One of the best-known Canadian technology leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area is joining Power Corp. of Canada’s financial technology venture capital firm, Portag3 Ventures, as a partner.
Chris O’Neill, former chairman and chief executive officer of note-taking app company Evernote Corp. and previously head of Google’s Canadian operations, joins Portag3 three months after it closed Canada’s largest financial technology venture fund, its second, raising $427-million from 20-plus institutions in North America, Europe and Israel.
Portag3 is the early-stage investment unit of Power’s alternative-asset management arm Sagard Holdings.
It has backed some of Canada’s most prominent startups, including robo-adviser Wealthsimple Inc., mobile banking service provider Koho Financial Inc., benefits provider League Inc., artificial intelligence firm Integrate.ai Inc., online lender Borrowell Inc., telemedicine firm Dialogue Technologies and e-commerce merchant financier Clear Finance Technology Corp. (known as Clearbanc).
Portag3 CEO Adam Felesky said his firm, which has a mandate to invest in North America and Europe, had been looking to add a San Francisco-based partner for two years and “we don’t think we could have a better partner to do that than Chris.”
He added that Mr. O’Neill, who becomes Portag3’s sixth investment partner (alongside Mr. Felesky, Sagard chairman Paul Desmarais III and three others in Paris, Singapore and Toronto), is the first “who’s scaled a business beyond $50-million of revenue. We think he’s going to be of huge value to our portfolio companies that are a little more mature.”
He will also help shape investing strategies for Sagard and Portag3.
Mr. O’Neill, the son of Canadian Tire franchisees in Goderich, Ont., moved to the Bay area in 1998 for what was supposed to be a two-month stint when he worked for management consulting company Oliver Wyman.
He has spent most of his life since then in the region. Mr. O’Neill worked for Google for a decade before joining Evernote for three years starting in 2015. He is a charter member of the C100, a Bay-area-based organization of Canadian tech executives that helps entrepreneurs from north of the border make connections locally, and serves on the board of Gap Inc.
Mr. O’Neill has also backed several Canadian startups as an angel investor, including food-ordering app company Ritual Technologies Inc. and AI specialist Layer 6 Inc., bought by Toronto-Dominion Bank for more than US$100-million in 2018.
“I enjoy and get energy from curious and driven people that have world-changing aspirations and want to build enduring companies,” Mr. O’Neill said.
He said he felt his experience guiding employees and entrepreneurs “could be valuable [to others]. In this next stage of my [career] I want to be working with people I really enjoy. ... When I spent time with Paul and Adam it became clear this is the perfect time and place to have that impact I was seeking. The fact it was tied to my homeland was a bonus.”
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