The Top 10: #8 Neda Blocho, principal and head of Studios, and David Li, principal, Avanta Ventures

Neda Blocho is a principal at Avanta Ventures, AAA (American Automobile Association) insurer CSAA Insurance’s corporate venturing arm, and head of its accelerator scheme, Avanta Studios.

Steve Bernardez, a partner at the unit, said: “Neda Blocho is Avanta Ventures’ head of Studios where she focuses on helping startups grow in the insurtech, mobility and adjacent spaces.

“Neda has brought accelerator management skills from her experiences with the Stanford Venture Studio programme, StartX, Pear Ventures and WeWork Labs. Since joining Avanta Ventures [in February 2020], Neda has built a successful accelerator programme from the ground up.

“She has leveraged her previous accelerator experience to refine our Studios strategy, recruit relevant quality startups, assemble an engaged set of mentors, and provide structure and guidance to programme participants.

“Neda rapidly and successfully pivoted the programme from an in-person onsite approach to a virtual programme at the onset of covid-19. Neda brings a move-fast, get-it-done-now attitude that yields results quickly.”

Blocho said: “Being part of a CVC allows startups to have access to more resources, so we can help co-create and bring bigger ideas to life through working at a CVC.”

She added that the Avanta Studios programme has been her greatest success at the unit. “Avanta Studios offers a customised approach to helping startups reach their milestones and growth. The Avanta Studios programme enables startups to partner with Avanta Ventures and CSAA Insurance Group to jointly explore new markets, business models and technologies.”

Regarding David Li, a principal at Avanta Ventures, Bernardez added: “Bringing prior institutional venture investing skills developed at Longitude Capital, a product management background at Pivotal Software, and deep financial experience from positions at KKR, Lazard and Merrill Lynch, David has added value above and beyond his level to Avanta Ventures’ investments in startups across mobility, insurtech and fintech.

“From putting rigour to our investment theses to sourcing quality companies in the mobility space, to closing a number of investments, David has become an integral part of Avanta Ventures and CSAA Insurance Group in leveraging disruptive innovation.

“With his startup insight, David is often called upon by our corporate parent to work on key projects mapping out strategy for future product directions. David’s voice has been appreciated by executive leadership at Avanta Ventures’ corporate parent, helping to validate the strategic value of our corporate venture function and drive growth for CSAA Insurance Group.”

On why he joined Avanta Ventures, Li said: “For me, the question has always been, ‘where can I go that will allow me to have the greatest impact’, and CVC as a platform is a great example of this. At Avanta Ventures, I am able to leverage our close ties with internal CSAA IG business units, as well as the broader AAA ecosystem to support our portfolio companies.

“This enables me to help create mutually beneficial partnerships, with CSAA IG gaining access to disruptive technologies and our portfolio companies benefiting from the deep domain expertise, new pilot opportunities, and distribution channels offered by CSAA IG. Ultimately then, in a funding environment that is flush with capital, CVC represents a unique platform that enables me to add significant strategic value to the companies I invest in.”

Edison Fu

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