Relay Ventures boosts team and promotes two to managing partner

With offices in Toronto, Calgary and San Francisco, the early-stage firm announces a new hire and several team promotions, including Alex Baker and Irfhan Rawji each to managing partner.

The Canadian and Silicon Valley early-stage investor Relay Ventures has made several promotions and a new hire, as it doubles the number of managing partners to four, Venture Capital Journal has learned.

Relay, which was founded 13 years ago, promoted Alex Baker and Irfhan Rawji each to managing partner, joining co-founders and managing partners John Albright and Kevin Talbot.

All four managing partners are located in Canada, with Rawji in the west in Calgary, Alberta. The firm, which invests primarily in seed and Series A deals in the US and Canada, also has offices in Toronto and San Francisco.

The firm’s other personnel moves include:

  • Norman Winarsky to partner
  • Jake Cassaday to venture partner
  • Samir Remtulla to vice-president
  • Chevonaé Walcott and Simon Sokol each to associate
  • Stephanie Wood joins as associate

Talbot told VCJ that the moves reflect the firm’s focus to promote within. The staff changes also reflect Relay’s efforts to establish a diverse and inclusive investing team, which Talbot noted creates a firm of professionals that various start-up entrepreneurs would value.

Relay Ventures

Talbot declined to discuss fundraising, but the recent moves come nearly five years after the firm raised C$200 million ($150 million) for Relay Ventures III, earmarked for early-stage deals in Canada and the US. The firm has honed it strategy since then and invests in mobility, proptech and fintech, according to Talbot.

Among its investments is the Atlanta fintech company Greenlight, valued reportedly at more than $2 billion. New managing partner Baker, who joined Relay as a principal in 2008 and was named a partner in 2013, leads the firm’s fintech investment strategy and represents the fund on the board of several companies including Greenlight, as well as 7Shifts and Rally. He is based in Toronto.

Rawji had been a venture partner at the firm since 2017 and simultaneously serves as chief executive of MobSquad, a company founded and incubated by Relay in 2018. Talbot said that Irfhan will transition from his role at MobSquad by the end of 2021 to focus on Relay as managing partner.

New partner Winarsky was promoted from venture partner. He is based in Silicon Valley and will invest in mobility startups as well as head up the firm’s focus on artificial intelligence. He joined Relay as an entrepreneur-in-residence in 2016.

The moves at Relay come as venture investing in Canadian tech companies was strong in the first quarter, according to a report issued in May by the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association. In all, C$2.7 billion was deployed to 175 financings, marking the most active quarter on record. More than half of Relay’s deals are based in Canada.

Talbot said he sees activity as robust at every stage in Canada and the US.