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Google’s ex-CFO Patrick Pichette joins Inovia to invest in Europe

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inovia capital general partner patrick pichetteInovia Capital general partner and ex-Google CFO Patrick Pichette.Eva Blue/Inovia

  • Google’s former chief financial officer, Patrick Pichette, will invest in European startups as a general partner at Canadian venture capital firm Inovia Capital.
  • Pichette will lead Inovia Capital’s new London office after the company raised $600 million across two funds.
  • Pichette wants to help Europe fund the next Facebook or Google, before its most promising startups are acquired by US tech giants.
  • Pichette pointed to DeepMind, a British AI company acquired by Google while he was CFO, as an example of a company that could have been a “UK champion.”

The European tech scene is thriving by most measures, with startups raising $23 billion in funding in 2018 and more public floats last year than in the US.

But there is one constant sour note spoiling the generally positive tune. Europe doesn’t have anything to rival the Silicon Valley giants, a world-leading tech company on a level with Facebook, Google, Amazon, or Microsoft. The closest the continent has to a global household name is Swedish music streaming service Spotify.

There are various schools of thought on whether Europe can ever produce its own tech giant but according to Patrick Pichette, there’s one avoidable problem: “Let me argue that there are 25 Facebooks and Googles in the UK today. The fundamental issue is that they get taken out before they have a chance to become Facebook or Google.”

Pichette ought to know. He was Google’s chief financial officer for seven years and helped negotiate its $500 million acquisition of British artificial intelligence company startup DeepMind in 2014.

“I was on the other side of the transaction,” Pichette told Business Insider. “Everybody’s celebrating that DeepMind was sold to Google. But if you take a step back, ask yourself, had it had the right set of support what would DeepMind look like today as a UK champion?”

ke jie alphago deepmindChinese Go player Ke Jie reacts during his second match against Google DeepMind’s artificial intelligence program AlphaGo.China Stringer Network/Reuters

DeepMind, for its part, has maintained it is a UK company with its headquarters in Kings Cross, London, and its founders remaining in the UK. That narrative has become harder to sustain after Google consolidated a part of DeepMind’s business into its own health unit.

The post-Google Pichette wants to help European startups stay independent and grow into companies that could rival his old employer. To that end, he has joined Canadian venture capital fund Inovia Capital and will lead its first European office in London.

Read more: Facebook was destroyed by British lawmakers for its disastrous year, but new laws should not be narrowly focused on the social network

Inovia is a decade-old investment firm and has closed $600 million across an early-stage fund and a growth fund, mostly from Canadian institutional backers. It describes itself as a “full-stack” investor able to invest at multiple stages of a company’s lifecycle, writing checks ranging between $2 million and $50 million.

The company specialises in infrastructure and applied services companies, and its portfolio includes commerce platform AppDirect and mobile robotics firm ClearPath Robotics.

The new fund has enabled the expansion to Europe, where Pichette will scout out promising European startups. The goal is also to help Canadian startups launch in Europe, and to bring European startups to north America.

“It resonated with me,” Pichette told Business Insider. “At Google, on average we bought two companies a week for the seven years I was there. If I didn’t take them out, Amazon would, Microsoft would. Both Canada and the UK have great early-stage ecosystems, but not a robust growth ecosystem.”

He is, for now, relatively unconcerned about Brexit. “Inovia invests in companies that are global in nature — you can literally park yourself anywhere. If I ran an automotive company with an integrated supply chain in Europe, I’d reak out. But it’s not what I do, and really it’s about IP and tech. We’re obviously much less affected.”

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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