By Lindsay Brennan

A group of Carleton University alumni have teamed up with their Shopify co-workers to found an angel investment group focused on projects from more diverse founders.

The group, called Backbone Angels, is made up of 10 founding partners with varying technical and operational backgrounds. The women met while building their careers at Shopify. The group specifically invests in women and non-binary founders, with a focus on investments in Black, Indigenous and women of colour-led companies.

Konval Matin

Konval Matin, BCom/12

“Over the years, we became a support system for each other, to help drive our careers forward or get us through challenging times,” says Konval Matin, director of merchant stories at Shopify.

“In the past few years, we talked about how unique and beneficial this was for us, and how we could find a way to share it with others. This is when Backbone was created. We realized we had a deep passion for supporting women and non-binary founders. We knew that the combined expertise of the group could really have an impact on their lives.”

Since launching on International Women’s Day in March, reaction to the group has been positive. “We’ve had an overwhelming response to our launch,” says Brittany Forsyth, who worked as the chief talent officer at Shopify until mid-May before departing to focus full time on entrepreneurship.

“Needless to say, we’ve been busy. We expected the incoming decks to slow down since launch, but it has been steady. It’s amazing to see all the wonderful female, non-binary founders hard at work.”

Matin and Forsyth are both graduates of Carleton’s commerce program, Forsyth finished with a specialization in managing people and organizations, and Matin did a specialization in marketing and international business. “I learned how to learn at Carleton and it really was the foundational element for my continued learnings in talent and culture,” says Forsyth.

Brittany Forsyth

Brittany Forsyth, BCom/09

Matin credits Carleton’s co-op program with benefiting her in the workplace. “My co-op placement was actually at Carleton University, and I had great leads like Andrew Riddles and Richard Lefebvre who encouraged me to test and experiment when I pitched ideas to them.”

Part of the appeal of the Backbone Angels is the experience the powerhouse founders bring to the table.

“The experiences of building great teams and products, and telling compelling stories while scaling, are what I’m most excited to share with women and non-binary founders,” says Matin.

“We’ve learned great lessons along the way, and now we can pay it forward with money and knowledge.”

Forsyth’s experience has been in hypergrowth. Over the last decade she has helped take Shopify from a team of 20 to well over 6,000 employees worldwide.

“I have a unique perspective of each phase of growth that I want to share with founders to help them avoid some pitfalls and take advantage of the opportunities,” says Forsyth.

“I believe every organization is only as strong as the team of people you have building it. This is where I can help.”

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021 in , ,
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