Diane Wolfenden
IMPACT INVESTING

Diane Wolfenden

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Golden Triangle Angel Network

Flexibilty – Diane Wolfenden, Golden Triangle Angel Network

“That’s right. Yeah you’ve to be solving a problem that’s got pain to it and that it’s got enough pain that somebody’s gonna pay for your solution.”

ABOUT

Diane Wolfenden is an active angel investor and a charter member of the Golden Triangle Angel Network (GTAN). She sits on GTAN’s board and represents GTAN on the Executive Committee for Equation Angels. Formerly an investor advisor with RBC Dominion Securities, she now gives back as a community volunteer. She is a former Chair of both the board of Governors of the Grand River Hospital Foundation and the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, and received the GTAN David Borges Community Builder of the Year Award in 2016.

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THE FULL INTERVIEW

Diane Wolfenden

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery:
All right. Well Diane, welcome. Thank you very much for joining us today and maybe to kick things off, you can give us a little bit of a background of yourself kind of where you’ve come from, what you’ve been doing, and then we’ll jump right into the questions but just to give the audience a few more details about yourself outside of the fact that I’ve known you for a few years, I find you absolutely amazing when we’re doing screening meetings, a lot of great insights and it’s been super helpful. I’ve learned a lot so I’m excited to spend even more time with you to learn more today.

Diane:
Well thank you. Thank you for that JP. And I’ve enjoyed you know being with you in selection. Unfortunately right now, those are on hold, the face to face like everything is. But in terms of my background so it’s a bit varied. So I was born in England, grew up in Montreal and got my first job with Bell Canada. So worked in communications area for a couple years. From there when I joined CP Rail, actually Canadian Pacific, then the railway. So I worked in the railway for about ten years. Which was you know completely different right, you go from new technology to very old technology but a company in terms of how to manage its infrastructure was bringing in new technology. And then from there I went into the finance business. Actually I know I said I had a short stint in terms of government. I work for a city Mississauga, and then the province of Ontario for about five years combined. Which is another eye opener just in terms of how those organizations are managed and not using technology to great extent at that point but again bringing it in. And then the last 20 years 25 years was in the finance business. So it’s with the AFCO and then Dominion securities as an investment advisor and I transitioned out of that career a couple of years ago. So now I focus on giving back to the community, investing in startups and org and stuff like that.

Jeffery:
That’s amazing. I have so many questions around the railroad side because as a kid and as an adult it’s always fascinated me. I’ve taken trains all over the world. It’s a pretty incredible form of transportation, so I can just imagine the amazing stories of innovation and slow change but when they did it, it was probably massively impactful in that industry. So that’s pretty cool. So you mentioned a little bit about going from the Fintech space or finance space into startups, so what got you interested in startups and how did you come across the startup community?

Diane:
So it all went back to 2009 at the very first Golden Triangle Angel Network meeting. A common friend of ours Benton Liang said “hey Diane, I’ve been invited into this event, I have no idea what its about. TD’s a sponsor and you work for RBC but I think I can get you in. You could keep your connection to RBC kind of low-key.” And so we went. And it was at the Pines in Cambridge, and you know I still remember it. Lots of people were milling around, companies where they had displays, very similar the format as to what we see today. Three companies presented and nobody knew really want to make of it. It was just like who are these people? Why did they brought this together? Is this a scam? Is this legit.? Everybody’s was looking around and we had a good time. Rob Douglas was the emcee, good friend and he said well there’s gonna be another one next month and went back next month, and learned a little bit more, and got hooked. And if you really ask me why I invest in startups, it’s a really exciting asset class. You’ve got all this energy. You’ve got all these young people here who are committed to making a difference and they are so passionate about what they’re doing and you know not all of them are young but the majority are. And they’re passionate but they need support, right. They need financial support, mentoring, help in areas the business they don’t know just so you can help with business because they know their product. and it’s just such a great class tries to be in. And it balances out my portfolio and I tend to be a conservative investor in the other things that I do. and it’s a great way to give back. It’s a great way to give back to the community. But it’s a great way to also help build a local economy. And so I do it for all those reasons.

Jeffery:
Those are all fantastic reasons. I’m a big fan and do the same for those exact reasons. And I find that you have a really interesting story of how it all started and Benton he’s awesome, so it’s a really awesome that it ties in with Benton now bringing into the fold. And you know I guess when we were going through all of this and over the last 10 plus years that you’ve been investing in this different asset class. I love that you’ve kind of really designated this out. There are so many different asset classes that you can invest in and this being one of them, what’s your favorite part of it? What do you really love about now after spending all this time and what really drives you to keep coming back?

Diane:
I love two different aspects of it. So every month it’s like going on a date right with three companies and they’re all fresh, they’re all new, they’re all exciting, they all sound great, they’re all (sic) — You know the potential at that very first meeting or those first couple of meetings is huge, and it’s so it’s so — I love the excitement about that. But like dating right, the more you get to know the individual then maybe (inaudible 5:59 – 6:06). You know I just love that piece of it. The second piece I love that keeps me coming back as well is to be part of companies that I have invested in. To be ongoing support for them, to help them through their growth and the challenges they may have, the opportunities they may have. Well, I like the two pieces of it.

Jeffery:
Well that’s great. I like the analogy of the dating. You’re right, it’s three businesses coming in, it doesn’t matter who they are, what they’re about, as long as they can tell a great story and then you got to decide from there. Which door do you like the best and which one you should really dig into, and learn more of. And every time you go back, there’s just more information that come in and you just get a lot more excited about “I really do want to be part of this company” and then you mentioned you want to dive into that company. So that means you’re really interested in and that could be diving in from many different angles. So is there a philosophy that you have when you’re investing — is it I invest in five companies a year or is there a number or is there I have to make sure that they’re in different verticals, how do you fig