Patrick Pichette kick-started a conversation about work-life balance in Silicon Valley when he resigned as Google’s powerful chief financial officer at age 53 to travel the world with his wife.
Vacation’s over. Now, three years later, Pichette once again has a full-time job.
Pichette is becoming a venture capitalist, joining a Canadian firm that has not made many waves in Silicon Valley: iNovia Capital. It’s a somewhat curious move, given that Pichette likely could have had his pick of the litter among prominent Sand Hill Road firms — and Pichette said he spoke with many of the usual suspects.
But Pichette, who was born in Montreal, said he was determined to bet on the Canadian venture capital scene. He will split his time as a general partner between Canada and iNovia’s new office in London as the firm begins leading growth rounds, or later-stage deals. Also joining the firm is former RIM/BlackBerry executive Dennis Kavelman.
“Despite being right next door, it’s far from Silicon Valley,” Pichette told Recode in an interview. “I’m telling you very publicly that I’m quietly working in a place where there’s less pressure and there’s actually more fun opportunities.”
Pichette served as one of Google’s top five executives until he resigned as CFO in 2015 after seven years. His departure from such a high-profile role generated headlines because Pichette insisted it was merely to “spend more time with my family.”
Pichette said that’s what he did — he has traveled to Antarctica, biked the Continental Divide and read 40 to 50 books, he said. He called his decision to suddenly back away from the rat race “the second-best decision in my life,” after marrying his wife.
“I’m going to work for another 30 years, with a bit of luck. People die at 100 years old now. When I was a kid, people died at 67,” he explained. “I reset my clocks and said, ‘Now what?’ And it’s with completely recharged batteries, with an open mind, and I am not stuck in the day-to-day grind.”
That experience made him well-qualified for a number of prominent CEO roles in tech, but Pichette said he has rebuffed entreaties.
“I just didn’t want a boss. The minute you’re a CEO, you have a pile of bosses and you’re working 7/24 and you’re on everyone’s radar all the time,” he said.
Pichette has no formal venture capital experience, but he oversaw more than 200 acquisitions at Google, including its $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola. And rather than starting his own firm, Pichette will be able to slide into an existing structure, while instantly giving iNovia greater heft in Silicon Valley and overseas.
The former CFO is not returning to day-to-day work cold turkey — he joined Twitter’s board of directors last year. Pichette said that his new role won’t affect that posting.
But even as he returns to the world of dealmaking, Pichette said he’s still hoping to live a lower-stress life. Even this VC gig will allow him to focus also on his nature conservation work. He’s still an evangelist for older execs to take time off mid-career.
“If you’re on Earth as a single-purpose engine and there’s only one thing you want to do for the rest of your life, have at it,” he said.
“But for the mere mortals like me who want to have a fulfilling life,” he added, “it’s absolutely brilliant.”