26 – 100 in alphabetical order: Tony Palcheck, Zebra Ventures

Tony Palcheck, a managing director at Zebra Ventures, US-based data tracking technology producer Zebra Technologies’ corporate venture capital vehicle, said he had been on this post for the past four years.

Being the only person on the Zebra Ventures team, Palcheck considered himself very much a leader: “I manage 11 portfolio companies. In 2018, I had three exits – two good ones – invested in two new companies, did two follow-on investments and returned five times more money to the company in 2018 than I invested. I would say it was a good year.”

For example, US-based software video analytics technology provider Intellivision was acquired by smart connected security devices provider Nortek Security & Control in May 2018. In addition, GoCanvas, a US-based app development platform, obtained $150m in funding from investment firm K1 Investment Management in February this year, making K1 a majority stakeholder.

The new investments made last year were Tagnos, a US-based developer of automation technology for clinical healthcare logistics processes which raised $5m in March, and Plus One Robotics, a US-based developer of computer vision software for the robotics industry which closed an $8.3m series A round in November.

Anders Gustafsson, chief executive of Zebra Technologies, commended Palcheck’s efforts and the corporate venturing unit: “I do not know anyone as passionate about corporate venture capital as Tony. He is a tremendous advocate for the industry and the function, as evidenced by his contributions inside Zebra, as well as his role as the chairman of the Illinois Venture Capital Association.

“In 2018, Tony did an outstanding job of managing our existing venture portfolio, as it relates to driving both strategic returns and financials returns for Zebra. He serves as a catalyst for innovation in our company, and his efforts and insights support our strategy and corporate development teams, as well as our sales personnel and ultimately our customers.

“Tony has developed and maintained a strong network among startups, co-investors and others in the industry, and enables Zebra to leverage their insights as we consider how Zebra can best serve our customers and deliver value in the future.”

In 2018, Palcheck became the chairman of the Illinois Venture Capital Association, which represents the venture capital (VC) and private equity (PE) industries in the US state of Illinois. He explained: “In that role, I worked with our association partners to lobby our legislators to vote against a ‘privilege tax’ on VCs and PE employees, which would have done serious damage to the VC and PE industries in our state.

“We also convinced the state to allocate a certain portion of the state pension fund towards the VC and PE asset classes. This was a major win for the PE and VC community in our state, as well as for all tech entrepreneurs in our state. I also am attempting to pull together an Illinois Corporate Venture Capital group that includes Mondele-z Ventures, Allstate Venture, Tyson Ventures, ADM Ventures, US Cellular Ventures and Evolv Ventures – Kraft-Heinz Food’s venture group –, so that we collectively have a greater voice in the association.”

Palcheck is also an active mentor who provides industry insights to around 10 students per year from Kellogg School of Management’s MBA program. “This is to introduce some very qualified students to the world of corporate venture capital. A few of these students have gone on to be part of the venture capital world, including Elana Lian at Intel Capital.”

Focusing on the synergy between the parent company and the portfolio companies, Palcheck said: “Zebra was a major customer of one of my portfolio companies that was acquired, and Zebra is a major partner to one of my new investments. We have commercial agreements with three of the other companies in my portfolio.

“I regularly present to Zebra’s largest customers and collaborate with them to identify great startups that will impact them, and us.”

Palcheck concluded proudly: “We are a small fund, but I think we punch above our weight.“