Giving Money. Getting Money. A Chat with Rob Antoniades, VC and Charitable Co-Founder
Rob Antoniades, Co-Founder and Partner at Information Venture Partners. Co-Founder at The Upside Foundation.
“He’s great. You’re going to like him a lot,” Mike Betts, our Founder, told me this as I was hustling out the door.
Mike has known Rob for over a decade having first met him as a young gun Toronto tech entrepreneur with his eye on the prize of VC support.
Rob was impressed by Mike’s fire and gumption, hence why they are still in touch, but small start-ups led by folk’s without a few solid years of experience behind them aren’t Rob’s sweet spot.
“I like a little grey hair,” Rob tells me. My knee-jerk passion and momma-bear instincts towards my peers who are largely still of the non-grey variety causes me to open and shut my mouth like a fish. But who am I to argue with him? We all have to live, work, and breathe in ways that work for us as individuals, and heck, the man has found success.
And Mike was right, Rob is great.
“You’re brave,” he tells me taking a seat across his boardroom table from me. “There is a theory that if someone chooses to take the seat with their back to the door they are opening themselves up to risk.”
“I’m okay with risk,” I tell him.
The INC Society: For folks who missed our initial announcement on our partnership with The Upside Foundation, mind too terribly giving us your elevator pitch?
Rob: Not at all. The Upside Foundation is a not-for profit organization, which is 100% volunteer run with 100% of money raised going directly to the charities. What we aim to do is make charitable giving completely hassle free for Canadian business owners. We’ve done all the leg work when it comes to getting CRA on board, setting up the platform and all that grunt work. All the business owner has to do is visit our site, pledge that they want to participate in the program and then sign an agreement.
The INC Society: Sounds easy, let me ask though, why The Upside Foundation? You’re a busy guy, what compelled you to start a business you will never see financial gains from?
Rob: Well, transparently, one thing I do hope to gain is a little more love for the investment community. Historically, people haven’t really viewed my industry as notorious for giving back. We’re good! We’re nice! Well, most of us are. Also, the timing felt right, your generation of entrepreneurs has been raised on giving and charitable action. I figured you guys would be into the idea, it would be easily digestible for you and in turn I hope easy to implement.
The INC Society: What does the program look like? What are business owners agreeing to?
Rob: It’s pretty flexible really. In short, what people are committing to when they join The Upside Foundation is that once they reach a liquidity event they will donate – we suggest 1% – to a Canadian charity. But that’s just a suggestion, the actual sum is decided at the time of the signing.
The INC Society: And can they choose where they want the money to go?
Rob: Yes, to a point. We have a few mandates in place when it comes to where the money can go. If folks want to keep it super simple we have pre-vetted a number of charities which are dedicated to education, technology and poverty, and you can leave it to us to distribute the monies to them. Otherwise, if someone wants to pick their own recipient we require the charity to be Canadian, using the money raised within Canada, in good standing with CRA, and unaffiliated. What we recommend is that you pick a cause and interweave your brand with it. Get passionate about this opportunity. You’re striving to your liquidity event not just for your own benefit but to support some larger initiative.
INC Society: As you can imagine as committed lovers of Canada we are so keen on your dedication to Canadians!
Rob: Canada matters! I think sometimes we are so humble we forget this.
INC Society: Is this a fair segue into the other half of your life? The VC half?
INC Society: Alrighty, here we go. I hope I don’t get kicked out of your office for speaking bluntly. Some Canadian entrepreneurs might or might not sometimes have one too many glasses of wine and express some frustrations with the investment community in this country.
Rob: Well, first of all, to be clear on my place in that ecosystem I make no bones about the fact that I’m not looking at little deals. If someone has an idea where they are looking for $100k and hope to be making $1million a year in fives years, no matter how brilliant, that is not a deal for me. I’m in Fin. Tech. I’m looking for grey hairs who have a ton of experience in their field and are going to revolutionize a section of the market. It’s not sexy, but it’s needed and it’s what I do.
INC Society: I think this raises a good point. People need to do their research into a VC to figure out their sweet spots rather than just chucking poop blindly at the wall to see what sticks.
Rob: Exactly. I get the poop tossing, entrepreneurs need to be risk takers and aggressive to a point, but if you want to start a custom shoe company and I say “no thanks” that’s not me or my colleagues being…let’s call it “unsupportive” of your great idea. It’s just not our wheelhouse.
The INC Society: So the small start-up looking to grow, what do you suggest? Angel or VC?
Rob: Well, Angels tend to want to be highly involved, if you want that type of deeply involved financier that’s up to you. VCs tend to step back a lot more, we can provide mentorship but we don’t typically try and take over how you run your business.
The INC Society: Any Canadian start-ups you are currently excited about?
Rob: Igloo Software. Street Context. Point, Click, Care.
Original post at: INC Society Blog