For this edition of FinanciElle “$tatements”, and what will be my last edition for a while, I had the opportunity to interview Megan Maltby, Invest Ottawa’s Senior Investment Analyst.
Megan serves as a key member of the Market Insights team to conduct research and provide actionable investment data, analysis, coaching, and recommendations for Invest Ottawa’s technology company clients. In addition to helping clients with their financing strategy and understanding of both dilutive and non-dilutive sources of capital, she builds and maintains relationships with angel investors, venture capital organizations, and non-dilutive funding sources, facilitating introductions, coordinating meetings, and assisting with due diligence where appropriate.
Paolina: What is it like being an Investment Analyst in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and what advice would you give other women/girls who might want to get into the same field?
It’s an interesting role because it requires a healthy balance of quantitative skills like research and number crunching and qualitative skills like building relationships and providing advice. I love the variety present in the venture investment world. There are so many unique founders building interesting technologies and for someone who loves learning, it is fun to dive deep and learn about new markets and products regularly. Every day is different- one day I could be analyzing a software company’s financial metrics and the other I’m learning about a life sciences company working on getting a new hardware product through regulatory approvals.
I would tell other women to jump in and don’t count yourself out! I think the investment world can appear intimidating. Many wrongly assume you need to have a significant background in accounting or finance. Most of my job at the early stages (pre-seed and seed) is not focused on analyzing financial health but rather looking at market trends, analyzing a company’s traction, and vetting the founding team. I ended up in this industry by complete accident- during a corporate residency while completing my MBA. I would encourage anyone considering the field to start by talking to those working in entrepreneurship, tech, or venture investment to learn about what their day-to-day experience looks like. Whether you are on the founder side or the investor side, the industry is all about building your network, and it’s never too early to start growing those relationships.
Paolina: What are three things that every business owner/entrepreneur should know/learn/understand about looking for investment?
First, understand how equity investment actually works and how investor priorities may be similar or different from founder priorities. There is a cost to taking on outside investment- you are giving up equity in the company that you are ultimately responsible for building and growing. This means that if you end up seeing a financial return – in the tech world, this usually happens when the company “exits” by going public or being acquired – your investors share in that return. While good investors provide advice and connections along with money, they are not the ones working on the business day in and day out. There are definitely benefits to taking on venture capital, and it is often necessary for the company to grow to a successful outcome. However, founders need to be aware and comfortable about what they are agreeing to when accepting venture investment.
On that note, I also think entrepreneurs should consider timing when it comes to raising investment and wait until it makes the best financial sense. Many founders get caught up in the Silicon Valley hype – they see press releases about early-stage companies raising millions of dollars and assume this is the logical next step for their business. However, it is difficult for a start-up to raise venture capital on a dream in most markets outside of the Valley. Most investors, even those who operate at the pre-seed stage, want to see some level of product development complete and some level of customer validation or traction before they are willing to write a cheque. Even if you can find investment at the concept stage, it would likely be at a valuation that dictates giving up a significant stake in the company. On the plus side, we are lucky to have excellent government non-dilutive funding here in Canada. With non-dilutive funding, you can make some initial progress, build value in the company, all while retaining equity. I often advise companies to maximize the use of non-dilutive funding at the early stages of the lifecycle. Once you have some initial traction, you are in a better position to raise dilutive investment at a valuation that you feel comfortable with.
Finally, I advise entrepreneurs to do their research and consider “fit” when it comes to investor outreach. All investors have their own thesis and preferences. These preferences are often based on the stage of the company, the sector it operates within, and the cheque size they are comfortable with writing. Fundraising is an extremely time-consuming process and you can save time and maximize your chances of securing investment if you do your homework and focus outreach efforts on investors that have a preference for companies like yours. Investor targeting is one of the services we offer at Invest Ottawa. We have a few databases we use to filter through the thousands of investors out there and provide this investor data to our clients, so they are better prepared for investor outreach.
Paolina: What are important considerations for a founder when looking for investment at the start-up stage vs. the scale up stage?
