Adam Spence

Adam Spence: Connecting Impact Investors with Social Ventures at MaRS

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Adam Spence is the Director of SVX at MaRS.

MaRS’ purpose is to help innovators change the world by bringing together educators, researchers, social scientists, entrepreneurs and business experts under one roof.

We had a chat with Adam to learn about MaRS, its impact investing platform called SVX, and his role in helping social ventures by facilitating the right relationships, at the right time.

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Adam Spence, Director SVX at MaRS. 

What is MaRS?

MaRS Discovery District in Toronto is one of the world’s largest urban innovation hubs. Our purpose is to help innovators change the world.

We give entrepreneurs what they need: a home with access to networks and capital. The community we’re fostering is designed to keep our most promising talent here in Canada, while also providing established businesses and institutions with access to an innovation pipeline.

We also help new and growing ventures bring ideas to market and scale globally through connections to talent, capital and research, to help them succeed in foreign markets. 

What is SVX?

Social Venture Connexion (SVX) is a nonprofit impact investing platform that is powered by MaRS. I was part of the team that developed Social Venture Connexion (SVX), in partnership with the Toronto Stock Exchange, Canada’s largest stock exchange and the Government of Ontario.

SVX connects ventures with investors seeking positive impact alongside financial return. The idea is to be a single access point for organizations and investors looking to make a difference.

For investors, the SVX helps curate investment opportunities that allow them to be part of companies that are doing good – building a healthy, resilient and sustainable world.

For new ventures, the SVX serves as a place to raise capital. Capital can come from wealthy individuals, foundations, financial institutions or if they are eligible, the general public in Canada too.

What problem is SVX trying to solve?

For new ventures, limited access to capital can prevent a viable social enterprise from succeeding. Our goal is to provide social ventures with an avenue to capital, so the organization can focus its efforts on amplifying its social or environmental impact.

Over the past five years, we’ve worked with 150 ventures and collectively, they have raised over $100 million in financing.

What causes or social issues do you support at SVX?

We support ventures with a social or environmental mission. The missions we support are wide-ranging and have included climate change, social inequality, health and wellness, social inclusion, food security, renewable energy and more.

Can you give examples of ventures you’ve supported?

We have supported SolarShare, a power sharing co-op in Ontario that allows investors to finance solar projects across Ontario. SolarShare now has over 1500 members passionate about solar power, and has invested $31 million, while earning over $2.7 million in returns.

Lucky Iron Fish is an innovative social enterprise which is addressing the worldwide issue of iron deficiency. Lucky Iron Fish is a product that provides a significant portion of a family’s daily required intake and is reusable for five years. For every Lucky Iron Fish purchased, the organization donates one to a family in need.

What new impact initiatives are in the pipeline at SVX?

We are working on a couple of new initiatives to amplify our impact.

At SVX, we facilitate impact investments for private individuals and organizations. We’re developing a partnership with an investment management firm that facilitates impact investments for public organizations. By joining forces, we will be able to shift entire portfolios to be 100 per cent focused on impact investing. More will be announced on this soon!

We are also launching a new technology platform that will make it easy for all Canadians to invest in social ventures. We are excited to launch this to empower more people to invest their money in causes they feel passionate about. Your bank account and investment portfolio has great potential for change.

What is your personal superpower?

I see myself as a ‘Connector.’ I bring people together from different sectors, including government, the community and the financial industry. By facilitating new relationships, I help entrepreneurs get social ventures off the ground or get to scale.

If we’re to truly tackle the big hairy problems we face, whether that be climate change or social inclusion, we need greater collaboration and cross-industry partnerships – and I’m proud to play the role of a ‘facilitator’ and ‘enabler’ for this change.