26 – 100 in alphabetical order: Ben Wright, 3M Ventures

Ben Wright has been director at 3M Ventures, the corporate venturing unit of US-headquartered technology platforms developer 3M, since April 2017.

Regarding 3M Ventures’ performance this past year, Wright said: “I am proud of the 3M Ventures team accomplishments this year. We enacted a new investment strategy two years ago, which has led to significant results in the last year.

“In the past year, we have made nine investments in companies strategically aligned with 3M. These investments will not only help us learn about attractive adjacencies, but they also enable partnerships to accelerate 3M growth.

“Partnerships with our portfolio companies led to over $6m in 3M sales in the last year, which was a first for 3M Ventures. We are also pleased that we significantly improved financial performance over the past two years and now contribute material operating income to the corporation. We look forward to continuing the momentum in 2019.”

3M’s chief executive Mike Roman said: “3M Ventures is an important tool to gather strategic insights into new adjacencies and accelerate our priority growth platforms. Ben has done an outstanding job leading our ventures team, which includes implementing a new strategy that has enhanced the way we collaborate and create value with our portfolio companies. He is an outstanding representation of the best of 3M and corporate venturing.”

From 3M Ventures’ portfolio, US-based digital respiratory therapeutics developer Propeller Health was acquired in January this year by connected medical devices provider ResMed for $225m. Wright added that several portfolio companies under the unit’s new investment strategy are potential acquisition candidates.

3M Ventures’ current portfolio, which consists of investments across 3M’s five business groups and 24 divisions, counts 35 deals totalling $100m of investments from series A to E. The unit has produced five exits during the past two years.

3M Ventures seeks collaboration with all portfolio companies to generate mutual value for the startups and 3M. Some notable examples of 2018 collaboration include:

  • Partnership with US-based air quality sensor technology developer Airviz helped 3M launch the first Bluetooth connected Filtrete Air filter. The partnership helped 3M take the product from idea to launch in less than 18 months and added significant sales in 2019.
  • Partnership with US-based digital dental treatment planning technology developer ULab Systems helped 3M’s Oral Care division enhance its digital capabilities in custom orthodontics. This significantly accelerated 3M’s commercialisation efforts.
  • Partnership with US-based healthcare coordination platform developer Collective Medical and US-based comprehensive health-related data platform developer Health Catalyst to accelerate each companies’ healthcare software sales growth. This resulted in significant program wins for both companies and 3M.

Being an active corporate venturer, Wright is a member of Intellectual Capital Exchange’s corporate venturing group. He also leads the Men as Advocates group within 3M’s Women’s Leadership Forum. The latter, which is a diversity promotion platform at 3M Ventures, seeks to have men engaged in helping advance women within 3M.

Wright said: “I have used the forum to help accelerate our investments in the women and minority-owned businesses. As a result, we closed our first ‘women-founded and led’ tech investment this year. I am hoping this is the first of many, and proud that 3M is helping promote diversity in tech.”

3M Ventures’ team member Dan Ateya was named one of GCV’s Rising Stars for this year, whom Wright nominated. 3M Ventures has expanded by 30% within the past year, growing from five to eight on the team, and had three promotions last year.

Wright initially joined 3M in 2010 and held several roles overseeing mergers and acquisitions and was involved in strategic planning, before he was promoted to director of the corporate venturing unit in 2017.

He holds a bachelor’s in systems engineering from United States Military Academy and an MBA in finance and marketing from University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.