The Top 25: Amy Banse, Comcast Ventures

Amy Banse has been leading Comcast Ventures, where she is a managing director and head of funds, since mid-2011. This dates to Comcast’s corporate venturing unit merger with NBC’s Peacock Fund, creating a $750m vehicle, but subsequently expanded after its purchase of UK-based pay-TV operator Sky and its venture unit.

It has been an active fund, with mass media company Comcast backing more than 180 portfolio companies since 2009, split between advertising, consumer, enterprise and infrastructure sectors. During 2018, Comcast Ventures has been as active as ever, having participated in 14 investments.

Brian Roberts, Comcast’s chairman and chief executive, said: “Under Amy’s leadership, Comcast Ventures has invested in some of the most innovative consumer and enterprise technology companies. We have worked together for nearly 30 years and I have always admired her passion and vision for identifying the next big idea. She has carried that through Comcast Ventures and has helped her team develop hundreds of value-creating partnerships.”

Corporate acquisitions of Comcast Ventures’ portfolio companies in 2018 included US-based vehicle connectivity platform developer Autonomic by carmaker Ford and US-based marketing platform WhoSay by media group Viacom in January, US-based retention software company Windsor Circle was acquired by electronic billing and invoice services provider OSG Billing Services in February and US-based data technology provider Kensho by financial data and analysis provider S&P Global in March.

As for 2019, in February alone, the unit closed four investments – a $35m series C round for US-based digital marketing technology developer Lytics, a $20m debt financing round for US-based student loan marketplace College Ave Student Loans, a $2.3m seed round for US-based workplace communication skill coaching tool creator Orai and a $16m series A round for US-based geothermal technology developer Dandelion Energy.

In January, Comcast Ventures was also involved in three deals – it co-led a $20m series B round for US-based network security technology developer Aporeto, a $105m series E round for US-based financial savings app developer Acorns and contributed to a $51m series D round for US-based hair colouring product supplier Madison Reed.

Comcast under Banse has been one of the most thoughtful about its diversification strategy. She said last year that 45% of the portfolio companies had had diverse founders and co-founders and 20% companies with women founders and co-founders.

Comcast has the $20m Catalyst fund, a dedicated fund focused on supporting underrepresented founders led by Kai Bond, who joined from Samsung Accelerator. Catalyst has, since 2011, made investments in more than 80 startups. Last year, it invested in five diverse startups.

Comcast’s other fund called Genacast invests up to $1m in seed-stage, business-to-business technology startups based in the northeastern US and in 2018, it participated in two new investments.

Her team of 32 people consists of 30% females including two women on the investing team and a female chief financial officer, Kim Armor. The team has nine managing directors and eight principals on the investing team dispersed across its four offices. At the team level, Comcast also witnessed several moves. In January this year, Michael Yang, who had been at Comcast Ventures for nine years and led investments in healthcare, internet-of-things and virtual reality technology, left to join Omers Ventures, the venture capital arm of Canada-based pension fund Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (Omers).

Last year, Banse nominated Comcast Ventures’ partner Daniel Gulati to receive GCV’s Rising Stars award and after receiving it in January this year, he was promoted soon after to managing director. The unit also opened a new office in Los Angeles in the same month. The team expanded by hiring a new head of marketing and communications, Sue Kwon, in October 2018 and a new head of business development, Madura Wijewardena, in January 2019.

Banse previously founded Comcast Interactive Media in 2005 and led the company’s online strategy over the next six years, overseeing various acquisitions and in-house projects, including Comcast.net, Xfinity.com, Fancast and Swirl. She joined Comcast in 1991 as an in-house attorney for programming acquisition. She worked on the development of Comcast’s cable network portfolio, including the company’s investments in E! Entertainment Television and the Golf Channel. She has a degree from Harvard University and studied at Temple University’s James E Beasley School of Law after following in her father’s footsteps – he was general counsel for Merck.

Banse is on the board of directors for consumer and professional products manufacturer Clorox and diversified software producer Adobe. She is also on the board of directors for Tipping Point Community, a nonprofit which addresses education and homeless issues in Northern California.