Simone Lode, managing director, HHLA Next, is one of our top 50 Emerging Leaders in corporate venturing in 2024.

Simone Lode, HHLA Next

Be hungry for the new, is the advice Simone Lode, managing director of Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG Next (HHLA), has for newcomers to corporate venturing. “Be hungry to learn and be open to new things,” she says.

Lode started her career learning about strategy from an M&A perspective. She was at Deutsche Post Address for five years, where she was head of corporate and business development. She was also head of corporate development and strategy at SWB, a German energy and telecommunications logistics company.

Lode has been leading the corporate venture unit of the European logistics company HHLA for the past two years, where she is responsible for a team of 20. The unit has 36 companies in its portfolio. The venture unit creates its own spinoffs, while also investing in external startups. Lode places a lot of importance on being part of the growth journey of a startup.

“Know your corporation and keep in mind the strategic goals, but talk like the startup.”

Her team invests in later-stage startups – series A – that are already active in the market with a product and have a strategic fit with HHLA’s core business. “As a CVC, we are always between two worlds,” she says, describing the corporate side that is concerned with strategy and bringing industry knowledge to the table, and the startup side that needs to innovate fast.

For Simone, this role as a translator between these two worlds is the biggest highlight, but also one of the biggest challenges, as this dual perspective must be balanced at every step. “Know your corporation and keep in mind the strategic goals, but talk like the startup,’’ she says. It is not just about good innovation, but whether this innovation answers a customer problem that is big enough to be a successful investment.

Being able to invest in solutions that address complex customer needs is the most fulfilling part of the role for Simone. In the logistics industry specifically, she emphasises the importance of digitalisation and decarbonisation.

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