The 2011 sale of Radian6 is building the next big thing in automotive tech, in Fredericton New Brunswick

Posted on May 21, 2021 | Atlantic Business Magazine | 0 Comments

Left to right: Radian6 founders Chris Newton, Marcel LeBrun and Chris Ramsey

Radian6 put Atlantic Canada on the map in the tech world with its historic exit just over a decade ago, giving rise to a promising tech startup ecosystem in the region.

The social media monitoring innovator was acquired by San Franciscan tech giant, Salesforce for a combined US$326 million in cash and stock in March 2011. The Fredericton company was founded by Marcel LeBrun, Chris Newton and Chris Ramsey in 2006.

Dubbed Venture Capital Deal of the Year by Canada’s Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA), the purchase of Radian6 was the largest acquisition Salesforce had made to date at the time. Then CMO, Kendall Collins told TechCrunch it would have taken Salesforce at least three years to develop the technology in-house.

Radian6’s success has reverberated throughout Atlantic Canada, Lebrun said in an interview. And many share his perspective on the deal: that, in retrospect, it was a catalyst for the impressive growth of tech in region over the last decade.

“We’re 10 years later now and back then, the tech startup thing was not in the air to the degree that it is today,” LeBrun said. “And so many people that came from Radian6 or Q1 Labs are now off doing their own things or helping coach and mentor other people.”

LeBrun, Ramsey and Newton now work in senior advisory roles at Potential Motors after the three joined the Fredericton-based automotive tech company last year. “We just had great relationships, which helped us build a great culture (at Radian6) and we enjoyed working together,” LeBrun said, adding that Newton’s passion for automobiles and software and their desire to look ahead to what’s next in the world of tech led them to Potential Motors.

The company, which recently pivoted to software after it was founded to convert gas-powered cars to electric, received CAD$2.5 million in seed funding last year and recently announced CAD$180,000 in federal funding through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) to bring its offering to market. The federal funds will reportedly be used to develop its AI technology which focuses primarily on improving the steering, accelerating and braking of vehicles.

“Now, a car is basically a software product,” LeBrun said. “A car is no longer primarily defined by its mechanical means … with an engine and a power train and all that … So, Chris [Newton] is thinking ‘What does the car become?’ and we realized the way these vehicles are controlled hasn’t changed a bit.”

LeBrun added that he and his Radian6 co-founders agreed Potential Motors had a great team and were excited by the opportunity to work together again, helping to build what they hope is the next hero of Atlantic Canadian tech. •

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