Toronto’s 50 Most Influential: #16, John Ruffolo
Our annual ranking of the people whose smarts, connections and clout are changing the city as we know it
16 Ruffolo commands one of Bay Street’s largest private venture capital firms, with total funding of $470 million, supplied principally by OMERS, BMO and Cisco. He is highly selective, funding a tiny fraction of the pitches he hears, but accessible, too: he once took a pitch over the phone from an Italian restaurateur looking to expand into selling rice balls (he said no). Ruffolo focuses on tech, media and telecommunications firms. As such, he’s at the centre of Canada’s growing venture capital market, which reached a total investment of $1.19 billion in the first half of 2015, the highest level since 2002. High-value Canadian tech firms are sprouting up as a result. In 2013 Ruffolo invested in six per cent of e-commerce platform Shopify, which had an IPO in May of 2015. The company was valued at more than $1 billion, making it Ruffolo’s first “unicorn” in Silicon Valley parlance—the rare instances where an investment reaches the $1-billion valuation. Since then, the stock’s value has nearly doubled.
OMERS has a $20-million ownership stake in Hootsuite, a social media management tool with 10 million users (including 800 Fortune 1000 companies). It’s another Canadian unicorn, and its CEO has been hinting since summer at an impending IPO.