Bernardita Araya, manager, CMPC Ventures, is one of our top 50 Emerging Leaders in corporate venturing in 2024.

Bernardita Araya, CMPC Ventures

With a PhD in biotechnology from University of Cambridge, Bernardita Araya co-founded a nanotech startup then became R&D director at a Chilean pharmaceutical company, before entering the VC world at a life science fund. Most recently, she was recruited to head Chilean pulp and paper company CMPC’s new venturing unit in 2020.

She learned early on the value of applying theory to the real world. Being a researcher was not just about diving deep into new areas of knowledge, but also about exploring how this knowledge can change the world, she says.

The two most important questions when looking at any new technology are: ‘so what?’ and ‘who cares?’ – two questions that have since driven her professional career.

Young CVCs should make sure their long-term vision is always aligned with the corporate strategy, otherwise they risk not just a lack of purpose, but potentially getting left behind. “If you are not part of the strategy, you risk being a pet project,” says Araya. “You will become obsolete as soon as that mentor changes.”

“If you are not part of the strategy, you risk being a pet project. You will become obsolete as soon as that mentor changes”

You need to define your objectives and build the unit around them, while at the same time continually reviewing processes and strategy, with flexibility built into the unit structure to pivot when needed.

The value the venture unit brings in growing the corporate’s ability to absorb new information and innovate cannot be overstated, says Araya. She has been named by Bloomberg as one of the 500 most influential people in Latin America.

“A scientist and entrepreneur herself, after working in VC for many years, she took the challenge of structuring the CVC unit of one of the largest companies in Chile, with a strategic focus,” says Lorena Gonzalez, investment associate at Aurus Capital. “She had to implement the entire operation and has since been key in supporting the ecosystem in the country to shorten the learning curve and collaborate to strengthen the industry.”

See the full list of GCV Emerging Leaders for 2024 here.