Probably the most active corporate venturing unit over the past five years in terms of volume of activity has perhaps been a surprising one – Spain-based telecoms group Telefónica.
Apart from misleadingly-named venture capital firm 500 Startups’ 1,200 deals in its first five years, it is hard to find another group that matches Telefónica’s $300m invested in more than 700 companies through its Open Future program.
Under a change this year, Ana Segurado, now director of Telefónica Innovation Funds rather than general manager, will manage investments. The open innovation area covering the eleven accelerators of Wayra and the 40 coworking spaces is now led by new recruit, Miguel Arias, formerly chief operations officer at Spain-based technology company Carto, one of Telefónica’s portfolio companies.
The reorganisation can after the departure of Javier Placer and promotion of Gonzalo Martín-Villa to run Telefónica’s Open Future corporate venturing initiative as well as keeping the chief innovation officer he has held since the end of 2015.
Segurado joined Telefónica in 2012 to launch Amerigo, a network of VC funds with public and private co-investors focusing on tech investments, before expanding her role to the other areas under what is now called Open Future.
Amerigo now has eight funds, with an aggregated size of €345m, of which Telefónica has commited €85m, including Telefónica’s commitments, in Germany, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Chile.
Amerigo has 76 companies in its portfolio, including Job&Talent and Adjust, and its exits include Ticketbits.
In Latin America, Open Future has focused on Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela and Argentina, with the top 10 in each country backed with investment and partnered three VC funds with an aggregate $126m raised ($53m from Telefonica) in Chile, one in Brazil and another in Colombia, from where Mexico and Peru are also managed.
Since 2014, Segurado has also been leading Telefónica Ventures, Telefónica´s corporate venture fund with investment focus in North America, Israel and Europe. Telefónica Ventures has invested more than €80m in 19 companies, of which 13 are remaining, including Sigfox, Boku and Cyanogen, and exited others, such as Box, Quantenna, and Amobee.
Telefónica is also a member alongside peers Deutsche Telekom, Orange and Singtel of the GoIgnite alliance which in November announced winners of its second global call for innovation that could now form business partnerships with the four telcos and their 1.2 billion mobile subscriber base. Last year’s winners were Sparkcognition and NanoLock Security for internet of things cybersecurity, Cujo and Vayyar Imaging for connected homes, and SafeToNet for consumer experience artificial intelligence.
Before joining Telefónica, Segurado spent more than 10 years as investment manager in Inversiones Ibersuizas, now Portobello Capital, a Spain-based private equty firm with more than €500m under management.
And Jack Leeney, former head of Telefónica Ventures in the US before his move to be a partner at 7GlobalCapital, agreed. “Segurado was very market-driven and from a private equity background, which was always helpful to do this role within a large corporate.”
Segurado said for her GCV Rising Stars 2017 award what attracted her to corporate venture capital was “the potential of generating strategic value for a corporate beyond financial investment activity”.
She added: “In the case of Telefónica, the scope of the project was also very interesting, with global presence and broad scope of investment in the digital arena.
“Telefónica Open Future has achieved €100m of cumulated revenues and savings for Grupo Telefónica coming as a result of the collaboration between Telefónica and the portfolio companies.
“Quantenna is a good case study of success in CVC. Since 2011, and with current prices of the stock after the IPO, we have multiplied by almost four times the money invested, in terms of value.
“At the same time we have a great commercial relationship between Telefónica and Quantenna. Telefónica has acquired during this time more than 2 million chipsets from Quantenna, and Quantenna technology has been very relevant for the deployment of Movistar TV in Spain.”
But delivering such an effective entrepreneur-to-corporate relationship is tough. Segurado said her biggest challenges had been “making collaboration happen successfully between the portfolio companies and Telefónica” and, even for such a keen traveller and historian, managing “a team located in 10 different countries across Europe and America and in very different economies and environments”.
Her main advice to other CVCs, therefore, was to “let potfolio companies live independently from the big corporation and do not oversell to invested companies the value you can bring to them in terms of business or commercial opportunities within the parent company”.
But having made so many investments, the opportunity to deliver more Quantenna-type successes looms.
This challenge of repetition and scaling to a company as large as Telefónica faces all startups, something students of Segurado’s entrepreneurship course at Universidad Pontificia Comillas-ICADE for the past decade know well.
Segurado, who studied at the university in the 1990s, is applying these lessons to Telefónica. She said her ambition was “to multiply the ebitda [earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation] contribution of my area to the company”.