2019 Fintech & Financing Conference and Expo: FEARLESS, April 3-4, Toronto Canada

FINTECH FRIDAY$ (EP.3-Aug 3): Investing in Canadian Diversity with Peggy Van De Plassche, Founding Partner at Roar Ventures

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NCFA Canada | Craig Asano | Aug 3, 2018

FINTECH FRIDAY$ (ep.3-Aug 3): Investing in Canadian Diversity - Interview with Peggy Van De Plassche of Roar Ventures

Host: Manseeb Khan, NCFA, Fintech Fridays show host

Guest: Peggy Van De Plassche, Founding Partner, Roar Ventures

About this episode: On this episode of the Fintech Friday Podcast, host Manseeb Khan interviews the incredible Peggy Van De Plassche about doubling down on investing in diversity and launching her new fund, Roar Ventures!

Join NCFA's weekly Podcast series 'FINTECH FRIDAY$' where we sit down with the incredible people in the Fintech community and talk about leading fintech products innovations developments and challenges!

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Transcription of Interview

Manseeb Khan (MK): Hi everybody Manseeb Khan here and you are tuning in to the NCFA's newest podcast series finito Fridays. And today I have an amazing amazing guest super talented she's odd She's a board member of probably every investment venture you can think of any amazing startup organization you can think of. She is actually a board member of the NCFA. Believe it or not I'm sitting down with the incredibly Peggy Van De Plassche. Peggy thank you so much for making it here. Thank you very much. To give you a little more context both me and Peggy are sick so if we do sound a little distorted please please bear with us. We both have teas both have our waters and tissue boxes so should be okay. So Peggy could you for just a minute give a brief introduction of who you are we're backgrounds from and your role in the financial tech community.

Peggy Van De Plassche (PV): OK well thank you so much Manseeb. I hope my accent and my cold will be will be still easy for people to understand me so as I'm sure you can hear my accent I am from France originally. I moved to Canada 15 years ago.  I live in Toronto was in Montreal for many years before that and well I'm a finance person by trade I fell in technology 12 years ago.  So I became fintech even before fintech really existed and was cool and I've been unbelievably lucky with my carrier because I've been (I am actually) an investor an entrepreneur incorporated as well so it really allowed me to see how we'll see the the interesting challenges coming in fintech from every seat at the table and right now actually and raising my first fund for world ventures and we are investing in early stage data and AI startups as focus for our financial services industry and there is a little twist to that is that we have a gender diversity overly and we are looking at companies that the needs that have c0-founders, management team, board members that are female. I would see a Funder's male founders who were very supportive and active in the change of diversity so I think I did my minute and I hope that it was clear enough Manseeb.

MK: Yeah no it was amazing. So you do come from as as you mentioned you do come from the banking space.  Could you just talk a little bit more about that transition from being a part of CIBC being a part of BMO and then transitioning and starting your own venture.

PV: Yes yes definitely. Well I have done that twice actually.  So I went from being like maybe six-seven years ago now to a more entrepreneurial background. I was working for were entrepreneurs and I was started companies for him and managing his media office so that was really my first real brush with entrepreneurship and the thing that I felt extremely funny at the time is that oh my god I have no meetings because they are coming from the moon in the large banks you know always doing meetings. That was definitely a feeling of freedom that I could manage my time the way I wanted. But at the same time you know like obviously you have the perks up where you are. And also it's you don't have the support of a large organization. And in one and you move a little annoyance from an large organization. But on the other end you don't have the processes you know have the rigor. That comes with a large organization as well. So actually leaving a large organization is also what made me the first time really appreciate some of the things that were that were coming with large organizations but also the opportunity to write my own story is something that you know besides being an entrepreneur is you cannot really do that that. I would say ever in a large corporation banking on venture

MK:  Yeah no I totally agree.  It's very difficult to say but especially being in a part of a huge organization just like the banking system it's very hard to I guess be a little bit more entrepreneurial and just have a little bit more freedom to be a little bit more creative when it comes to your ideas and your ambitions and your goals right.

