Why the former CFO of Google joined a Canadian VC firm after two years traveling the world

  • After Patrick Pichette retired as Google's chief financial officer in 2015, he spent two years traveling the world.
  • He's now back to full-time work with a job at Canadian venture capital firm iNovia.
  • He's excited about reinvesting his own success into his home country and funding high-impact startups, especially those with an environmental focus.

Patrick Pichette, chief financial officer of Google.
Brett Gunlock | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Patrick Pichette, chief financial officer of Google.

When Patrick Pichette left his job as the chief financial officer of Google in 2015, his frank memo about leaving to travel and spend more time with his family sparked a larger conversation about work-life balance.

In the roughly three years since, he has explored Antarctica, scaled cliffs in Australia, biked the Continental Divide and much more, all the while posting updates and musings on his blog.

Pichette and his wife explored Antartica
Pichette and his wife explored Antartica

But he's officially ditching the backback and diving back into a full-time job: Pichette announced this week that he's joining the Canadian venture capital firm iNovia as a general partner.

"My wife basically told me, 'Time to go back to work now,'" he tells CNBC with a laugh. "I would have kept going for three more years, but she said, 'We have to settle back down.'"

Although he had conversations about executive opportunities and potential VC positions in Silicon Valley, the Montreal-born Pichette ultimately saw the current Canadian tech climate as compelling for a number of reasons.

Patrick Pichette with his wife in Patagonia
Patrick Pichette with his wife in Patagonia

Not only is there a need for more growth-stage capital, which iNovia plans to provide, but there's been renewed support from academia and the government to make Canada an attractive place for tech companies, he says.

As the U.S. administration tightens the rules around the H-1B visa program, which allows American companies to employ foreigners in specialized positions, Canada has been trying to woo highly skilled tech workers with an initiative that helps potential employees get temporary work permits in as little as two weeks.

Meanwhile, foreign students are applying to Canadian schools in record numbers, with some citing the tumultuous political climate as part of their decision.

"Trump is doing Canada a terrific service right now," Pichette says.

As someone who made a fortune in the United States (Pichette received hefty, multi-million dollar salaries at Google), he also wants to see more Canadian-founded success trickle down in that economy, instead of abroad.

When scouting companies for iNovia investment, Pichette says that he's particularly interested in finding tech startups with environmental ties.

"When you start traveling and thinking from a global perspective, you realize how small the planet is and how predatory we are to its ecology," he says. "I'm excited about technology that can make a difference in these areas."

Pichette biked along the Continental Divide
Pichette biked along the Continental Divide

He also believes more executives should try to take some sort of travel-based sabbatical in their 50s. While he acknowledges that not everyone has the privilege of taking a world romp as far-reaching as his, he says that the beautiful geographies were mostly just a backdrop to moving slower and spending more time reading, thinking and logging quality time with loved ones.

"You're still relatively young and you still have another 30 years of work ahead of you anyway," he said. "Take a break. It's an absolute delight."

Pichette went rock climbing in Australia
Pichette went rock climbing in Australia