Co-Founder of The Firehood, a women’s network focused on the participation, leadership and prosperity among women in technology through training, mentorship and funding, as well as General Partner of Phoenix Fire, a part of Archangel Network of Funds, led by women angel investors to support early-stage women entrepreneurs, Danielle Graham joins TechAlliance as a Startup Advisor.
“I have spent my career focused on early-stage entrepreneurs, particularly underrepresented founders and creating inclusive pathways to build technology startups. During my own experience as a founder of a Cleantech company in Waterloo, I realized that there was significantly less women’s participation in tech entrepreneurship. Only 2-3% of venture capital in Canada goes to women founders and so, that became a huge focus in my career,” shares Graham whose driving motivation and fuel has been to remove barriers, create opportunities and encourage underrepresented founders. Kickstarting her journey, Graham began by developing and managing Canada’s first women-focused entrepreneurial accelerator, mentoring and coaching high-potential ventures, after supporting commercialization of new Ontario-made technologies with rich intellectual property (IP).
“All these experiences made me realize my passion for meeting new founders every day. It becomes kind of an addiction to the tech ecosystem – looking for the next startup, the next new idea, and the change that comes along with the innovation. All of this gives me so much energy to work closely with founders while maximizing the impact that I can have on their companies for growth.” With encouragement from her mentors and in the pursuit of turning her passion into reality, Graham took the leap to become a Venture Capitalist. “When I was building diversity-focused VC funds like Sandpiper, Dream Maker Ventures, and founding my own fund, Phoenix Fire, I realized that the low numbers of underrepresented angels also correlated to the low number of women or people of color getting funded, and so, I have remained focused on how to remove barriers to funding,” says Graham.
Starting as an Investment Principal at several VC funds focused on early stage and diverse entrepreneurs to setting up her own angel fund, Phoenix Fire, Graham truly believes in the power of diverse teams and aims to be an access point to facilitate potential growth for the economy. “I grew up overseas and spent all my childhood in Southern and Eastern Africa, so when I came back to Canada for university, I had high expectations of a truly multicultural country with empowered women. Coming back to the reality of the sexism that still exists and witnessing racism made me understand the unabating biases that are still in place. We need intentional efforts in the long run to change this. I also believed in the power of disruption, entrepreneurship and technology but saw mostly a homogeneous community participating in the tech sector. I decided to find ways to build up participation or diverse perspectives in this field, which would ultimately allow people to build new realities,” shares Graham.
In her new appointment at TechAlliance, Graham will be working in our Venture Growth team to advise the region’s most promising startups and highest potential tech companies. “TechAlliance is such a gem in the ecosystem. It’s a perfect alliance for me as there’s a lot of opportunity to tap into existing resources, knowledge and expertise, as well as bolstering it through my network and companies that I have access to, so that we can find ways to build out more of those foundations.” says Graham.
Chief Executive Officer of TechAlliance, Christina Fox, is excited to finish out this year with the announcement of Danielle joining the team. “What sets us apart is having accomplished entrepreneurs and investors on our venture growth team to continue to foster a vibrant technology community, driving economic prosperity and job creation across Canada. We are thrilled to have a talented ecosystem champion join our roster and look forward the impact she will have with founders, innovators, tech talent and industry leaders.”