Edmonton company receives boost from Indigenous investment fund

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An Edmonton tech startup aimed at tracking the social impact of a company’s hiring processes has been awarded funds from an Indigenous entrepreneur grant.

Social Awareness Group began in 2017 and recently received $250,000 from the Raven Indigenous Impact Fund, an investment fund that bridges investors with Indigenous entrepreneurs.

President and CEO Aaron Lambie said the money he has received will help expand his company’s technology that integrates with a company’s payroll to assess their hiring practices when it comes to Indigenous people and other visual minorities.

“Industry and vendors and suppliers in the industrial market hold themselves out as having impacts with Indigenous communities. They make a lot of grandiose claims,” said Lambie. “We integrate with payroll and accounting systems and we believe that the evidence that speaks to the credibility of strong corporate social policies is buried in the transactions of your organization or company transaction.”

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For example, Lambie said if a company says they prioritize hiring Indigenous workers, that should be shown in their payroll records.

Paul Lacerte, a managing partner, said they have raised $25 million over the past year and a half and have now assisted six Indigenous companies in their growth.

“We created the Raven Indigenous Impact Fund and said to investors, here is an opportunity to put your money towards reconciliation and the reconciliation economy, and support Indigenous entrepreneurs who might otherwise not being able to access the kind of capital that they need from the bank,” said Lacerte.

After closing the account they have begun to issue grants ranging from $250,000 to $3 million. Lacerte said they plan to cap the portfolio at 13 or 14 companies.

“We want to be able to grow with them and make sure to continue to provide the capital they need as they scale up the size of their business,” said Lacerte.

Lambie said the investment is important because it will help his company expand, but also noted the significance of receiving a vote of confidence from Lacerte’s team.

“It really speaks to the credibility behind some of the actions that industry participates in,” said Lambie. “As much as we’re developing a product that we sell in the market, there’s a lot of research and development that goes into sort of furthering the social impact market, and what that means, and so these dollars helped fund those initiatives.”

dshort@postmedia.com

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