26 – 100 in alphabetical order: Erik Ross, Nationwide Insurance

Erik Ross has been head of Nationwide Ventures, the corporate venturing subsidiary of insurance firm Nationwide, since he founded the unit in early 2016.

In August 2017, Nationwide pledged to invest more than $100m in startups through Nationwide Ventures.

Terrance Williams, chief marketing officer of Nationwide, was appointed president of emerging businesses and oversees Nationwide’s efforts in funding companies developing technology or services that cover insurance and financial transactions, as well as data protection, retirement-age living and protection for customers in the mobility space.

J. Scott Sanchez, president of innovation at payment technology provider First Data, joined Nationwide in September 2017 as chief innovation officer and reports to Williams.

At that time, Nationwide Ventures had backed six companies mostly through investments, which included online investment platform Blooom and online or mobile insurance providers Next, Insurify and Sure.

Nationwide also launched a business incubator dubbed Refinery 191 that partners startups, universities and other corporates to develop new technology. In addition, the company is among the limited partners for insurance-focused venture capital firm Rev1 Ventures’ first fund.

Steve Rasmussen, Nationwide’s chief executive, said at the time of the fund increase: “Nationwide’s core mission is to deliver value for our members by protecting what’s important to them.

“This organisational change allows us to focus on emerging businesses and invest in startups that align to that mission. At the same time, we want to anticipate the future needs of our members and improve current processes and offerings to remain best in class.”

For last year’s annual survey, Ross said cybersecurity, autonomous tech, machine learning and artificial intelligence were of particular importance.

Evidencing this, the unit participated in 2018 in a $12m series E round for US-based business finance provider BlueVine in August, a $83m series B round for US-based online insurance portal Next Insurance in July and a venture round of undisclosed sum for US-based machine learning software developer Betterview in May. Nationwide first contributed to a $29m series A round for Next Insurance in May 2017.

This year, the unit took part in a $5.2m series A round for US-based core insurance functions software platform creator Socotra.

Nationwide has also been involved in corporate acquisitions, for example, in January this year, it acquired underwriting services provider E-Risk Services for an undisclosed amount to improve its wholesale distribution.

Before joining Nationwide in 2014 as an associate vice-president of innovation, Ross had been chief digital officer at the US state of North Carolina for nearly two years, after a one-year stint as chief strategy officer at iCache in 2012.

Before that, Ross had spent five years at Bank of America, holding different senior vice-president roles in areas including innovation and research and development.

Ross holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an MBA with strategy and business-to-business marketing concentrations from Penn State University.