Invest Ottawa, Capital Angel Network unveil first cohort of funding bootcamp for women

Julia Slanina
Ottawa's Julia Slanina, founder of health-tech startup Treehouse Medical, is one of 10 women entrepreneurs taking part in the new SheBoot program this fall. File photo

Eight entrepreneurs from the National Capital Region are among 10 female business founders taking part in a new program aimed at laying the groundwork for what local economic development officials hope will one day be the first $100-million women-owned firm in Ottawa.

The Capital Angel Network and Invest Ottawa unveiled the first cohort of SheBoot last week.

The four-week bootcamp, which will launch this fall, is designed to help women business leaders beef up their investment skills as well as offer networking opportunities and introduce founders to potential investors. The program will culminate in a pitchfest, with the winner receiving $100,000 in funding from local women angels.

The 10 members of the initial cohort include:

  • Ellie Ardakani, co-founder and CEO of Meta, an Ottawa company that specializes in training and AI analytics software for the oil, gas and mining industries
  • Ashley Belleau-Dame, the Gatineau-based co-founder and COO of Bagsort, a startup that offers baggage storage solutions to travellers
  • Audrey Bond, founder and CEO of Ottawa’s Vaultt, which makes an app for sharing and storing family information  
  • Shannon Ferguson, co-founder and CEO of Ottawa sports marketing app FanSaves
  • Alina Jahani, co-founder and CEO of HireFast, a Hamilton-based software development recruitment firm 
  • Cassie Myers, founder and CEO of Waterloo’s Lunaria, which helps clients create strategies to boost diversity and inclusion among their employee base 
  • Caitlin Pentifallo Gadd, founder and CEO of Bingo Impact Management, an Ottawa software firm that helps sports and recreation organizations manage their operations 
  • Sarah Ruest, the Ottawa-based co-founder and CTO of legal services startup Heirlume, which specializes in trademark law 
  • Julia Slanina, founder and CEO of Treehouse Medical, an Ottawa-based health-care management platform for doulas, lactation consultants and midwives 
  • Rebecca Wormleighton, co-founder and COO of Zendelity, a local software startup that helps property owners, office managers and other clients comply with safety and security protocols

Capital Angel Network chair Jennifer Francis told OBJ earlier this year the women-designed program is meant to help open a bigger pipeline of capital to female-led startups. According to venture capital data firm PitchBook, female founders received less than three per cent of all global VC funding in 2019.

In a statement, Francis said CAN and Invest Ottawa want to “help change the investment landscape and put more funds in the hands of women founders,” adding the program aims to “fuel the growth and success of more women-owned and led firms in the capital.” 

Invest Ottawa vice-president of marketing and communications Sonya Shorey said SheBoot’s launch marks a “critical step towards realizing our vision of making Ottawa the best region in the world for womxn founders” to build companies that can compete on the world stage.

“Together with the Capital Angel Network, leaders and champions from across our community, we aim to help create the first $100 million womxn-owned firm in Ottawa,” she added.

(The non-traditional spelling “womxn” is meant to explicitly include everyone who identifies as a woman, including trans and non-binary individuals.)

Noting that women account for just 28 per cent of all entrepreneurs in Canada and fewer than one in five of the country’s SMEs are majority owned by women, Invest Ottawa co-chair Susan Richards said she hopes the program will serve as a model for other regions across Canada.

“It will take powerful collaboration with women and men, working together, to drive long-term, sustainable change,” Richards said.