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One of Canada’s top investors, John Ruffolo, is back from the brink with a new $500 million fund – TechCrunch

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John Ruffolo isn’t as famous as some investors but is very well-known in Canadian business circles. The longtime head of Arthur Andersen’s tech, media, and telecommunications practice, he joined OMERS roughly a decade ago when a former colleague became CEO and brought him aboard the pension giant to create a venture fund. The idea was to back the most promising Canadian companies. Ruffolo steered the unit into investments like the social media management Hootsuite, the recently acquired storytelling platform Wattpad, and the e-commerce platform Shopify, among other deals. The last was particularly meaningful, given that OMERS owned around 6% of the company sailing into a 2015 IPO valued at roughly $1.3 billion. (Its market cap is currently $130 billion.) alas, owing to the pension fund’s rules, it also began steadily selling that entire stake, even as Shopify’s value ticked upward.

Indeed, after helping OMERS subsequently get a growth equity unit off the ground, antsy Ruffolo left to launch his fund. Then came COVID, and as if the pandemic weren’t trying enough, Ruffolo underwent a harrowing ordeal last September. An avid cyclist, he set out to ride 60 miles one sunny morning on a country road and was knocked far off his bike by a Mack truck in an accident that shattered most of his bones and left him paralyzed from the waist down.

John Ruffolo

That kind of one-two punch might drive someone to the brink. Instead, six months and multiple surgeries later, Ruffolo is undergoing training and therapy and intends to bike again someday. He is also very much back to work and just taking the wraps off his new Toronto-based firm, Maverix Private Equity, which has $500 million to invest in “traditional businesses” that already produce at least $100 million in revenue and are using tech to grow but could use an outside investor for the first time to hit the gas. We talked with Ruffolo about the accident and his new fund this morning. You can hear that conversation here (it starts around the seven-minute mark and is worth a listen). In the meantime, the following are excerpts from that interview, edited lightly for length.

TC: You’re surely tired of answering the question, but how are you doing?

JR: Well, when somebody says it’s great to be alive, it is. I never knew how close I was to death, to be honest, until about eight days after the accident. Thousands of messages came through when I asked for my phone to see what was happening in theworldwideI’m like, ‘What the hell?’ People were copying various articles. I picked off the first one, and it said, ‘John suffered a life-threatening injury.’ And I’m thinking, ‘Life-threatening? Why are they saying that? And the doctors came in and said, ‘Because it was. We thought you would die in the first 48 hours.’ I subsequently spoke to some of the top physicians [in Canada], and they don’t understand why I didn’t die on impact. That scared me slightly, but I’m so glad to be alive. And my recovery is far ahead of schedule. It was only within a couple of weeks that I started feeling my legs again.

TC: You were pulverized, yet a recent piece about your recovery in The Globe & Mail notes that you were back to thinking about your new fund within a month or so. Do you think you might be . . . a workaholic?

JR: Some people call it stupid. [Laughs.] For the two months, my first memory was worrying about my family and stuff [but] I have a group of cycling friends called Les Domestiques who have committed to cycling. Many folks are investors and CEOs of big banks in Canada; we’re all close friends, [and] they all came to surround the family to make sure that nothing went wrong. So very quickly, all of these folks took over every family element, and the kids were OK; everybody was OK. I then had a lot of time in the hospital, and I did get angry. I started placing cacallingtors who were committing to this fund pre-COVID. I just wanted to tell them, ‘Hey, I’m not dead. All my faculties are there. Are you still going to be there when I leave the hospital?’

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