David Li, senior principal at Avanta Ventures, is one of our 50 emerging leaders in corporate venturing in 2023.

David Li likes to take a hands-on approach to portfolio management. He enjoys supporting startups after the investment, figuring out how they can partner with the corporate parent, what vendors they need to talk to. “The best part of my job is getting to work with startups post investment and help them grow,” says Li. 

A former investment banker and institutional venture investor, Li was the founding member of Avanta Ventures when it was formed in 2018 as the corporate venture arm of CSAA Insurance Group. The venture unit invests in series A and B rounds with a focus on mobility and fintech. The investment team has grown to five people. The unit recently hired a portfolio development team member to partner with portfolio companies. It also started an incubator programme that guides early-stage startups. 

The venture team has a close relationship with the parent company. The investment committee has four CSAA executives, which Li says is helpful in establishing the strategic value of investments before they are made.

“Understanding how the enterprise leaders prioritise their own goals and objectives is an important step.”

The team has monthly meetings with product leaders at CSAA to understand their needs and figure out how the portfolio companies can help with those needs. Li then works with founders to help them make connections at the parent and create commercial partnerships. 

“Understanding how the enterprise leaders prioritise their own goals and objectives is an important step,” says Li.

One aspect of the CVC sector he would like to change is the misconception that CVCs can be detrimental to startups at the early stage of their development. “We very much think our responsibility post investment is with the founders,” says Li. The unit has no problem with portfolio companies working with multiple insurance companies, for example. “We actually actively encourage that and make those introductions.”

This year Li plans to focus on vehicle electrification and what that means for the electricity grid, charging infrastructure and car purchasing. 

See the rest of our Top Emerging Leaders for 2023 here.

Kim Moore

Kim Moore is the deputy editor of Global Venturing and produces video for the website.