Ripple’s first hire, Lau founded firm’s startup and investor fellowship program.
Ripple Ventures has promoted Dominic Lau from principal to partner as the Toronto-based early-stage VC firm prepares for its third fund.
The promotion makes Lau the firm’s only active investor at the partner level. While Michael Garbe previously served as a Ripple partner for Fund I, Garbe has since transitioned to the role of venture partner. Ripple founder Matt Cohen remains at the managing partner level.
In addition to Cohen and Lau, Ripple’s team currently includes associate Nazuk Thakkar; analysts Jay Lee and Turja Chowdhury; venture partners Mike Silagadze, Ryan Freeman, Emily Lonetto, and Michael Garbe; and CEO coach Elisha Gray. Lau told BetaKit that Ripple is also looking to add more investors to its team and bring more operators into the fold as advisors or venture partners.
“Beyond the fellowship program, Dom has been the engine that keeps our team together and constantly firing on all cylinders.”
“Dom joined Ripple as we held the first close on Fund I, and from day one, he worked endlessly to build out our internal processes, frameworks for investment, and community of founders/investors,” Cohen told BetaKit. “Given his prior experience with other emerging managers, his scrappiness and creativity helped us figure out ways to do our jobs better every day.”
As a partner, Lau will lead Ripple investments, continue to provide post-investment support, and scale the RippleX Fellowship Program, a 12-week, remote, extracurricular program he founded that teaches students about startup-building and investing fundamentals.
Founded in 2017, Ripple is a venture fund focused on B2B SaaS startups in Canada and the United States at the pre-seed and seed stages. Ripple’s 17-company portfolio currently includes firms like Toronto-based conversational artificial intelligence (AI) startup Voiceflow, construction tech company Tread, and medical document analysis platform Wisedocs. The VC firm has also exited fundraising software firm Wisely and cybersecurity startup Cybeats, after investing in both through its first fund.
Ripple has now finished investing out of Fund II, and is working towards raising its next fund. Cohen noted that Ripple is already deploying new capital and has been “actively engaging” existing and new investors, but did not disclose further details.
Lau first joined Ripple in 2018 as an associate. He told BetaKit he was drawn to the firm by Cohen’s vision and the institutional pre-seed and seed-stage investment fund gap he was looking to fill in the Toronto tech ecosystem with Ripple. Since then, Cohen said Lau has played an important role in Ripple’s development.
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Lau applied to Ripple’s first job posting. According to Cohen, he stood out because he was the only applicant who found Cohen’s phone number and called him directly to make his case.
At Ripple, Lau has helped build multiple aspects of the Toronto-based fund, from its investment engine to the firm’s internal operations, noting that he has also spent a lot of time working with Ripple portfolio companies post-investment.
One of Lau’s biggest achievements has been the launch of the RippleX Fellowship Program, which helps entrepreneurs and prospective investors learn about markets, customer interviews, product-market fit, startup evaluation frameworks, deal structures, term sheets, cap tables, and other parts of the trade.
“I started this fellowship program because I felt the struggles that every student out there faces when it comes to learning and gaining access to industry experts in startups and venture capital,” said Lau.
Ripple’s flagship RippleX Fellowship Program brings together 25 student founders and aspiring VCs per cohort, but the program is also available to anyone else as a free self-paced online course. Ripple has also begun writing $25,000 to $50,000 cheques to student and first-time founders through its associated Fellow Fund.
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To date, the RippleX Fellowship Program has completed 11 cohorts and built a network of over 1,000 students across 60 universities and 25 countries, with 50 percent gender diversity and 90 percent Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) representation.
In addition to educating aspiring startups and investors, the course—which is available for free—also helps Ripple source deal flow and talent, and track trends in the early-stage tech ecosystem. Through the program, Ripple has invested in Philadelphia-based delivery platform Lula and added Thakkar to its team.
According to Lau, students and alumni from the RippleX Fellowship Program have gone on to raise over $50 million in VC financing collectively, noting that 25 graduates have been placed into VC roles.
“Beyond the fellowship program, Dom has been the engine that keeps our team together and constantly firing on all cylinders,” said Cohen.
Cohen noted that building out a diverse team is a big focus for Ripple, adding that Lau has been “at the forefront of pushing our team to be more inclusive and diverse across all aspects of our firm.”
Feature image of Dominic Lau, courtesy Ripple Ventures.