26 – 100 in alphabetical order: Harshul Sanghi, American Express Ventures

Harshul Sanghi, formerly head of mobile device maker Motorola Mobility’s corporate venturing unit Motorola Mobility Ventures, joined US-based credit card company American Express (Amex)’s corporate venturing arm Amex Ventures as head nearly eight years ago.

Sanghi, managing partner of the unit since August 2011, said: “Amex Ventures was started with one mission – to drive innovation within American Express by investing and partnering startups around the world. It is all about creating an ecosystem. You need entrepreneurs who believe they can change the world with their ideas. You need venture capitalists and advisers who can help fund the idea, and you need customers to validate the idea.”

Steve Squeri, chairman and chief executive of Amex, added: “You cannot win without an external perspective. You need to understand what is going on in the marketplace. Amex Ventures gives us an opportunity to learn and get that external perspective.”

Amex Ventures plays a central role in driving innovation for American Express. In 2018, the unit grew its relationships with portfolio companies which are helping Amex become more essential in customers’ digital lives, build on its leadership position in commercial payments and support other key strategic initiatives.

Amex Ventures has invested in over 50 startups since its formation in 2011. Its portfolio, which continued to expand in 2018, today includes more than 40 active investments. Since the start of 2018, the unit announced 10 new additions to its portfolio:

  • US-based financial service platform operator Albert.
  • Israel-based behavioural biometrics technology developer BioCatch.
  • US-based online mortgage platform operator Better Mortgage.
  • US-based application programming interface integration platform Cloud Elements.
  • US-based consumer finance platform developer Divido.
  • US-based consumer recommendation platform developer Even Financial.
  • Israel-based fraud detection services provider EverCompliant.
  • US-based ticket rebooking application provider Freebird.
  • US-based vehicle-sharing platform Turo.
  • Mexico-based small and medium-sized enterprises-oriented financing platform operator Visor.

Amex made its second acquisition of an Amex Ventures portfolio company in 2018, buying Mezi, a personal travel assistant using artificial intelligence and human expertise to help consumers plan and book trips. The first acquisition of a portfolio company occurred in 2016 with American Express’ purchase of InAuth, a mobile device authentication company.

Amex Ventures invests in startups that can foster and enhance innovation across its parent organisation. The unit helps build partnerships between these startups and Amex. Two-thirds of its portfolio companies today have commercial partnerships with Amex’s business units.

Collaboration with portfolio companies include:

  • In the US, Amex is applying BioCatch’s technology to help detect fraud in its online application process for consumers.
  • Last year, Amex rolled out one of the first applications of a blockchain technology for a US-based financial services loyalty program called Flexible Rewards. Amex first piloted this capability with its portfolio company, US-based mobile commerce platform Boxed.com.
  • Amex and US-based business payments software provider Bill.com announced a new offering, American Express Vendor Pay by Bill.com, which couples automating accounts payable process with the ability for businesses to pay vendors with their American Express Business or Corporate Card.

The Amex Ventures team also partnered American Express’ Global Commercial Services business unit to create Business Essentials, a unique limited-time program from Amex that was made available in January 2019. Through Business Essentials, a small number of American Express Business and Corporate customers have been invited to receive access to a curated group of cloud-based solutions, including its portfolio company US-based e-commerce software provider BigCommerce, to help run their businesses.

With the growth of Amex Ventures’ portfolio, it has added six new members to its team since the start of 2018.

Sanghi is a veteran venture capitalist with more than 25 years of operating experience and a track record in delivering financial returns and strategic value. For his 2014 Powerlist award, Sanghi said he helped establish Motorola Ventures, after the phone equipment provider’s purchase of his previous employer, Ucentric Systems, as the “go-to standard for corporate venturing”.

Motorola Ventures was subsequently divided into Motorola Mobility Ventures and Motorola Solutions Ventures, mirroring the parent company’s split, with Sanghi becoming head of Motorola Mobility Ventures but leaving before search engine Google’s purchase of the parent business in 2014.