In the ever-evolving world of startups, building successful ventures goes beyond just innovative ideas and market analysis - it lies in the strength and diversity of your startup’s team. We sat down with Hilary Kilgour, a venture growth advisor in ventureLAB’s Capital Investment Program, to discuss the importance of building strong teams, the value of diversity, and the impact it has on startups.
Throughout our conversation, Hilary emphasized the importance of fostering diversity that reflects the wider ecosystem. For her, and a growing number of investors, it's not only about diversity in terms of team composition, but also about recognizing and nurturing the best and the most unique ideas, and utilizing the diverse strength in the team as ventures grow.
The Power of Intentional Team Building
Hilary’s philosophy is that in any scaling business success relies on the strength of a venture’s team. Based on her own experience as an entrepreneur, VC, and former varsity athlete, she has seen first hand that team formation is a critical element for a startup.
Not limited to internal employees in the organization; it extends to the ecosystem - partners, government organizations and everyone else who is involved. As an investor, “a fundamental factor she sees in any successful business is the founding team”, Hilary noted. “The culture of fostering diversity begins early”.
While not everyone can be everything to everyone, she highlighted the importance for founders to know their strengths, gaps, and assemble a team that complements their abilities. A great founder should understand every aspect of the business, even if it is merely a high level understanding of the subject - this allows founders to make the most informed decisions.
In addition to building diverse founding teams, the need for diversity in investor teams is equally important, Hilary said. This includes diversity within your angels, VC and their teams. Just as a diverse founding team brings varied perspectives, a diverse investor team contributes a range of insights and connections. The right investors, aligned with a startup's values, provide more than just capital—they offer strategic insight, mentorship and guidance.
This diversity in the investor team fosters innovation, helping the startup navigate challenges and identify opportunities. Beyond financial support, investors act as partners, contributing to the overall resilience of the business.
Diversity as a Strength
Drawing from her experience in investing in women and non-binary founders, she has seen evidence in practice that diverse teams are more resilient and adaptable, crucial qualities in navigating challenges.
According to PitchBook, despite women-led ventures receiving only 2.2% of all funding, they outperform their peers by a substantial margin of more than 63%.
The economic impact of increased investments in women-owned businesses is substantial. The success of women-led ventures showcases that diverse leadership can be a driving force for economic and innovative prosperity. By addressing the gender funding gap and providing more opportunities, there is a potential for substantial growth in these women-led businesses.
Seeing diversity as a key driver of success in the ever-changing business environment, Hilary thinks by incorporating different viewpoints and perspectives, teams become more adaptable, capable of navigating uncertainties, and seizing opportunities that less-diverse teams might overlook.
“At ventureLAB, we empower exceptional founders to embrace diversity in all its forms. They recognize that diversity not only fosters high-performing teams but also allows them to create products that resonate with a wide range of customers, unlocking growth, impact, and resilience in the market.”
With a commitment to empowering innovative and impactful businesses, ventureLAB provides a supportive ecosystem that encourages intentional and diverse team building. More than half of our capital investment team is composed of women, and Through our programs, ventureLAB facilitates connections between founders and a network of mentors, industry experts, and potential investors - helping startups in assembling diverse teams and contributing to the growth of startups, and ensuring that startups have the resources and support needed to thrive in an ever-evolving business environment.
About ventureLAB Advisor, Hilary Kilgour:
Hilary Kilgour is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Audaxa Ventures, one of the first seed stage investment funds investing early stage capital in the most promising solutions at the intersection of climate and health led by diverse Women and Non-Binary Founders. With over 15 years of experience in growing teams, delivering product solutions, and leading organizational transformations, she brings a wealth of knowledge and skills to the founder growth team.
With deep experience scaling innovation for global organizations, Hilary focuses on developing capacity with Canada's leading innovators. Hilary has led local and global investor programs - including ventureLAB, MaRS, Spring, Female Funders, and Future Capital. As a founder services advisor, she is applying lessons learned as an investor, managing partner and board director who builds products, scales ventures and develops the capacity of entrepreneurial ecosystems.