BDC Capital’s Thrive Venture Fund Expands investment in Woman Led Startups with Shoelace

Written by Dreamscape

Halifax, Nova Scotia (February 2, 2023) — Shoelace Learning, recognized as one of the world’s most exciting early-stage EdTech digital learning startups, is excited to announce their recent investment by BDC Capital’s Thrive Venture Fund signaling an ongoing commitment to support the growth and economic impact of Canadian women-led businesses.

Led by co-founder and CEO Julia Rivard Dexter, Shoelace has developed a novel way of delivering learning to students through highly engaging mobile games. This new way of learning is leveraging the motivation that games offer to drive high levels of engagement, leading to 4x more learning than other digital EdTech programs.

In addition to being a program students beg to play, Shoelace delights teachers by serving detailed learner diagnostics with pre-made assignment recommendations personalized to each learner. “Using learning engineering as a tool to support teachers with tasks that traditionally have taken too much time in the classroom, gives them time to focus on individual instruction and coaching with students, and is a massive step forward in how we deliver education”, says CEO Julia Rivard Dexter.  

Student playing Dreamscape

Because their program is loved by students and teachers, Shoelace has seen exponential growth, reaching millions of users and there is no sign of slowing down. “With this investment, we have a clear and disciplined plan focused on adding more games to Shoelace to give players more choice, and adding more assignments for teachers to reach all students’ learning gaps in reading and comprehension across all subjects. By December 2024, Shoelace will have a community of 10,000,000 educators and players on a high-conversion and high-retention learning platform that is proven to be a better way to learn.”

Julia Rivard Dexter, CEO, Shoelace Learning

Discipline is not foreign to Rivard Dexter who represented Canada at the 2000 Olympic Games and went on to build multiple technology companies including the EdTech leader Squiggle Park that was sold to Dreambox Learning in 2021. Completing an oversubscribed round in the fourth quarter of 2022 against macro-headwinds is a clear statement about the traction Shoelace has demonstrated and the team they’ve put together for their next stage of growth. 

For BDC Capital, this marks an important new investment in EdTech, a sector that took off during COVID and has continued to accelerate, even in the increasingly challenging market in 2022.

Teacher Patrice Jenkins, @talesofpattypepper, using Dreamscape

“In today’s digital world, we want to see more innovation enabling better and more effective access to education. Shoelace’s platform is highly engaging with exciting content making it a powerful tool for both students and educators. Shoelace is providing an accessible and adaptative solution to meaningfully improve not just the learning experience, but also outcomes. We are very excited to support Julia and the Shoelace team on their journey,’’ adds Michelle Scarborough, Managing Partner, Thrive Venture Fund at BDC Capital.

The Seed round was led by Sandpaper Ventures, founded by a group of intensely engaged, highly experienced, internationally networked women with a shared vision to radically disrupt the venture capital landscape, deliver social change and economic value, and ensure fair representation of women’s innovation. Rhiannon Davies, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Sandpiper Ventures adds, “Shoelace is the epitome of a purpose-driven company that presents a tremendous opportunity with its solution to modern learning needs. This is innovation at its finest, and we are very pleased to come in as lead investor and join forces with our other investors and the Shoelace team as they bring this incredible resource to players and educators.”. Other notable investors in this Round include the Telus Pollinator Fund, Samsung Next and Reaction Global.


Shoelace Learning is a fun, effective, and adaptive learning platform that empowers educators to be the heroes of their classroom by delivering the best education to kids through games they love. Using a powerful learning engine, learning content is delivered to players at just the right level that keeps them engaged and motivated to continue learning. Educators can access an extensive library of ready-made assignments or customize their own assignments to be delivered through engaging game interfaces. 

About BDC Capital
BDC Capital is the investment arm of BDC, Canada’s Business Development Bank. With over $6 billion under management, BDC Capital serves as a strategic partner to the country’s most innovative firms. It offers businesses a full spectrum of capital, from seed investments to growth equity, supporting Canadian entrepreneurs who have the ambition to stand out on the world stage. Visit

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