Op ed: Cheers to Sylvain Carle as he writes his next chapter


I read with interest this morning the news that Sylvain Carle is leaving Real Ventures. Carle will move on to greener pastures (pun intended😎) after six years with the Montreal venture capital firm. He started by taking over the role of FounderFuel’s general manager.

Carle’s post was heartwarming. He compared leaving Real Ventures to leaving his parent’s house to get his first apartment, rather than slamming the door on a past job. He spoke of how running FounderFuel allowed him to understand the investment side of the business, and his desire to continue learning and growing, a concept I admire.

At Real, Carle said he was able to think, design, pitch, finance and manage the Orbite Montreal pre-seed fund strategy. He learned “the other side of the business”, the whole process of setting up funds and following up with investors. He learned inside and out the entire investment chain within Quebec and Canada. He helped launch Innocité, a smart city accelerator, and worked to bring Techstars to Canada, in Toronto and Montreal.

Just from a career perspective, one can only imagine this was a powerful chapter in Carle’s book, who previously spent time at Twitter.

But here’s what really stuck out to me, just before Carle announced he would move on to impact investing.

I am not a diehard capitalist. On the contrary. I describe myself as a socialist, humanist and, increasingly, environmentalist. Money is not an end, it is a means. This is where I am in my thinking. What is important to me is not technological progress per se, but how to better use the leverage of funding to advance projects.

It made me think about how folks are – and will be – reprioritizing their lives after this pandemic runs through. (Although with respect to Real and Carle, as one would expect, his departure was planned months in advance.)

Sure, his move could have been yet another shuffle in the ever-changing table at a venture cap firm.

But it does seem that people everywhere are reexamining how they want their books to be written when it’s all said and done. And if there was ever an impetus to change how we’re spending 40-80 hours a week, it’s that we just went through a life-altering pandemic.

Carle wrote that he’ll move into impact investing – or greentech, or cleantech. He’ll combine big data with a desire to find and finance climate change innovation.

As he wrote, “I will be 50 in a few years. What I want to do in my next chapter, for the next decade at least, has to be related to our current climate crisis. It’s the emergency of our century.”

I can understand that sense of urgency.

That feeling in your gut

Not speaking of Carle’s situation, but more in general: initiating big life change is both hard and courageous. It’s can be very difficult facing yourself in the mirror and addressing something that your gut tells you is not right.

It’s not challenging when you’re 25. When you’re 35, 45, 55 and on, it can be quite a difficult process to stop the locomotive. When you’ve got a comfortable job that you’ve committed to and when people in your family are happy with your current situation, it’s not easy to put a stop to that train chugging along. Let alone if you’ve got a mortgage and kids to pay for.

This courage is one of the bigger reasons why I appreciate some entrepreneurs.

They can create a wave of positivity within themselves and around them, as their idea grows into a company, others join, and ultimately it pushes good into the world.

I suspect the current times have forced many of you to think about how your next chapter will be written. Will the first sentence be something like this? “As challenging as that last year was, the next year proved to be one of my most rewarding both personally and professionally.”

I hope so.

Returning to Carle: cheers to him as he embarks on his next chapter.

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