The Most Critical Horizon to the Success of Corporate Innovation Initiatives

With existing business models in many different industries reaching maturity and providing little or no growth, and startups disrupting them with their new solutions, corporations find themselves more than ever in need for creating new businesses. But few corporations are able to consistently create from scratch new, big businesses that use innovative technologies and employ novel business models. For reasons explained here, it is slowly becoming apparent to corporations that the innovation model that is based solely on the efforts of corporate R&D organizations is no longer sufficient for addressing the long-term growth goals they need to achieve. To address these issues, achieve their growth goals, and avoid being disrupted corporations are starting to tap on the innovations of startup ecosystems. However, they must now learn how to select and grow these startup-centric efforts into their next-generation core businesses.

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The Innovation-Driven Disruption of the Automotive Value Chain (Part 2)

Companies in the automotive value chain are faced with a challenging future. While reporting record quarterly sales, they are also witnessing two alarming trends.  Because of problems such as pollution, climate change and loss of productivity due to long commute times, consumer attitudes towards car ownership and use are changing.  In the medium and long term, i.e., the next 5-30 years, these changes have a high probability to negatively impact automakers, their suppliers and their dealers,  along with insurance companies, finance companies, and many other industries that are part of the automotive value chain.  In addition, there is a growing consumer interest in electric cars (to address the pollution and climate change problems) and in self-driving, or autonomous, cars (to address the productivity problem, as well as a slew of other issues such reduced accidents and mobility for the elderly and handicapped).  The success of Tesla Motors, Zipcar and Uber, the growing consumer anticipation of Google’s self-driving cars entering broader service, as well as Apple’s anticipated entry in the car business are exerting additional pressure on the automotive value chain to change the way it innovates. In this blog I explore what the automotive industry has been doing to address the potential disruption, analyze the effects of these initial steps, and provide recommendations on what corporations could be doing better.

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Seven Signs of Corporate Innovation Culture

Culture defines every company regardless of whether it is an early stage startup or a global enterprise. It influences behavior, and for this reason, culture is a very important issue for corporate innovation. Many corporate innovation initiatives failed because the corporations driving them lacked innovation culture or innovation DNA.

Based on my experience from the startups I built as an entrepreneur and the ones I funded over the past 15 years as a VC, I always claim that a company’s culture is defined by the first 10 employees, starting with the startup’s founders. Corporate culture is driven by leadership (and here); is based on performance management; and can only be achieved if there exists a common vocabulary among the individuals that live it.

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The Innovation-Driven Disruption of the Automotive Value Chain (Part 1)

Introduction

In the last two years I have spoken to many business, technology, and corporate venture executives about their companies’ innovation goals and the initiatives they establish to address these goals. Several of these leaders are involved in the automotive industry and through our conversations I have concluded that a) in the next 10 years we will create more innovations that will impact the automotive industry than we have created in the previous 100, b) these innovations will be embraced because of certain important problems that must be addressed and will couple technology with other forms of innovation, c) because of the disruptive innovations that were introduced to the market in the last 3-4 years, and the ones that will be introduced in the near future, particularly those relating to the electric-autonomous-connected car, the automotive industry is approaching a tipping point of disruption.

In this post I review the two value chains that have been built around the automobile, discuss the societal problems that must be addressed and how the technology and business model innovations being developed to address these problems are disrupting the automotive industry. I also present companies that are pioneering these innovations while offering fresh visions on personal transportation.

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Corporate Venture Capital’s Role in Innovation Part 4: Setting Up a CVC Organization

In the previous post I introduced a five-dimensional framework to employ while setting up a corporate venture group and discussed in detail two of its dimensions: strategy and people. The corporation must establish a long-term strategy for its venture group. As part of this strategy it must create a set of objectives, formulate an investment thesis, decide on the stage of the target investments, the life of each fund, and the amount per investment. Recognizing that venture investing is a peoples business, the CVC must pay particular attention in hiring well. A CVC group may have up to six different teams depending on the scope of its activities and overall strategy. Next I will present the three additional dimensions: the incentives to offer to the members of the corporate venture group, generating the right deal flow to achieve the group’s strategy and satisfy its investment theses, and guidelines for the CVC group’s governance.

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Corporate Venture Capital’s Role in Innovation Part 3: Setting Up a CVC Organization

In the first part of the series on corporate venture capital I explored how the disruption of institutional VCs (IVCs) and the imperative for corporations to innovate provide an opportunity to corporate VCs (CVCs) to make their mark in the startup ecosystem and be viewed as viable and valuable financing sources to private companies. In the second part I provided more context on CVCs by presenting a brief history of corporate venture capital, and detailing the characteristics of CVCs during the dot-com period and today. In this blog I discuss when corporations should be establishing venture funds, I introduce a framework for creating venture funds and discuss two of the dimensions in this framework.

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Corporate Venture Capital’s Role in Disruptive Innovation Part 2: Will the Big Numbers Result In Big Success this Time?

I started writing these posts with the hypothesis that in their effort to innovate, corporations must re-invent the traditional R&D model with one that augments the R&D efforts with venture investments, acquisitions, strategic partnerships and startup incubation. Corporate VCs (CVCs) are expected to play a big role in this innovation quest. It is assumed that a CVC can move faster, more flexibly, and more cheaply than traditional R&D to help a corporation respond to changes in technologies and business models.  With that in mind corporations are establishing such groups in record numbers, including corporations from industries that have not traditionally worked with venture capital. Corporations have been providing their venture organizations with significant size funds to manage, and expect them to invest in companies of various stages and geographies. Today’s CVC prominence can result in many advantages for entrepreneurs and co-investment partners but also carries risks, many of which are due to the way CVCs are set up and operate within the broader corporate structure. In the last blog I examined how the disruption of institutional VCs (IVCs) can impact corporate VCs. In this blog I start taking an in-depth look of corporate VCs. I will examine the different types of corporate VCs, compare the characteristics of today’s corporate venture groups to the characteristics such groups had in the late ‘90s, and describe the areas where CVCs must focus on in order to succeed. In the next blog I will provide some ideas on how to best set up a CVC organization based on my work with such organizations to date.

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