The rest of the 50 (in alphabetical order): Blake Luse, director, Ferguson Ventures

Ferguson Ventures, plumbing supplies distributor Ferguson’s investment arm, was established in January 2018 to establish both corporate venture capital (CVC) arm and innovation practice.

Blake Luse, director of Ferguson Ventures, said: “I helped found and lead Ferguson Ventures. I believe we have a streamlined approach and balance time spend with business unit leaders to understand their needs, with network and deal-flow development and then most importantly post-investment acceleration of startups which helps us build the reputation we are after as a good CVC to drive value and further deal flow.”

To date, the unit has made six direct investments in emerging companies and one investment in VC firm Brick and Mortar Ventures’ first fund, 24 proofs-of-concept and pilot projects with startups, and opened two innovation labs in the US states of Virginia and Atlanta.

Kevin Barnes, vice-president and managing director for Ferguson Ventures, said in his nomination of Luse: “Blake has been my key partner in every aspect as we started up Ferguson Ventures. Blake’s work with universities and local entrepreneurial ecosystem development in the southeast region of Virginia is a great example of his leadership over strategic areas for our team.”

Graham Henshaw, executive director of College of William and Mary’s Alan B Miller Entrepreneurship Center, also said: “Our partnership with Blake and Ferguson Ventures has enabled greater student engagement and real-world application of entrepreneurial thinking than any other initiative.”

Monique Adams, executive director of 757 Angels, chairman of 757 Accelerate and interim manager of 757 Startup Studios, added: “Blake’s unparalleled leadership, energy and diligence have given Ferguson alignment with local and regional entrepreneurs and resources strengthening Ferguson Venture’s knowledge and network for downstream venture activities as well as positioning Ferguson as a strong member of the innovation community.”

Prior to starting the CVC program, Luse travelled to more than 40 US states on behalf of Ferguson to engage with customers directly. Having grasped the customers’ challenges and the value Ferguson’s eight business units strive to deliver, he has an edge as a CVC investor.

Edison Fu

Edison Fu is a reporter and Asia liaison at Global Corporate Venturing.