The birth of an an­gel in­vestor

Toronto Life - - News - —Sarah Ful­ford Email: ed­i­tor@toron­to­ Twit­ter: @sarah_ ful­ford

I met Candice Fak­tor al­most a decade ago, soon af­ter she co-founded Torstar Dig­i­tal, the in­no­va­tion wing of the Toronto Star’s par­ent com­pany. Newspaper peo­ple tend to be a bit cyn­i­cal—per­haps a by-prod­uct of be­ing in a per­ma­nent state of crit­i­cal dis­tance from the world. Candice is the ex­act op­po­site: she’s cheer­ful and en­thu­si­as­tic, with a hope­ful, al­most utopian, out­look. She’s ide­ally suited to the tech world, where in­no­va­tors and in­vestors alike be­lieve they are mak­ing the world a bet­ter place

(even when they’re dis­rupt­ing tra­di­tional busi­nesses out of ex­is­tence). Back then, she was a pioneer. There weren’t many peo­ple fo­cused on grow­ing dig­i­tal start-ups—and even fewer women in that type of role. Candice even­tu­ally left Torstar to be­come the gen­eral man­ager of Wattpad, a suc­cess­ful home­grown start-up that al­lows users to share their own sto­ries, ar­ti­cles and fan fic­tion. At Wattpad, she spent a lot of her life on air­planes, fly­ing to San Fran­cisco, New York and Los An­ge­les, se­duc­ing global in­vestors and help­ing the com­pany scale up.

Af­ter four years at Wattpad, she quit and was of­fered a job in Sil­i­con Val­ley. She de­cided to pass. By that point, Toronto’s start-up scene had ex­ploded. The ad­ven­tur­ous eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity she had lusted af­ter in other hot tech cities was fi­nally hap­pen­ing where she lived. If ever there was a time to be in tech in Toronto, this was it.

So she raised some cap­i­tal, started a mi­cro­fund and founded Fak­tory Ven­tures, an in­vest­ment com­pany that helps start-ups grow. She plugged her­self into the tech ecosys­tem and be­gan sniff­ing around for the next big thing. As she sus­pected, there were so many start-ups in Toronto that she was spoiled for choice. So far she’s in­vested in four bur­geon­ing busi­nesses: an ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence firm, a com­pany that uses sen­sors to an­a­lyze phys­i­cal move­ment, a wear­able heart mon­i­tor de­vel­oped by two 20-some­things, and an app that en­cour­ages you to stop check­ing your smart­phone all the time by mak­ing a game of it (a prod­uct my fam­ily would likely say I could use).

Candice is one of sev­eral in­vestors fea­tured in this month’s cover pack­age, “The In­cred­i­ble, Un­stop­pable Rise of Tech,” on page 49, in a sec­tion high­light­ing ac­com­plished women who are thriv­ing in a no­to­ri­ously bro-dom­i­nated in­dus­try. As the pack­age ex­u­ber­antly il­lus­trates, Toronto is teem­ing with en­tre­pre­neur­ial en­ergy like never be­fore. It’s now ranked as the fastest-grow­ing tech cen­tre in North Amer­ica.

Why? The city has a deep well of tal­ent al­ready here, par­tic­u­larly in ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, ma­chine learn­ing and quan­tum com­put­ing. Toronto’s a pretty great city to live in—with good schools, qual­ity health care and cheaper hous­ing than San Fran­cisco. And Canada is ac­tively scoop­ing up in­ter­na­tional tech work­ers who can’t or don’t want to work in Trump’s Amer­ica.

Candice is orig­i­nally from South Africa and be­lieves that Toronto’s di­verse im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion, with a va­ri­ety of con­nec­tions abroad, is a huge ad­van­tage, too. “This is our time,” she told me. “This is Toronto’s mo­ment.”

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