It’s always important to understand the investor’s point of view and how they will evaluate your opportunity. While there are common elements (they all want to make money!), investors tend to look for different things at different stages. At the start-up stage, they are likely going to spend more time evaluating the customer pain and founding team, and less time looking at your financial projections. At the scale-up stage, you typically have a product in market, customers and revenue. Investors that operate at this stage don’t need to spend much time validating the customer pain since you already have evidence that people care about the problem enough to buy your solution. These investors tend to look for a repeatable and scalable sales process and spend more time diving into your business model and financial metrics.
Paolina: What are important considerations for a founder depending on the type of investment/funding they’re looking for – VC vs. angel investors vs. non-dilutive funding partners?
While there are various differences with each type of funder, I would reiterate the need to understand the funder’s priorities and goals. You can decipher this pretty easily if you “follow the money.” An angel investor is injecting their own personal cash into your company, so they could have alternative reasons for investing beyond a financial return like giving back to their community, providing mentorship to a new generation of founders, or even impact goals like contributing to the fight against climate change by funding clean technologies. Because they are investing their own money, they tend to write smaller cheques, fund at an earlier stage (compared to VCs), and often have a patient or conservative return expectation. VCs, on the other hand, are investing other people’s money (known as limited partners), and most of this money comes from large corporations, pension funds, and endowments. VCs have much larger pools of capital than an angel, and they have external pressure to generate a significant return in a timely manner. They usually look for massive market opportunities, outsized returns, and a fast time to exit – after all, without delivering returns to their limited partners, they would be out of a job!
Finally, non-dilutive government funders are investing public funds and are accountable to Canadian citizens. They don’t receive equity in exchange for their investment, so even if a company exits, they won’t get a piece of the pie. In turn, their goals tend to align with broad success indicators like job creation or overall economic development.
Paolina: What can you tell founders about the SheBoot program at Invest Ottawa?
Glad you asked – I’m very passionate about this initiative! SheBoot is a brand new program recently launched by Invest Ottawa and the Capital Angel Network. The 4-week bootcamp is designed to help womxn-led start-ups get investment-ready. Participating founders will benefit from leadership coaching, specialized mentorship, and masterclass workshops in areas like pitching, legal, and sales. At the end of the program, the start-ups will pitch for $100K investment, which has been committed by women-identifying angel investors.
We recognize the barriers that exist for womxn founders, particularly those trying to build scalable, venture-backed companies. Only 3% of VC dollars went to womxn-led companies in 2019, and part of the problem can be attributed to the under-representation of womxn in investment roles – less than 10% of managing partners at North American VC firm are womxn. Research has shown that womxn are twice as likely to invest in womxn founders as their male investor counterparts. For this reason, I am thrilled to see an investment program built by womxn for womxn. We have an amazing batch of mentors and investors involved and ready to grow the next generation of tech leaders. We’re getting more womxn to invest and, in turn, helping more womxn founders access capital – a true win-win. If you’re interested in learning more about the SheBoot program, visit https://www.investottawa.ca/sheboot/.
Paolina: What are your current FinanciElle Faves?
- Favourite business/leadership book? “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg is always a favourite- one that I think both genders should read to understand the challenges women face in the workplace, and the systemic barriers and unconscious biases that exist. I also love “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz, a successful entrepreneur and co-founder of a top VC firm, Andreesen Horowitz. He speaks to the challenges of building and running a start-up and provides practical advice based on his own experience of growing and investing in tech companies.
- Favourite business/productivity tool?
Slack. I am in a few different workspaces, including one for Invest Ottawa’s accelerator program. This tool is usually the quickest and easiest way for me to connect with clients and stay up to date on their good news and challenges.
- Favourite piece of media – TED talk, podcast…? I am an avid podcast listener. It’s hard to choose just one – a couple I like that cover the venture investment world are:
- The a16z Podcast also by the Andreesen Horowitz team! They do particularly deep dives into different verticals and tech trends, so it’s a great starting point if you want to learn about a new area of technology like cryptocurrency.
- The Twenty Minute VC by Harry Stebbings. This podcast features a different VC on every episode in a very easily digestible 20 minutes. It’s a nice quick listen and provides great insight into how VCs think and invest.
Note – Why Womxn? :
The word “womxn” is an alternative term to the English language word “women.” We use this term to explicitly include those who identify as women, transgender women, women of colour and non-binary individuals. This choice supports our concerted effort to create a culture of belonging.