26 – 100 in alphabetical order by company: Ben Wright, managing director, 3M Ventures

Ben Wright leads 3M Ventures, the corporate venture capital (CVC) arm of US-headquartered technology platforms developer 3M, as managing director.

He joined the unit in April 2017 having spent over a decade at 3M in various roles spanning from business strategy, corporate development to mergers and acquisitions. His team includes GCV Emerging Leader Dan Ateya and Rising Star Erik Paisley.

In February 2021, 3M Ventures participated in a round for optical lens technology developer Metalenz, investing alongside corporate venturers Applied Ventures, Intel Capital, M Ventures and TDK Ventures.

3M Ventures also scored two exits in the past year: central nervous system disorder drug developer Impel NeuroPharma floated in an $80m initial public offering in April 2021, while air conditioning system manufacturer 7AC Technologies was acquired by power utility Emerson five months earlier.

Regarding 3M Ventures’ ecosystem partnership strategy, Wright said: “[In 2019], we drove over 30 collaboration projects across our portfolio. Examples include a joint development that led to sales of a commercial product, technical development the combined 3M’s technology strengths with the startup and cross-selling opportunities between 3M and our portfolio companies. These collaborations resulted in sales for 3M and sales for our portfolio companies.”

Maintaining continuity through organisational changes outside the CVC unit remained a challenge, according to Wright. “Prioritising startup investment areas of focus given 3M’s breadth of technology and segments is both challenging and exciting.”

Wright believes the collaboration among CVCs is remarkable, noting that it makes the industry stronger. However, one aspect CVCs could do better is diversity, he said.

“We should improve diversity within our own ranks, but we also have the ability to lead the way for the rest of the tech industry,” Wright suggested. “We can influence our startups to promote diversity in their leadership teams and boards.

“[In 2019], we made a point to drive diversity and successfully invested in one women-led startup. It is a start, but we need to do more.

“One thing we have done to promote diversity in CVC is a programme called 3M Fellows that we launched with the University of Minnesota (UMN). The programme selects high potential diverse candidates within 3M to coach startups, but also learn about venture capital for a six-month period.

“My hope with this programme is that we not only help the UMN startup ecosystem, but we help train and bring on board future diverse candidates to CVC.

“I also lead a group at 3M called Men As Advocates, which supports the 3M Women’s Leadership Forum. The purpose of Men As Advocates is to get men engaged in advocating for women in the workplace. I would like to see us do more of these types of things in the CVC industry because I truly believe it will make us all stronger.”

Prior to joining 3M, Wright had experience working on the leadership team of a startup. Before that, he had spent eight years in the US Army as an attack helicopter pilot. During his time in the army, he gained leadership experience and led separate organisations to deployments in Bosnia and Iraq.