PV: Yeah and you know it it comes back to diversity its diversity of diversity of backgrounds you know like if you look at the banking industry it's still a very very homogenous in Canada.  And it makes obviously things way more difficult when they shouldn't be by having a system that is not very prone to thinking and doing things differently.

MK: What made you want to start Roar ventures and I guess what makes in your eyes what makes Roar ventures stand out compared to the other I guess VC funds.

PV: Yeah well I guess it's it's probably the same answer to both of your questions I started Roar because I first obviously had this entrepreneurial bug in me so that's definitely something but also I'm still a bit of a whitespace in the way most VC operate. So we start seeing a challenge I have is that we're actually not really data driven. So I'm not sure we're always optimizing our returns financially but also the fact that we're very very prudent seats and our science vis LOFAR not a lot of bias in the way you're funding your entrepreneurs. So as you know you know women are diverse people with a dress cultural backgrounds are way less funded and are traditional I would say male type entrepreneurs that we are in North America. So so for me again one of the things that was very important which with my venture was the opportunity to use data not only to be better in my returns but actually to remove a lot of PR in the industry and I would say the last thing is really linked with my profile and the fact that not only am I an investor but I'm also an operator. But they also understand collaborate and you really need that to be able to help young entrepreneurs grow and be successful. The international NGOs is very important to me so that's also something as I'm speaking with LP really making sure for Elfi mix of international LP that we'll be able to help my portfolio company grow. So I would say I didn't really look at me when I decided to to start Roar. I looked at OK what are the whitespace I see in the industry that I will be able to hopefully fill in with new ventures.

MK: That's incredible because I think that's the one important thing but I guess a lot of entrepreneurs or people are drawn to entrepreneurship right they see a wide space they see a problem that needs to be solved. And I guess in your case would be the lack of diversity the lack of just underrepresentation in certain sectors and you just Hey I have the experience I have the talent I have the drive and I have the operational know how to build something that helps build these amazing white spaces with the incredibly talented people that are under I guess Roar ventures right.

PV: Yeah you know it's it's very this idea of doing good work and doing well.  So it's a bit of super super tough.  So I do I do sincerely believe that the VC industry and the investment industry in general are not just VC but PE is the same as we usual to play but also in Canada. Now to really make our country grow and are like you know we're still very much resource base when I speak with international investor lot of them don't know Canada. They don't know what we're doing in AI. I we are great with startups. And and I mean this years as a crutch to create to make sure that. We're building a future for all Canadians which I mean and sustainable jobs.

MK: What would be your thesis to be great. So when you have entrepreneurs that are either trying to become a part but that you are either vetting for your ventures or be it any of the other organizations be part of I guess would be your thesis or what are you looking for in an entrepreneur to take them on.

PV: Yeah. So so you know we spoke about diversity that's something that for me it's very very important someone who really understand and value diversity not because it's fashionable but because it brings value you know like it out feel good and it's a rational thing to do. That's say the first thing. The second thing is obviously an approach that is very collaborative. And. Again the goal for me when I invest in an entrepreneur is to let him do his job. This is the one was the best position to lead his organization that if I can help I'll be happy to do that. And that's really something that is important is set in a two way conversation where you can have someone bouncing back. The Good The Bad and The Ugly were you and being able to help. In order for them to be very successful and you know sometimes unfortunately people every bit of securities which don't always make them you know welcoming help and I think that's that's unfortunate here not good for the growth of the company. So. Collaboration very important for me and I would say the third thing is really ambition and ambition global ambition very very important for me I really want people to look at that and you know I do believe Canada should become what is east to cyber security for AI. So for me being entrepreneurs who really believe that they can go above and beyond North America is very very key.

MK: So everybody you heard it here first Canada is going to become the Israel of AI. So I'm excited for the other for that. You absolutely will we have amazing people like you and just incredibly talented people in this space to make that make a reality. Right so it's it's a matter of time in my in my perspective really well.

