One of the best global names in private capital has joined Toronto’s Radical Ventures as the financier of startups with artificial intelligence prepares to raise its second fund.
John Megrue Jr. was formerly co-chair of Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest hedge funds, and before that chairman and CEO of private equity giant Apax Partners US. He also drives a Ferraris. Mr. Megrue has joined Radical as vice president and partner after advising the firm for more than a year.
He was introduced to Radical by the former McKinsey & Co. global managing partner Dominic Barton, an early advisor to the firm and now Canada’s ambassador to China.
Mr. Megrue is not an AI expert, but said in an interview that he can be helpful to Radical in the areas of talent management and strategy. “Radical has clearly positioned itself at the forefront … as the leading AI venture company. They are in a unique position in Toronto,” a new AI capital said.
Radical managing partner Jordan Jacobs said Mr. Megrue brings experience, but also cachet. “By large funds, when we collaborate on agreements and they hear that John is involved … it’s definitely a stamp that someone who’s had this incredible career has chosen to spend a lot of his time with a relatively new fund, “said Mr Jacobs.” That’s not why we did it – we did it for the value we get internally. But it certainly helps. “
Mr. Megrue is the latest big name to join Radical, which counts former Toronto-Dominion Bank chairman and CEO Ed Clark and Salim Teja, a former top executive at MaRS Discovery District, as partners. The company added Rob Toews as a partner in San Francisco this year, after previously leading AI investments for Highland Capital Partners and helping draft AI policies for the Obama administration. Other team members have previously worked at Google and the private equity firms Onex Corp., TPG Capital and KKR & Co.
Mr. Megrue will also be the latest in a series of global heavyweights in the technology industry to connect with new players in Toronto’s AI sector. In the fall, Moderna’s former chief physician Tal Zaks became strategic advisor to AI-driven drug discovery company Deep Genomics, while chatbot provider Ada Support Inc. recruited Twilio Inc. vice president of engineering Jessica Popp to become chief technology officer. Last year, Jim Keller, who previously held senior roles at Intel and Tesla, joined Toronto-based AI chip maker Tenstorrent as chief technology officer.
“When I started doing my homework, Canada emerged quite high as the third fastest growing place for jobs in AI worldwide and the first country to establish a national framework for AI,” and one of the leading destinations for private investment in AI, said Mr. Zaks, and Israelis. “I’m impressed with what Canada has done.”
Sir. Jacobs and his Radical co-founder Tomi Poutanen have been key players in establishing Toronto as a home for AI companies and talent, after foreign technology giants stormed into Canada a decade ago, buying startups and hiring some of the best local researchers.
As worries grew over a brain drain in a burgeoning field where Canada had an early lead, Mr. Jacobs, Mr. Poutanen, Mr. Clark and others Ottawa to help retain and expand AI talent in Canada. In response, in 2017, the federal government introduced a $ 125 million AI strategy that funded Toronto’s Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence and similar centers in Edmonton and Montreal.
Sir. Jacobs and Mr. The poutans also had their own success; the former entertainment lawyer and machine learning expert respectively sold their AI startup Layer 6 to TD for $ 100 million plus in 2018. They then launched Radical in 2019 and raised one of the largest debut funds of a Canadian venture capital firm securing $ 325.5 million from supporters including TD, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, PSP Investments and the Weston family.
Their first fund has supported 17 companies and will invest in another five to seven, said Mr. Jacobs; Portfolio companies include the start-up of autonomous driving Waabi Innovation Inc., led by renowned computer scientist Raquel Urtasun from the University of Toronto, the former chief researcher with Uber’s self-driving car unit; quantum computer developer Xanadu Quantum Technologies Inc .; and AI chip developer Untether AI Corp.
Mr. Jacobs said the new fund, which will focus primarily on North American investments, will begin to rise in the coming months, “even though we do not have a defined amount yet. But it will be significantly larger.”
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