Google’s chief Canadian spokesman is leaving to become a partner with Radical Ventures, a Toronto venture-capital firm that has emerged as a leading backer of domestic artificial intelligence startups.
Aaron Brindle, who has led public affairs for Google Canada for more than eight years – a period that has seen the Silicon Valley search giant establish its leadership in the global AI field in part by hiring renowned University of Toronto scientist Geoffrey Hinton – will join Radical at the end of February. He will oversee public affairs for the firm and help companies in its portfolio craft their communications.
“I’m very familiar with the AI space and recognize there’s fear and a lot of hype around the technology,” Mr. Brindle said in an interview. “My job is to help nurture and support the AI narrative in the country. There’s a capacity to effect real change around how we talk about this technology,” not just around privacy and ethical concerns, but around its commercial potential. “We’ll look back at this moment and see it as historical as this technology shapes our culture, society and economy.”
Mr. Brindle is the latest in a string of Canadians who have parlayed their experience at Google into influential positions helping domestic innovators. One-time Google chief financial officer Patrick Pichette is a partner with Montreal-based venture-capital firm iNovia Capital partners and former Google Canada head Sam Sebastian joined Weather Network owner Pelmorex Corp. in 2017 to lead its shift to web and mobile platforms. Jay Shah, who worked for Google after selling his startup to the company, leads University of Waterloo’s Velocity incubator, while Ray Reddy founded Toronto food pickup app provider Ritual Technologies Inc. after selling his last startup to Google. Former Google lobbyist Jacob Glick is general counsel for Waterloo smartglasses-maker North.
“We obviously think someone who’s been trained by one of the best companies in the world and been a senior leader can bring a lot of value to startups and scale-ups” in Canada, said Radical managing partner Jordan Jacobs. His firm has received commitments for more than 75 per cent of its US$350-million goal for its first venture fund, backed by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Toronto-Dominion Bank, federal government pension manager PSP Investments and the Weston family, which controls Loblaws.
St. Catharines, Ont. native Mr. Brindle, previously a producer for CBC Radio’s The Current, said he wasn’t looking to leave Google. “I love the mission and the work and see the value of companies like Google investing in this ecosystem.” But he added, “This felt like a unique opportunity in an area I’m passionate about. There’s something about the energy of the startup community – you can’t bottle that.”
Radical has made five investments in Canada, including stakes in quantum computer developer Xanadu Quantum Technologies Inc. and Sensibill Inc., which provides digital receipt management technology to banks.
The firm’s founders have played a key role in the development of Toronto’s flourishing AI scene. Mr. Jacobs, formerly an entertainment lawyer, helped build one of the city’s early AI startups, Layer 6, which TD bought in 2018 for more than US$100-million (he served as TD’s chief of business and strategy for AI before leaving last May to focus on Radical),
Mr. Jacobs, Layer co-founder Tom Poutanen and Radical partner Ed Clark, the former CEO of TD, led the charge to establish Toronto’s AI-focused Vector Institute. Radical’s other partners are Layer 6 co-founder Benji Sucher and ex-MaRS Discovery District executive Salim Teja.
Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.