Candice Faktor: The most successful cities embrace global innovation
Candice Faktor has been an innovator and startup builder for her entire career. Now, as founder of Faktory Ventures, she has taken on the role of early stage investor and advisor, where she wants to play a part in helping Toronto startups with global ambition succeed. Read on to see her global idea for tech and innovation.
How did you get involved in tech?
I started in tech when I had the chance to co-create Torstar Digital, a division focused on disruptive innovation for Torstar.
We spent seven years incubating, investing in, and acquiring digital businesses related to media, advertising, and e-commerce. It was very early in the Toronto tech scene, media was the industry most disrupted and the tech community was very small.
After Torstar Digital, I had a deep desire to work for a highly disruptive startup that was based in Toronto but had global ambition.
I joined Wattpad as the General Manager in 2012. I had given up on my own global social UGC platform a few years earlier, Ourfaves.com, and was inspired by the vision and persistence Ivan Yuen and Allen Lau had for Wattpad. I wanted to surround myself with incredibly smart tech talent and investors to learn how to build a truly disruptive global business.
I spent 3.5 years with Wattpad, helping the team scale globally and learning a ton along the way.
After I left Wattpad in 2016, I spent most of the year consulting, getting curious about the impact exponential technologies such as AI and crypto-currencies would have on business and humanity, and reconnecting with my network in the much more developed and exciting Toronto tech ecosystem.
Earlier this year, I raised capital to create Faktory Ventures where I invest in and help Toronto startups with global ambition scale.
You have 3 hours to make someone fall in love with Toronto – where do you take them and what do you show them?
When I think of quintessential Toronto, I think of our incredible diversity, so I would take them to many of our amazing neighbourhoods where they can feel the energy and experience the creativity of this city. Kensington Market, Little India, Queen West, Little Italy, Chinatown would be on the tour.
Then we’d stop by Shopify, Figure 1, or Wattpad, all global platforms, and have a drink on any of their rooftops.
If the Creative Destruction Lab had a G7 meeting in session where they fill the room with some of Canada’s best and brightest talent, we would stop by so they could see the magic of this community at work. Perhaps we would attend a lecture at the Fields Institute where every Monday they showcase amazing researchers and scientists in AI / machine learning.
Last, I would take them on a boat trip to Ward’s Island where looking back you can get a great view of the creative, diverse, and exciting new skyline that Toronto boasts today.
Elevate Toronto is founded on three principles (#DiversityIsOurStrength, #DisruptTogether, #ItsOurTime). Which one resonates most with you?
There are very few places in the world that have as much diversity and as much tech talent as we see in Toronto.
We’re at an interesting moment in Toronto as well, given some of our tech clusters and our city’s embrace of exponential technologies – for example, AI. We have a real AI research advantage and we have an incredibly robust FinTech cluster too.
We have a diverse immigrant population that not only has global ideas but also global connections around the world that could position us well to succeed. Because of these factors, we are seeing more ambition here than ever before, and global capital and companies are beginning to take notice.
What is your “global idea” for tech and innovation?
My global idea is to promote the idea that building global businesses is essential for our city’s success.
The world is so interconnected and technology is built for global scale. The most successful cities and entrepreneurs are going to be the ones who embrace exponential technologies and build globally disruptive businesses.
In order to do this, you need to give access and exposure to exponential business judgment, as Ajay Agrawal from the CDL often says. We need to inspire people by sharing the learnings and ideas of global innovators to as many people in this city, as early in their lives, as possible.
What should the world know about the Toronto tech community?
I think the world should know three things about the Toronto tech community:
One, we have a confluence of world class schools, research, talent, industry, capital, entrepreneurial support systems and are building very strong clusters in AI, fintech and health amongst other tech areas.
Two, diversity is our strength. Global ideas and talent live here and more importantly are welcome here.
Three, we believe in building bridges not walls and are building a strong, supportive ecosystem that is connected to global capital, customers and talent. Toronto is an outstanding hub to connect globally.