The top 50: Lisa Smith, managing director, BTomorrow Ventures

Lisa Smith has led Btomorrow Ventures (BTV), the corporate venture unit of British American Tobacco (BAT), from the start of its journey. As managing director of the unit, she has forged a path that has enabled BAT to invest in its future by gaining early access to cutting-edge technology, unlocking innovation through R&D collaborations and enabling “test and learn” in new product categories.

BTV began recruiting team members at the end of 2019. Since then, BTV has closed 18 investments, made two exits and completed many more follow-on rounds where BTV often leads the round.

BTV is investing out its initial £150m ($197m) venture fund to continue supporting its investments. In doing so it is also playing a key role in BAT’s ambition to expand its portfolio of products into new areas beyond nicotine as it continues to drive a step change in its business.

On a global scale, BTV is investing from seed to series A stages but will also financially support large and medium-sized deals through a separate vehicle. In addition, it plans to raise a second fund in the near future to avoid interrupting its investment activities.

Among its recent deals this year, BTV is leading the rounds with image recognition technology company ParallelDots’ $4.5m series A round, a $3m series A round for Ayurvedic beverages company Moment and a series B round for Canadian water-soluble CBD producer Trait Biosciences. 2021 also marked BTV’s first exit – after nine months – of ClearMetal with an IRR of about 60%.

Smith was previously a chief engineer at consumer goods producer Unilever, from 1996 to 2000, before joining consulting firm McKinsey in 2004. She then joined Unilever’s corporate venturing arm, Unilever Ventures, in 2006.