The Big Read

Faire has a headquarters in San Francisco, but the e-commerce unicorn’s heart is in Kitchener-Waterloo

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit North America in earnest this spring, Marcelo Cortes wasn’t worried about his company surviving. The co-founder and chief technology officer of Faire, an online marketplace that connects retailers with brands, knew the firm could coast for a year or two on its reserve of venture capital from Silicon Valley investors. The retailers using Faire’s platform—most of them mom-and-pop shops with slim margins—weren’t in the same cushy position. As Cortes told The Logic in an interview this fall, “We can survive, but if our customers don’t survive, we don’t have a business.” 

More than eight months later, Faire, with its dual headquarters in San Francisco and Kitchener, Ont., is in a stronger position than ever. The company closed a $222-million Series E funding round in late October, more than doubling its valuation to $3.6 billion, the highest among its Canadian startup peers. It also claims it doubled its customer base in the past year and tripled the business it does, with more than 35 million products purchased on its marketplace and moving up to US$4 million in inventory in a day. It now works with some 100,000 retailers selling products from 10,000 brands. 

With a CEO based in San Francisco and backing from Silicon Valley heavy hitters like Sequoia Capital and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, Faire is often overlooked as a part of Canada’s tech ecosystem. But Cortes insists the company is as Canadian as it is American. Key to Faire’s success is its team in Kitchener, the headquarters where Cortes himself is based, along with the team responsible for engineering Faire’s products—and in recent months, managing its customers through what for many of them has been the most trying period in their careers as entrepreneurs.

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