26 – 100 in alphabetical order: Blake Luse, managing director, Ferguson Ventures
Blake Luse is the managing director of Ferguson Ventures (FV), the corporate venture capital (CVC) unit of plumbing and building products distributor Ferguson. He oversees corporate venturing deals, service design and innovation lab efforts in a bid to solve challenges in the construction, services and facility management industry.
Having helped found FV in 2018, Luse has developed its strategy, investment thesis and governance to execute the first nine investments and create partnerships with stakeholders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem across the US.
Regarding his corporate venturing philosophy, Luse told Global Corporate Venturing: “As a CVC, you want to be in the best deals vetted by the best VCs and CVCs. Identify where the money is flowing in the areas you invest and establish relationships with those investors. Make sure they know your company’s value proposition and how you help startups scale. Once invested, deliver on your value prop and ensure your reputation as a value-add investor remains intact.
“Establishing and executing on CVC strategies takes time. You must communicate with your company that CVC is a marathon and not a sprint. Once you have found great startups to invest in and work with, it takes time to co-create and drive value into the marketplace. Aligning with portfolio companies on shared milestones and updating your investment committee and company regularly on progress is key to ensuring the value you set out to create as part of the investment is realised.
“Creating a network of VC, CVC, accelerator and founder partners who are engaging in your industry vertical and focus area is an initial hurdle, but snowballs quickly as the network builds.”
Luse helped define FV’s operating model to drive innovation with startups and co-creating with business units (BUs) where he and his team entered into strategic partnerships with portfolio companies on behalf of Ferguson.
Shortly after its launch, FV formed a strategic alliance with construction industry-oriented software provider GTP Services to transact directly with the 3D model in the BIM (Building Information Modelling) process using the company’s Stratus tool.
In addition, Luse highlighted FV’s partnership with domestic services marketplace operator Homee, with the unit having invested in its $15m series B funding in August 2019, to enable installation capabilities across several BUs while adding Ferguson branches to the Homee app for product pickup from Ferguson branches.
FV also teamed up with portfolio companies such as PypeServer, a developer of software for the management of steel pipe-manufacturing that had closed $1.5m in a February 2020 series A round led by FV, to streamline fabrication processes. Payzer, which provides a cloud-based field service management technology, also helps Ferguson’s customers bring efficiencies for their contractors’ businesses.
The FV team includes GCV Rising Star Stephanie Vega Ziegler focused on portfolio development, Dave Nickens and Shawn Crossley who lead innovation efforts, and service designer James Field.
Luse, who holds an undergraduate degree in marketing from Auburn University, was director of e-business at Ferguson before joining FV and spent eight years exploring innovation initiatives for contractors to help them run a more efficient and profitable business. In this role, he led a team of seven business development managers engaging across all Ferguson BUs to identify and execute on e-commerce sales strategies.