Former Google CFO Patrick Pichette says his new role as general partner in the Montreal-based venture capital firm iNovia Capital is all about Canada’s huge potential in the high tech space, where decades of investment in the field of artificial intelligence is now starting to bear fruit.
Montreal-born Pichette made news three years ago when he announced his retirement from Google after seven years as Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President, during which time he helped oversee the company’s restructuring and the emergence of parent company Alphabet. Now a board member for Twitter, Pichette says he decided the move back to Canada was the right way to close out his sabbatical (which he spent with family travelling the world) because Canada’s tech scene is progressing so well right now.
“As part of my Google responsibilities, I always oversaw the development of Canada, both for Google’s purposes but also for the Canadian ecosystem,” says Pichette, in conversation with BNN.
“Having seen how Canada has evolved over the last decade and how the effervescence is really, really strong and we have such great skills — everything is coming together,” he says.
On his decision to take up his new position, Pichette said, “My wife basically told me, ‘Time to go back to work now.’ I would have kept going for three more years, but she said, ‘We have to settle back down.'”
VC firm iNovia, which also made recent news by hiring another former CFO, Dennis Kavelman, formerly of BlackBerry, aims to lead larger funding rounds for Canadian startups looking to scale up through the injection of growth capital, often in the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars.
Pichette says that past investment through government and private sources into growing Canada’s artificial intelligence expertise is starting to pay off. “Canada is in an incredibly unique position to actually take advantage of this big investment — Canada has invested a lot in the last quarter century and its now reaping the rewards where these startups can take off and every one of those startups is a potential global winner,” he says.
“At Google, we took out so many companies from Canada because, the minute they finished raising their [early-stage financings], they looked really good, and … the minute you have a win, an American company comes and takes them out,” says Pichette to the Globe and Mail. “iNovia did not have the capacity to [lead larger financings]. Now it will with us. That’s going to make a fundamental difference to the ecosystem of Canada.”
Companies in iNovia’s portfolio include Lightspeed POS, Clearpath Robotics, AppDirect and Top Hat.
Kavelman has also praised Canada’s current position on the world stage regarding AI.
“Many of the world’s top founders will come from Canada — a hotbed in AI innovation — as well as the US and the UK,” said Kavelman. “By leveraging iNovia’s extensive reach and its proven acceleration practices we have a rare opportunity to turn these companies into global leaders.”