Montreal-based venture capital firm Real Ventures has added another tech luminary to its investment team as it gears up to raise its next fund.
Mike Shaver joined Real part time as a Toronto-based general partner on Sept. 1, and starts full-time next month. The 39-year-old Grande Prairie, Alta., native was previously director of engineering at Facebook for five years, where he led the mobile engineering team as the social network began its transformation to a mobile-oriented platform. Before that he spent six years at Mozilla Corp., where he served as the Firefox browser maker's chief evangelist and VP of engineering, working out of Toronto (during an earlier stint, he co-founded Mozilla for Netscape Communications). Mr. Shaver, who grew up in Ottawa, also held C-level roles with a couple of software startups in his teens and early 20s.
Mr. Shaver brings more star power to Real, one of Canada's most active early-stage VC funds, whose roster of GPs tilts heavily toward ex-founders, operators and engineers, and which has played a key role in building the Montreal startup ecosystem. One recent recruits is Janet Bannister, who created online classifieds site Kijiji during her time as an eBay executive. She joined Real in 2014 and has since led a dozen investments. Mr. Shaver will work out of the same office as Ms. Bannister at Toronto's MaRS complex, focusing on opportunities in the Toronto/Waterloo region.
Although this is Mr. Shaver's first experience as a venture capitalist – "I don't know anything about finance," he says – the technologist brings a wealth of Silicon Valley experience to a market where it is still a challenge to recruit foreign talent. "There is a lot of stuff entrepreneurs need help with," Mr. Shaver said. "Most issues are not around financing but recruiting … and scaling up. That's all stuff I love to do. What I've most enjoyed in my career is helping teams be successful," he said.
"He recruited, built and led teams that created two of the most-used Internet products, Firefox and Facebook Mobile," Ms. Bannister said. "His extensive operating and leadership experience in Silicon Valley will add tremendous value to our portfolio companies."
Mr. Shaver also gained notoriety in 2007 when he told renowned hacker/security consultant Robert Hansen (aka-RSnake) that he could fix any software bug in 10 days. Mr. Shaver, then director of ecosystem development at Mozilla, made the point on his business card using a profanity that prompted Mozilla to publicly state "this is not our policy. We do not think security is a game, nor do we issue challenges or ultimatums." Mr. Shaver quickly apologized for being "overzealous."
Mr. Shaver says he's impressed by Toronto, where he worked for a decade before leaving in 2011 for Facebook. He said he longed to return for personal reasons, but is particularly impressed by what he sees as an increasingly sophisticated and energetic ecosystem that is starting to define itself as something other than just Silicon Valley North. "I want to look back [in 10 years] and say there were great companies built here and great leaders and that I had a part in that."
With Mr. Shaver on board, Real is set to raise its fourth fund this fall, expected to be Real's largest. Real raised $89 million for its Fund III a year ago, following a $50-million fund in 2010, and a $5-million fund in 2007 . Reals looks to invest between $250,000 and $2.5-million in its initial investments in early-stage companies. Real's investment highlights include security firm PasswordBox (sold to Intel in 2014), clothing merchant Frank & Oak, workspace rental firm Breather and serial entrepreneur Mike Serbinis' latest venture, health platform League.