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Industry NewsArlene Dickinson taps George Weston exec to join new food + bev...

Arlene Dickinson taps George Weston exec to join new food + bev venture capital fund

Thursday, July 6, 2017

3496-arlene-dickinson_copy-9226741Entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den star, Arlene Dickinson (pictured) , has put together a team of veteran finance and marketing experts, including aGeorge Weston Ltd. executive, to participate in District Ventures Capital, the venture-capital fund she has started to invest in consumer-packaged goods in the food, beverage and health space.

Brad Holland, a special advisor at George Weston Ltd., is a member of Dickinson’s investment committee, which also includes Wellington Holbrook, chief transformation officer at ATB Financial. Jason Berenstein was named partner and chief financial officer of the new venture, and Dani Reiss, president and CEO of Canada Goose, has been brought on as a special adviser, according to a Globe and Mail article.

The consumer-packaged goods and food spaces are ripe for mergers and acquisitions and while the venture-capital scene in Canada is small and mainly focuses on the tech sector, Dickinson saw the clear opportunities food had to offer, the news report says.

“We need to support the business ideas that have the expertise in Canada and help them grow. We have great agricultural expertise and health expertise,” Ms. Dickinson said in an interview with the Globe. “We can’t all go to the VC world and rely just on technology … and when you think about a food company, you don’t think about tech, but tech underpins food companies, too.”

When putting together her team, Dickinson said experience in the food and beverage sector were crucial, along with a background in finance, but finding members who also understand how to work with entrepreneurs was key.

Holland’s involvement signals George Weston’s first foray into the venture-capital world, a move that is particularly noteworthy for a Canadian corporation of its size. It’s something Dickinson says is long overdue.

“I think it’s awesome that they’re committing to it,” she said. “What venture needs is just more companies getting into VC.”

Dickinson closed the fund back in March after exceeding her $25-million fundraising goal. George Weston, Reiss and ATB Financial were all among the backers. Dickinson personally invested $1 million.



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