26 – 100 in alphabetical order by company: Erik Ross, managing partner, Nationwide Ventures

Erik Ross serves as head of mergers and acquisitions and venture capital for US-headquartered insurance and financial services firm Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, and heads its corporate venture capital (CVC) arm, Nationwide Ventures, as managing partner.

Ross has been heading the unit since 2016 which he helped launch. Nationwide Ventures had committed $100m to startup investments in 2017 before it augmented the capital to $350m in February 2021.

Nationwide CEO Kirt Walker said at the time: “We have had tremendous interest from startups to partner with us and help them accelerate their success – not only through our capital but also our brand and expertise.

“Nationwide’s history is built on numerous breakthroughs. We are excited about the opportunities to identify and accelerate insurtech and fintech solutions that will help better protect people, businesses and futures with extraordinary care.”

The unit has 22 active portfolio companies in areas including insurtech, fintech, cybersecurity, the industrial internet of things, mobility and eldercare technology. It typically invests in series A and later stages.

Mike Mahaffey, Nationwide’s chief strategy and corporate development officer, said: “As the leader of Nationwide’s VC team, Erik has helped position Nationwide as a forward-thinking, innovative company with which entrepreneurs and tech startups want to do business.

“His strategic approach and collaborative spirit continue to support Nationwide’s mission to protect people, businesses and futures with extraordinary care.”

Ross said: “We will continue investing in both the portfolio and new opportunities that align with Nationwide’s business, strategy and mission through the pandemic and economic downturn. We will also assist our portfolio companies through partnerships, subject matter expertise, shepherding them through Nationwide and capital raises.”

Regarding his team, Ross said: “I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by a high-calibre, very exceptional team and great support from our senior executives and board that makes all of these things possible. None of this is possible without them. They are the real stars – I am just the team’s coach.”

Nationwide has a business incubator dubbed Refinery 191 that partners startups, universities and other corporates to develop new technology, and it is among the limited partners (LPs) for insurance-focused VC firm Rev1 Ventures’ first fund.

Ross believes CVC units should focus on their unique strengths, continue to hone them and deliver on that value to their portfolio companies, co-investors and their LP. “It can be a huge advantage to have a large enterprise logo associated with your venture group, so focus on the unfair advantage you bring to the ecosystem and how your stakeholders can benefit,” he advised.

“Build the necessary relationships internally so when a promising company enters your investment funnel, you have relationships established to expedite discussions and partnership opportunities, and continue to deliver on your value throughout the relationship. This approach will win you credibility with your business partners, founders and investors.”

Prior to joining Nationwide in 2014 as an associate vice-president of innovation, Ross had been chief digital officer for the US state of North Carolina for nearly two years.

Ross holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Penn State University.

Edison Fu

Edison Fu is a reporter and Asia liaison at Global Corporate Venturing.