PV: Yes it is.  But at the same time there is also a bit of an urgency here you know like we've been in Canada extremely extremely well positioned with the AI obviously the U.S. China. You know they are not really standing still either.  And and as I speak with a lot of international and potential investors in China Europe's of America even in the U.S. people don't know enough or great we are. And you know like it's it's it's it's nice to be nice but you know I think now is the time to really be a bit more assertive on our amazing we.

MK: Yeah I told you either the world have a I guess misunderstanding of how incredible Canadians are because we are just seen as just very nice very polite people that live in igloos and drink maple syrup right.

PV: Exactly.

MK: Aside from gender diversity being open to I guess advice and having a willing to change and looking globally what else is a part of. guess your vetting process when it when it when it comes to our founder.

PV: Yeah well you know I would say that the vetting process is probably very similar to what you see with a lot of VCs obviously really like serial entrepreneurs. That's of use because these are people who know what you're doing.  You want to. I would say technology Edge where you have a special factor where you have a special set of data a special algorithm that guides are going to give you that is going to give you an edge. Very important. What is your value prop as you know with data in AI. We are just scratching the face of the use cases. So very important to know OK what other use cases you're you're starting with in the financial services industry. The fact that I and some of my advisor from our ex of the corporate where we can definitely vent a of these cases because I've seen in the past many times the great idea is that when you're willing to corporate world you know that you're never going to be able to sell because it might be definity a white space or a bank or an insurance but that might be also so risky for them and they will never touch that with a ten foot pole. So and so it's it's it's very important to see what are the use cases that by the organization is going for and I would say that the last thing which is very important for me in terms of due diligence is the fact that once again I really really want to bring not only data but also of standardization. So I really want to make sure that when we do our due diligence is the same regardless of the people we are speaking with. And what I mean is that sometimes we get very excited by a good salesperson and great salesperson doesn't mean that he or she is going to be the best operator but at the same time the challenge is that if you tend to look at people who might be seen in our venue which is by default what we all do you're not irrationally. Increase the number of points you might give someone who will look like you or think like you. And that's something I really really want to make sure I'm winning as much as possible for an hour from my vetting process.

MK:  So I guess the standardization the founder themselves. And I guess the VC ploy a little bit more self-awareness and understanding. Ok hey I'm an amazing salesperson and want to focus on sales. I'm good at the tag on a co-founder that can be a little bit more on the operational side of it right.

PV: Yeah. And what I mean by that is that when when an entrepreneur comes here we see he or she is an incredible salesperson and meaning don't show Manisha woman as sometimes for an investor it's difficult to stick to a script. They fall in love with a song before you know so. So what I mean by standardization is making sure that you're not skipping 12 questions that might be a bit harder because oh my god you love that guy so much and really want to be close to her.

MK:  Yes it's a lot like a first date. You don't want to like the one I'm the one to make sure you vet them and want to make sure they're on the same page and everything. Okay perfect. Got it.

PV: You know what's interesting is that so HVA did a study maybe 6-9 months ago and they were showing why many women entrepreneurs get less funding by men and did lot a lot of analysis done on interviews from VCs to entrepreneurs and what they noticed is that when entrepreneurs is a female. Two thirds of the questions asked by the VCs are actually prevention focused. So all can you do all. Are you going to mitigate the risk in that type of question when it's a male. Two thirds of the questions are promotion focused. So can you be all or fast are you going to be able to do in another geography. So that was actually really the base of why woman gets with less funding than men. It wasn't anything else. So I think a script removes that tendency that we all have due to social conditioning. I'm not saying anyone is mean or whatever to ask settled certain types of questions of certain type of people.

MK: That's why we have programs like the female founders like are the DMZ and these accelerators are starting to have a little bit better of a diverse diverse programs to have a little bit more inclusion and I guess to make these female founders or more I guess bulletproof when it comes to when it comes to pitching VCs and to help you stigmatize the entire I guess scope when it comes to when when the season investors think of entrepreneurship.

