Ryan Lewis, partner at SRI Ventures, is one of our 50 emerging leaders in corporate venturing in 2023.

When Ryan Lewis joined SRI Ventures in June 2022 he led a full portfolio analysis of the venture unit’s legacy holdings to understand what its future investment strategy should be. 

As the venture arm of nonprofit SRI International, a US technology research centre, SRI Ventures has a “targeted budget” that means it has to be very selective about what it invests in. Lewis used data analysis of past investments to work out what worked well, what had the best returns and how is should structure term sheets.

A takeaway from that analysis is that the unit should partner with startups early on in designing their products, he says. “We really should be focused on being a good design partner for early-stage deep tech companies, because they often need that type of insight and analysis in their early products.”

The broader CVC sector could learn from this approach when investing in deep tech, he says. “Deep tech companies can benefit from a lot of design partnership work with the larger corporate entity. And that impact could yield a much longer-term relationship between the startup and the corporate long after the investment is done.”

“Deep tech companies can benefit from a lot of design partnership work with the larger corporate entity.”

From doing his analysis, Lewis also concluded that it should structure its term sheets in a more founder-friendly way, such as using SAFE (Simple Agreement for Future Equity) agreements.

A software engineer by training, Lewis spent seven years at In-Q-Tel, the venture capital fund that serves the U.S. government, in its space and AI portfolio. He also worked at Amazon Web Services where he ran its AI business.

SRI’s corporate venture model is to do a lot of due diligence before making an investment to make sure that startups’ technologies align with the intellectual property of its research labs. That means investing in startups as early as possible in order to shape the technology. “We will use that IP and expertise that we have to accelerate product development for the company.”

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.