The top 50: Tony Cannestra, director of corporate ventures, Denso International America

Tony Cannestra has been a director of corporate ventures at car parts maker Denso International America since 2014. He leads the company’s strategic investing efforts and has set up an investing strategy for the Japan-headquartered corporate by establishing an extensive network of universities, entrepreneurs, incubators, accelerators, angel investor groups and venture capital funds.

Denso’s corporate venturing unit invests in early-stage startups that are compatible with the parent company’s strategic growth plan through equity investments and non-equity funding, as well as mergers and acquisitions. Target companies are typically involved in areas such as connectivity, autonomous vehicles and cybersecurity.

Recent investments involving the unit include involvement in the $42m series B round for additive manufacturing specialist Seurat Technologies, and participation in the $190m series D round for Zongmu, a Chinese developer of self-driving technology.

Cannestra currently serves as board director for a number of Denso portfolio companies, including Blaize, which develops artificial intelligence-based automotive computing solutions, radar developer MetaWave, and Bond Mobility, an e-bike service based in Switzerland.

Before taking up the role at Denso, Cannestra had spent five years as managing partner of VC firm Strategic Venture Partners, where he focused on corporate investors as LPs. Before that, he was a principal and later an executive vice-president of fund manager Ignite and a board member of energy storage company Cymbet Corporation.

Cannestra has a bachelor’s degree in international economics from the University of California at Berkeley, as well as an MBA from the same institution.