Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System has lost its second top venture capital managing partner in five months, the latest in a slew of personnel changes within the pension giant’s venture investing divisions since the announced departure of OMERS Ventures head John Ruffolo 14 months ago.
Sid Paquette on Tuesday told OMERS staff and the portfolio companies he oversees that he would leave his post as managing partner of OMERS Ventures on Dec. 31. Mr. Paquette, who worked with Mr. Ruffolo at Deloitte and followed him to OMERS Ventures in 2011, declined to comment on why he was leaving or where he was heading next. He said he would remain as an adviser and told portfolio companies he would continue to serve on their boards on OMERS’s behalf.
“Having been a member of the [OMERS Ventures] founding team in 2011, I am proud of what we have accomplished together,” Mr. Paquette said in a statement. “I am looking forward to moving into my new role as an adviser and continuing to be a part of the evolution of the organization.”
News of his departure met with disappointment from his investee companies, but also relief that he would remain on their boards. “Sid’s been one of the best partners/directors I’ve had,” said serial entrepreneur Michael Serbinis, whose latest venture, health benefits technology company League Inc., received early funding from OMERS. “I look forward to continue to work with him. His departure no doubt makes the job of rebuilding OV a greater challenge.”
Jason Smith, co-founder of Vancouver-based competitive intelligence software provider Klue Labs Inc., said Mr. Paquette “has been phenomenally supportive. He’s been an excellent resource and an avid supporter of the company since the early days. It’s a big loss for OMERS.”
Mr. Paquette, who oversees OMERS’s investments in some of Canada’s best-known emerging technology companies, including Hootsuite Media Inc., League and Vision Critical Communications Inc., departs amid a period of big changes in the organization that used to report to Mr. Ruffolo – which is comprised of OMERS Ventures and OMERS Platform Investments.
Mr. Paquette follows fellow OMERS managing partner Jim Orlando, who departed this summer to manage venture capital investments for the Weston family, leaving OMERS Ventures head of ventures Damien Steel as the organization’s sole Canadian-based managing partner.
Other recent departures include OPI executives Michael Woollatt, John MacKinlay and Paul Manias and OMERS Ventures talent director Sara Cooper, who joined Edmonton startup Jobber as a vice-president.
Mr. Steel confirmed Mr. Paquette’s departure, but said OMERS Ventures “has added 13 incredible people over the past year." That includes investment partners Laura Lenz, who will oversee Canadian investments, London-based Harry Briggs and Tara Reeves, who are investing the pension giant’s first European venture fund; and Bay Area-based Michael Yang.
OMERS Venture has made no announced investments in Canadian companies since June, 2018, other than those it had previously backed, which Mr. Steel addressed in a recent interview. “Everybody keeps asking because the view is that we’ve been quieter in the market,” he told news outlet The Logic. “And what I keep telling everybody is don’t let the press fool you. Just because we’re not out there making announcements doesn’t mean we’re not building an incredible team and making incredible investments.”
The recent changes precede news from OMERS about its next Canadian fund. It’s not known if it will continue to draw investment from outside investors as it did for its previous $300-million fund in 2017, supported by four of the Canada’s six largest banks, among others.
OMERS was one of the first institutional investors in Canada to return to the depleted Canadian venture capital market after the 2008-09 financial crisis.
Under Mr. Ruffolo, OMERS Ventures helped revitalize Canada’s early-stage technology scene, backing many of Canada’s rising tech stars, notably Shopify. Several institutional investors have since followed suit, including Power Corp. of Canada, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.
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