At CVCinsight we help companies build effective Corporate Venture Capital units. A lot of big companies see the strategic value in collaborating with start-ups, but it can be challenging to build an effective CVC unit. There are a lot of companies striving to be the best. However not that many companies aim to be the worst. So perhaps that is the perfect blue ocean strategy. If you want to test out that strategy you should follow this advice:
1. Be slow Start-ups are always rushing. Limited funds, competitors launching similar products etc. there is always a reason these guys are in a hurry. Don’t let their stress become your problem! Things take time, they just need to learn to chill out. The best part of this strategy is that the start-ups that have other options will steer clear of you and you will be left with only those desperate enough to wait for you.
2. Team Recruit your team entirely from within your parent company. This way they will know your business well and have limited knowledge of how start-ups operate. This reduces the risk of anyone on your team being ‘Stockholm syndromed’ into agreeing to deals that are more generous to start-ups than absolutely necessary. Group thinking is also good to eliminate discussions in meetings. No discussions about new and innovative ways of doing business means no lengthy meetings so everyone can knock off early.
3. Over-promise One of the main reasons start-ups are talking to you is the prospects of doing business with your parent company. What many start-ups don’t realise is that big companies operate differently from start-ups. Just because the CVC unit might make an investment in a start-up doesn’t automatically make it a priority for the sales, marketing or product department to assist this start-up. Many start-ups have an unrealistic expectation of what kind of cooperation they might have and how quickly it can start. It is not your job to set them straight is it? Better they find out later than delaying the talks you are having. Best case; they only find out after you have rotated out of the CVC unit or assigned someone else to handle the contact with them.
4. Lose interest After you have invested in a company it sometimes happens that their product or service no longer has a strategic interest for your parent company. Perhaps your parent company changed strategy or perhaps the start-up is focusing on the wrong market or features. In any event is important that you cut your losses and stop wasting your time. Start-ups may not like that one of their major investors stops participating in the company’s development. But if you entertain all start-ups that desperately needs your signature on some document when will you have time to improve your golf game?
5. Shut down On average corporate innovation programs get shut down after a bit over three years. This is when they have created a brand, starting to see results from their first investments and the team are starting to get some experience. In other words; it’s the perfect time to shut everything down. The best way to do this is to announce it to the media before you inform the start-ups you have invested in. This will leave them wondering which company is technically their main shareholder now and who’s my contact person? Start-ups love this kind of surprises!
If you consistently follow this advice you can be sure that you will be one of the best at being terrible at Corporate Venture. Break a leg! Next week I will dive deeper into other aspects of CVC in South East Asia. Stay tuned! Cato