The top 25: Stefan Gabriel, MD and CEO, Hitachi Ventures

Stefan Gabriel oversees Hitachi Ventures, Japan-headquartered electronics manufacturer Hitachi’s corporate venture capital (CVC) fund formed in April 2019, as managing director and chief executive.

The fund targets globally developers of technologies that can integrate with Hitachi’s products. Gabriel explained: “Hitachi Ventures acts as a strategic CVC investing from an independent fund generation with a single limited partner: Hitachi. As a 100% daughter company, Hitachi Ventures operates independent and has its own investment committee.”

Toshiaki Higashihara, president and CEO of Hitachi, said at the time of the unit’s formation: “Hitachi Ventures Fund invests in highly innovative and early-stage startups with rapid growth potential. The purpose is to capture the occurring innovations and to support acceleration of the movements.

“Hitachi will deepen collaborations with invested startups to create new markets and to achieve mutual growth. I believe CVC activities will enable Hitachi to speedily develop new business models, innovative products and to deliver value to society.”

The unit has backed six companies based in Europe, Israel and USA, including cloud computing software developer Rescale, digital pathology technology developer Proscia, clinical insights platform Sophia Genetics, digital manufacturing transformation software provider ThinkIQ and crop analysis technology developer Taranis.

In 2020, Gabriel helped form 22 collaboration projects operational between Hitachi’s business units and startups while more than 20 others are planned and under evaluation.

Regarding the unit’s plans going forward, Gabriel said he is planning a new fund focused on environment and healthcare sectors, in order to gain even more significance as a strategic CVC unit. He said: “For strategic CVCs, [it is important to be] a good, trusted investor and at the same time foster strategy dialogue and collaboration between businesses and startups.

“In order to invest at marker rate speed, top management support and involvement as well as collaboration funding are absolutely needed to speed up open innovation and value-add. Targeting investments especially in environment and health segments requires relevant ticket size.”

Gabriel had formerly been president of manufactured goods conglomerate 3M’s CVC subsidiary, 3M New Ventures (now 3M Ventures), between 2008 and 2015, where he drove the corporate’s ongoing efforts to identify, acquire and develop new-to-3M technologies and businesses using venture style funding and management.

Previously, Gabriel had worked for over two decades for automotive manufacturer BMW in Germany and the UK where he oversaw manufacturing planning of motorcycles, business development, strategy for BMW Group Powertrain and BMW R&D’s Innovation Field.

Gabriel earned a degree in manufacturing engineering and taught innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Huddersfield since 2010.

He worked as an executive corporate adviser with C-suit board members of five Fortune 500 Corporates in Germany, the US and Japan since early 2015 to help them build, launch and grow their CVC units, review R&D innovation strategies such as technical roadmaps and new business models to help existing CVC funds to be more strategic.

In addition, Gabriel has made several angel investments for 16 years from his own family office in Munich. His passion for innovation and tech has contributed to his longstanding experience and extensive network in venturing.