After over a decade at Lightspeed, JP Chauvet aims to be “good sounding board” as Inovia’s newest executive-in-residence

Former Lightspeed Commerce leader JP Chauvet.
In wide-ranging BetaKit interview, Chauvet takes stock of Lightspeed tenure, shares plan to help other entrepreneurs.

Ex-Lightspeed Commerce leader Jean Paul (JP) Chauvet has joined Montréal-headquartered venture capital (VC) firm Inovia Capital as its newest executive-in-residence (EiR).

During his more than 11 years at the commerce technology company, Chauvet played a key role in scaling Montréal-based Lightspeed into a global, publicly traded player. He joins Inovia months after stepping down as Lightspeed CEO, following two years at the helm attempting to guide the fast-growing firm to profitability amid a challenging tech market.

“I’m really proud of the last two years. I think we did what we had to do.”

JP Chauvet

In an exclusive interview with BetaKit—his first since being replaced as CEO by his predecessor, Lightspeed founder Dax Dasilva—Chauvet said he wanted to take some time off from operations to rest, reset, and consider his next move. Inovia offered a “natural fit” and a chance to share his knowledge with other Canadian tech firms.

“I don’t want to just rush, I want to be sure I take the time from Lightspeed—which I am very proud of and I think it’s a fabulous company—to land on something that’s going to give me the same excitement and emotions [that Lightspeed did],” Chauvet said.

As EiR, Chauvet intends to help Inovia source and evaluate deals, while supporting the VC firm’s portfolio companies. He expects the part-time, one-year “transition role” to lead to board seats, personal investments in promising startups, and potentially even his next gig.

Inovia has witnessed Chauvet’s and Lightspeed’s evolutions firsthand: the VC firm was one of Lightspeed’s first investors. Inovia partner Chris Arsenault, who has known Chauvet since before his Lightspeed days, told BetaKit that he expects Chauvet to bring “immense value” to the VC firm’s portfolio companies.

“[Chauvet] joined Lightspeed in the early days as head of revenue and partnerships,” said Arsenault. “Both as an investor and a board member, I saw him take ownership and accountability, growing into the role of president and after that CEO. [Chauvet] is an amazing executive, a team builder, and a strong metrics-driven operator who thinks big and executes bigger.”

RELATED: Lightspeed founder Dax Dasilva returns as interim CEO, replacing JP Chauvet

Chauvet held many roles during his time at Lightspeed, much of which was spent working as Dasilva’s second-in-command. “[Dasilva] used to always say, ‘I’m the external CEO, you’re the internal CEO,’ and I think everyone at Lightspeed knew that,” he said.

When Chauvet took over from Dasilva and became CEO in February 2022, Chauvet noted that the timing was “very difficult,” emphasizing that the last few years have been particularly tough for most tech companies. “There’s been a clear readjustment. Interest rates are high; yields are not as good when you look at public companies,” he said.

“If you look at the story of Lightspeed being public, the first five years were, I would say, a fairly easy ride, because the market wanted tech, wanted hypergrowth,” said Chauvet. “And then all of a sudden, the market just flipped over and started saying we want profitability, we want slower growth, higher margins, and that wasn’t our DNA.”

RELATED: Lightspeed to lay off 300 employees as it targets “profitable growth”

Amid these conditions, Chauvet said he committed to doing what the market demanded and bringing Lightspeed to profitability, which required the company to be restructured. “I think I left after having done the work, and now it’s time for [Dasilva] to come back,” Chauvet said.

“I’m really proud of the last two years,” he added. “I think we did what we had to do, and it was a major shift for Lightspeed internally.”

Chauvet learned some lessons while he was in the top seat at Lightspeed. “The big learning for me is, sometimes, perception is more important than reality,” he said. “[Dasilva’s] forte has always been messaging … My forte is I’m the most rigorous operations guy you can find.”

RELATED: Lightspeed exceeds fiscal Q3 revenue, profitability targets but company’s shares still slide

He said he is particularly proud of his last two quarters as Lightspeed CEO, when the company posted positive adjusted earnings before income, depreciation, taxes, and amortization, following a “thorough and long journey” that involved laying off 300 employees (10 percent of the company’s staff), focusing on payments, and targeting larger customers.

Lightspeed made progress towards profitability, but Chauvet claimed the lingering “perception of Lightspeed being a high-burn, loosely integrated business” was difficult to overcome in a short period. “The learning is that it takes much longer than you think to change perceptions.”

Lightspeed’s stock price has dropped more than 87 percent from its peak in September 2021. Despite the work Chauvet put in to reshape the company and win back investors, he was not able to make significant headway on this front during his time as CEO. Looking back, he is not surprised by this.

Inovia Capital partner Chris Arsenault and former Lightspeed Commerce leader JP Chauvet.

“[While] interest rates remain high … I think it’s gonna be very difficult for growth businesses to have the recognition that they deserve,” said Chauvet.

In February, shortly after Lightspeed beat its fiscal Q3 targets but still saw its share price sink, the company brought back Dasilva as interim (and now permanent) CEO. Dasilva has been tasked with leading the company through the next phase of its push to woo investors and recoup some of the value it has gained and lost in recent years.

Post-Lightspeed, Chauvet wants to give back. “When you’re growing, there’s always room for a good sounding board that has lived a lot of different experiences,” he said, noting that he has seen companies through significant growth as well as “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” 

“I want to help the Canadian ecosystem.”

JP Chauvet

Arsenault expects Chauvet’s experience, including his expertise in “hypergrowth” and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) through the bevy of companies Lightspeed acquired and integrated during his tenure, to prove beneficial to other emerging Canadian tech startups across Inovia’s portfolio.

“[Chauvet] has spent over a decade building Lightspeed from $10 million CAD to over $900 million USD in [annual recurring revenue], and his deep empathy and expertise will be invaluable for our hypergrowth companies, bringing strategic M&A and sales strategies to our ambitious global entrepreneurs,” Arsenault said.

Chauvet joins a roster of other Inovia EiRs that includes ex-Microsoft and National Bank leader Adam Schlesinger, Uber alumnus and Maple VC founder Andre Charoo, Allocadia founder Kristine Steuart, former Google software engineer Mike Lueck, ex-Maluuba and Microsoft product leader Mohamed Musbah, and serial entrepreneur Rasool Rayani.

As to what might come next for him post-Inovia, Chauvet was noncommittal. “I don’t think it’s wise for me to jump into something [new], because the Lightspeed ride was incredible, but also very draining, and the only thing in my life was work,” he said.

In the meantime, he plans to do what he can to help other firms follow in Lightspeed’s footsteps. “I want to help the Canadian ecosystem,” he said. “I’m Canadian, we built a beautiful company in Canada, and I think now there are going to be many [companies] to follow and I want to help as much as I can.”

Feature image courtesy Inovia Capital.

Josh Scott

Josh Scott

Josh Scott is a BetaKit reporter focused on telling in-depth Canadian tech stories and breaking news. His coverage is more complete than his moustache.

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