26 – 100 in alphabetical order by company: Kurt Kaltenegger, group vice-president and head of technology, ABB Technology Ventures

Kurt Kaltenegger leads ABB Technology Ventures (ATV), the corporate venture capital unit of Switzerland-based industrials group Asea Brown Boveri (ABB), who has had his hand in almost all the successes of the corporate venturing team since 2010.

Kaltenegger, who joined ABB in 1991 after receiving his PhD in physics from Montanistic University in Austria, said: “After I built up the ABB research centre in China and established and pioneered the role of chief technology officer China for ABB from January 2007 to February 2010, I returned to the ABB headquarters in Switzerland to build up ATV together with Girish Nadkarni, who had already started late in 2009 working on the CVC concept for ABB.

“In ATV’s first years I was in the role of head of technology to screen the global technology development landscape for disruptive game-changing technologies in scope and in vicinity to ABB’s business, was leading a number of due diligence in regard to equity investments and finally started to lead investments in early 2015.

“Besides my involvement in [ATV’s] investments together with [ATV founder and former head] Girish Nadkarni, I lead the deals for PointGrab, an Israel startup in deep-learning-based vision sensor technology for home automation, in the E round investment and took the lead in the investment into Automata, an early-stage robotics startup.”

In the past year, the unit has backed rounds raised by renewable energy optimisation software developer Enervalis, advanced battery technology developer Natron Energy, industrial data system developer Element Analytics and smart circuit breaker developer Atom Power.

Given his already near-20 years at ABB by the time he joined ATV, Kaltenegger said: “My main motivation to be active in the CVC environment is that a corporate venture unit doing scouting and direct investments has a much stronger lever to impact the long-term future of the mother company than most of the other functions in the company.

“Equity investment gives a limited-risk way to probe the future with high-risk disruptive technologies and gives an early learning to the company.”

These insights can be impactful, Kaltenegger said, noting that he had changed ABB business units’ minds regarding 3D printing, from a lukewarm interest to several activities and one investment, Persimmon.

He added: “I could affect some directional changes in our R&D roadmaps, because of the insight into global dealflow and technology trends in our sector.”

However, he admitted that convincing ABB that corporate venturing was more than pre-acquisition dealflow and that startups could be as valuable partners as big-name companies and the not-invented-here syndrome was a challenge.

As to the future, Kaltenegger said he was looking “to find new ways how a CVC institution could be combined with other elements of business development to get a well-established element of future agile business growth via technology leadership”.

And for the CVC industry, he encouraged a greater exchange of information, invitations to co-investments and a cross CVC dialogue, “as long as there is a non-competing situation” and they have “a clear mission and mission-aligned key performance indicators”.

Edison Fu

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