The main goal of a venture fund is to make a profit by investing in fast-growing companies. The Fund enters a high-risk project at an early stage and exits it when the project grows, becomes stronger and becomes more expensive. Investments can be directed to a strictly defined industry, region or project stage. A venture fund, the only limited partner of which is a large corporation, and investments are made in the interests of this company, is called corporate. Corporate venture funds do not exclude profit from their goals, but the return of the fund is only one of the indicators of its effectiveness. Among the most famous foreign funds are Google Ventures, Intel Capital, Salesforce Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, GE Ventures and others. In the US market, corporate venture capital accounts for an average of 20% of all venture capital investments.
There is a wide variety of strategies and goals for delivering corporate VCs, and not all of them are directly related to making a profit through exiting projects. In my article, I will focus on strategies within the framework of the Open Innovation paradigm by Henry Chesbrough.
In a simplified version, open innovation is the ideology of a corporation, when new technologies and products are developed not only in their own research departments, but also attracted from the market.
Chesbrough identifies 4 basic strategies:
Driving investments are characterized by strategic investment objectives and a strong correlation between the start-up and the investing company. Example: Some time ago, Microsoft committed $980 million to support startups using .Net technology, which allowed the company to gain a competitive advantage in several markets.
Enabling investments are also implemented within the framework of the company's strategic goals, but the main business of the investing company does not have close ties with the startup. So, since 1990, Intel KVF actively invested in companies that developed software and hardware for video, audio and graphic computing, the data processing speed correlated with the computing power of the processor. The purchase of this company's products led to the concomitant purchase of Intel processors, which is an example of growth investment.
Potential investments (emergent investment) - are carried out in those companies whose activities do not fall under the strategic plans of the investing company, but at the same time their activities are strongly connected. Example: Berkeley Networks originally entered the Intel VC portfolio solely because of the potential for financial returns. Further development of Berkley's and Intel's networking technologies forced the latter to add support for third-party protocols to their products, which turned out to be the right strategic decision.
Passive investments - investments in companies whose activities are not related to the investor's development strategy, and operating activities are only slightly related. In fact, this is a classic investment for profit.
Corporate venture funds can play other important roles as well, such as technology scouting or blocking the development of future competitors. But today it is more important to understand that a corporate venture fund is not “another source of profit”, but a competitive tool that is important in the long-term prospects of a corporation.