A career move 20 years in the making
Recently, I have agreed to team up with Brightspark Ventures after 10 years at Desjardins Capital. I had a nice gig there: I was in charge of the technology investment platform, where we managed to generate exits of more than $1.25 billion, and our start-up companies managed to raise more than $250 M in funding over the last four years. But today, I’m quite pleased to join Sophie Forest, Mark Skapinker and the rest of the team as a Senior Partner at Brightspark. It is a natural career move for me – one that has been more than 20 years in the making!
Thinking back to 1995 – the beginning of my career in venture capital – I realize that the Brightspark team and I have crossed paths many times since then. First when I kicked off my VC career as an analyst at GTI Capital, 23 years ago. Being interviewed by Sophie was actually the last step of my interview process! Her signature dynamism and her entrepreneurial spirit was immediately apparent.
Two years later, I joined Sofinov, a subsidiary of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, as employee #3. Guess who was already at Sofinov’s as an investment manager? That's right, Sophie! During our time there, Sophie and I worked side by side and invested in companies such as Touchtunes Digital Jukebox, Balisoft, Tecsys and Think Dynamics – where I was first introduced to the Brightspark model and Mark Skapinker. At the time, Brightspark was one of the very few VC firms in Canada that had partners with operational experience. They had an edge and understood the realities of entrepreneurship very well since they had been in their shoes. Mark was a prime example of this approach.
In 2005, at MMV Financial, I shared an office with the Brightspark crew. I was a witness to the birth of Hopper. I still remember the guys at Hopper using an empty storage space for their servers – they have come a long way since then! I was impressed by Brightspark's approach with this startup. At the time, Hopper was nothing like what it is today, but Sophie and Mark saw the promise in Fred and the team, and they invested nonetheless. Sophie wrote about this story here, if you’re curious.
Later on, when I choose to join Desjardins in 2008, I kept in touch regularly with Sophie who told me about this new model where Brightspark wanted to democratize venture capital and give access to the best VC deals to individual investors. As an individual investor myself, I decided to co-invest with Brightspark in a handful of companies, and later on became a Limited Partner in Brightspark Capital as well.
When we started discussing the possibility of me joining Brightspark two years ago, I was already sold on the model because I had seen first-hand how well the Brightspark team was working with portfolio companies. I was already serving on the board of a Brightspark portfolio company— nGUVUand similarly to Hopper I saw how Mark and Sophie supported and worked with Pierre, nGUVU's founder. Through my interactions with them over the years, I became convinced that joining the Brightspark team was the right move for me, because we share the same belief: working closely with the entrepreneur is the right way to successfully invest in companies.
In my new role at Brightspark, I will be responsible for bringing in new investment opportunities, while working with companies that are already in the portfolio. In addition, with the potential of the investment platform, and my background in M&A, we plan to make some investments in more mature, later-stage companies. But do not be concerned! The same winning model – being close to entrepreneurs, investing in the best companies – will continue to apply. We will be an active partner in consolidation plans that will bring rapid growth.
I have been at Brightspark for three weeks now, and I can already tell you that we have a world-class team! You will hear a lot about how Brightspark is revolutionizing the investment in tech companies, and I’m thrilled to be along for the ride!