonization,” describes Lacerte. “What we’re trying to do is relearn how to move through the whole investment process in a decolonized way.” After launching their demonstration fund last year, Raven has brought on over a dozen investors and made four investments with the likes of Animikii Indigenous Technology, One Feather, and Cheekbone Beauty. “Our final closing of the fund will be this coming summer, and we expect to close at between $15 and $20 million. Our initial intention was to raise and deploy a $5 million fund,” says Lacerte. That kind of momentum demonstrates significant interest on the part of investors in the Indigenous economy and the innovation on the part of entrepreneurs. According to Lacerte, “There’s so much potential in the Indigenous entrepreneurship ecosystem.” As he reflects on his experience within that ecosystem, one thing that stands out to Lacerte is the level of cooperation and support. “I’m so excited about the way folks inside the Indigenous economy work together and collaborate and support each other. It really bucks what’s otherwise a sense of competition and desire to increase market share. There’s really an incredible commitment to working together in a good way.” That sense of solidarity is what Lacerte believes will power the future of the Indigenous economy. “What we’re seeing is an army of incredibly brilliant changemakers. We’re in an opportunity space that I think is unprecedented in Canada and I think that’s very enabling for our entrepreneurs who are finding ways to not be dependent on government and to solve really complicated problems that Indigenous communities are facing. This is a time and place that our people have been looking forward to for generations.