PV: Yeah you know I think it's a type of process that needs to change at every level because I hear you in the concept of saying OK you want your female founders to be bullet proof. Why would they have to be more bulletproof vest and men because they know that if you have them get a seat. So you really need to work at every really big bet. You're totally right because things won't change overnight. You still need to to a female expecting that type of question. So some advice that was given recently to two female founders was OK. Act like a politician.  You know if you asked another prevention type question answer your own version of that question but is it going to be promotion based. It's a way to deal with that.

MK: Programs like female founders and she and SHEOo are. I mean hopefully we can have more programs like this to help make diversity a little bit more you know some palatable.

PV: And you know I've been very fortunate because I've been working on collaborating in the gender diversity space for the last 10 to 12 years and before it was two people or so I've seen now what works what doesn't work so in a big corporation the most impactful change you can make is through your hiring process.  You know it has been does business still a lot of organizations. When I was at CIBC. I was leading the diversity diversity committee that. It is shown by organizing events organizing things that might be a bit softer don't really make any change. So I'm very bottom line focused personally so I always go for it was going to be the best ROI. So for example again I took upbraids going to be hiring. If I look at programs to your point that that will be impactful in the in the gender diversity space. Alonzo Bodden this amazing non-profit that was launched by Shalamar from extreme venture.  And what I call Geldart is he's organized a catalyst for middle school girls just before selling their elective so get more comfortable with technology and they get more comfortable with speaking computer science when they are very young because everything we're doing right now in gender diversity space for adults women is great. But we also need to work at the root of a problem so adding more women in STEM for example is a very good way to add to make these changes. And I like to I would say on shorter term and longer term initiatives to really make make an impact.

MK: Anywhere I could get my little sister more computers more learn more than welcome really.

PV: Lets you know at the end of the day you want it's 50 percent of the population.  It's good for everyone to have more educated people.  Woman women are not navigator's and going to go in fields that's going to create value for themselves for their family but also for the country.  So it is just a win win win it's just something to do.

MK: And just to wrap this up will be your advice. If not golden nuggets that's that you've held very close.

PV: Yeah I think that there are maybe two. One is really.  We might be cliche I'm sorry but one is dream big you know unfortunately we are constantly approaching a situation where people are trying to make us play small because it scares everyone when we're playing big bets you really really want to make sure you're dreaming big and you know for me it's very much. I have this litmus test which is OK when I die which hopefully is going to be a long time when I die. Will I regret doing this on and doing it. And usually I can tell you it's a very good indication of what what you should do.  And that was a very good indication for me to start ventures and the second thing which also is quite well-known is to have great resilience because things are always way more complicated. Difficult. We're more costly at many levels than what you think they would be. So you need to dream big but you need to also have a great resilience to make it happen.

MK: But that immediately click. That's that's the vice my founder and CEO Jonathan at Curexe at first two things. When I when I first got on board it's like we have this incredible world map of like okay we took over Canada next is this. Now we're going to do this and I guess they're resilient right.

PV: They just need to remind yourself that every day of everything the way that you just need to remember every day.  Ok. Well tomorrow is another day and we're going to fight another day.

MK: Peggy thank you. Thank you so so much for today. I know today is definitely not the best for both of us though did. I think we did incredible. Thank you so much.  I can't wait to have you again.

PV: Thank you so much Manseeb have a fanastic day.

MK: You too take care.

 

End of Podcast

 


The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association of Canada (NCFA Canada) is a cross-Canada non-profit actively engaged with cryptocurrency, blockchain, crowdfunding, alternative finance, fintech, P2P, ICO, STO, and online investing stakeholders globally. NCFA Canada provides education, research, industry stewardship, services, and networking opportunities to thousands of members and subscribers and works closely with industry, government, academia, community and eco-system partners and affiliates to create a strong and vibrant crowdfunding and fintech industry. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: ncfacanada.org

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