Global venture capital (VC) firm 500 Startups, released the largest Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) report of its kind, which surveyed more than 100 corporate venture capitalists across a wide variety of industries and geographical locations. The report indicates why 500 Startups’ believes some corporate venture capital units succeed and others fail, and identifies different models for success that corporate investors can follow, classified as personas. Instead of prescribing a one-size-fits-all approach, 500 Startups identifies two profiles as most successful from the personas of CVCs navigating the startup ecosystem based on the survey: The “Hunter” persona who operates as a financially-driven and more entrepreneurial investor with a “bottom-up” culture, and the “Explorer” who is more strategic-focused and embraces a more institutional corporate culture.
Corporations have been funding venture capital units at an unprecedented rate. According to Pitchbook, over $60.8 billion was invested in more than 1,440 deals in 2018 alone. And CVCs are investing earlier than ever, during seed stage and Series A rounds1.
The survey showed that CVCs are usually large companies from various industries with over a billion dollars, and companies with more than 15,000 employees. The survey respondents identified AI/Machine Learning, Big Data and IoT as receiving the greatest investment dollars. They anticipate that smart cities, IT/security and FinTech will be the most valuable sectors for their industries.
According to respondents, CVC units are formed for two reasons – to first hedge and then build: The focus of the investments changes over time. In the CVC units first two years, they highly rank the importance to “hedge against rival, disruptive technology, business models and startups.” However, in the next two years, CVC units urge to hedge begins to dissipate. “Building ecosystems around existing platforms and products” jumps as the important motivator to continue investing activity.
“Corporate Venture units that are structured poorly end up getting shut down, which hurts startups that are counting on their investors to support them. Today’s top companies need a founder-first approach that offers value beyond capital. That also needs to be aligned to the strategy of the parent company. To survive and thrive in this environment, corporates need to learn and move faster and do more for their portfolio companies, including via investing in venture capital,” said Bedy Yang, Managing Partner of 500 Startups.
500 Startups’ survey showed that Hunters realized the highest success rates and represented approximately 23% of total CVC units. Hunters chase strong financial returns, exercise a high level of autonomy by being loosely linked to the parent company and have an entrepreneurial culture which is flat and bottom-up in nature.
Survey responses showed that of those entities that succeeded:
- 72% reported that their funds have plans to expand;
- 55% reported that achieving strategic objectives was more important than achieving financial objectives, with 28% saying that achieving financial objectives are more important, and 17% stated that they are equally important;
- 60% of strategic CVC units reported that their funds have plans to expand while 82% of financial CVC units reported that their funds have plans to expand.
The report revolves around five guiding principles that 500 Startups believes set the top Hunters and Explorers apart from the rest of the pack:
- Prioritize financial or strategic returns and design the CVC unit accordingly
- Accelerate your rate of learning to maximize your team’s efficiency
- Provide smart and strategic capital, bringing capital and scaling capacity to get into the top deals
- Measure your return on innovation not just the return on investment
- Integrate your corporate venturing activities into the wider innovation activities of your parent organization