A Q&A with Andrew Canter, founder and CEO of Canter Capital. The San Diego, California-based firm is a part of Canter Companies, a group of ventures focused primarily on real estate, wealth management, and venture investing. Its investments typically focus on local, San Diego-area startups.
SUB: Please briefly describe the vision behind Canter Capital.
Canter: Canter Capital is the investment arm of Canter Companies. While Canter Companies was built on a foundation of real estate investments, Canter Capital creates a new path for investment.
To diversify the company’s holdings, Canter Capital built its foundation with the goal of pursuing endeavors inside and outside the real estate realm. We quickly realized the booming economy of startups in the San Diego area and became inspired by the opportunity to help stimulate the robust startup culture here.
SUB: What kinds of companies do you seek out to invest in?
Canter: We believe it is crucial for investors to recognize and capitalize on the strengths in their region. For example, San Diego has a thriving ecosystem of entrepreneurs. While we value our roots in the real estate realm, we’re interested in perusing other verticals that help promote the growth of San Diego and California.
A recent round of funding went to the startup HouseCall, an app connecting users to local home service professionals. This is an ideal strategic partnership because HouseCall was able to see first-hand the demonstrated success of their business model filling a need in the home service industry through Canter’s real estate brokerage company.
Canter Capital works to leverage the experience of their executives by sourcing various opportunities in private equity, incubation funding, and Angel investing. Through various subsidiaries, we have purchased ownership interests in a wide array of companies, including social media, mobile, advertising, and solar companies that have now become household names.
SUB: What kinds of companies/sectors would you say are leading the way in technology innovation right now?
Canter: Canter Capital vigorously pursues investments in the technology and startup sectors for a number of reasons. San Diego has been ranked as one of the best regions to launch a startup and continues to reign as a leading innovative city. We’ve also seen information technology jobs continue to soar and exceed pre-recession levels.
Additionally, there remains a small business backbone throughout the state—small businesses and startups account for 99 percent of employers and employ 52 percent of the workforce. When considering investments, we want to capitalize on these information technology opportunities because they drive VC investments, patents, innovation, and ultimately the strength of our workforce.
SUB: The frequency and numbers of investment in technology companies continues to be on an upward trajectory this year. What do you think this indicates about the tech startup economy more generally?
Canter: I think this is proof that traditional business models are evolving. As an investor, you have to stay current. This is why we tend to hire younger employees—the company and its employees thrive off fresh ideas. They’re a hungrier generation that is excited to try something new and constantly striving to be innovative.
SUB: Generally, what characteristics do you look for in a company and in founders when you are considering an investment?
Canter: One of our main focuses is to have a cohesive vision between the founders and their employees. There needs to be a strong alignment of interest, skill and passion. We find it vital to make sure the companies we’re investing in will benefit the area long term. Companies that demonstrate that caliber of quality are a strong point for us.
We also look at the marketplace—is this product or service filling a void? Does it have the potential for scalability with traction for both supply and demand? Does the internal team have complementary skill sets?
SUB: What is the one primary pieces of advice you would offer to entrepreneurs just starting out and building a new technology startup?
Canter: Talent. The most important part of building a successful startup is quality over quantity. Some feel that up-to-par technology talent in San Diego can be difficult to come by, but the first step is to become actively involved in startup community events, meet-up groups, and networking opportunities.
Even if you don’t find the right employee for your company in your backyard, it’s important to make your region look appealing. We are still learning how to find and entice the most talented people and that’s why investing in local businesses and startups helps position San Diego as a hub for technology and startups.