The concerns at the start of the year – at least judging by the respondents to our 2011 survey – were about the big macro-concerns of elections, sovereign debt and the euro’s potential break-up, as well as the challenges of operating a sophisticated corporate venturing unit in a globalised world where technology and innovation are also blurring sectoral boundaries.
Twelve months on and many of the same challenges remain to respondents to our latest annual survey.
More broadly, however, there has been substantial developments in the industry itself, not least in how it perceives itself and the role it offers to entrepreneurs as value-added capital and to parent groups as an important tool in a wider innovation strategy kit.
First, the wave of fundraising that started in 2010 has continued – we list the 30 biggest launches of the year on page 18 of the magazine.
These new and existing investors will look to do more deals, even as the independent venture capital (VC) industry itself shrinks.
Syndicates, therefore, are likely to be harder to form for new and follow-on rounds and will increasingly be made up of non-VC investors, raising a new set of challenges and opportunities.
Second, the understanding of how corporations can use their venturing units as part of a more holistic and joined-up innovation strategy has become clearer and a clear tipping point has been reached in most industries and units that NOT having a corporate venturing team puts the parent at a competitive disadvantage compared with peers that do have one.
But the biggest shift of the year has been in attitude. For many US-based corporate venturers, the ill-timed and framed comments by notable, local VCs that the role of captive investors was to be effectively “dumb” and follow the lead and pricing of VCs led to a fairly vociferous response.
The industry has its challenges in managing the core issues of finding and working with talented entrepreneurs while dealing with the unique and specific requirements of their organisations and managing some of the largest and diversifed venture investment teams in the world.
But, as the poor returns and implosion of VC numbers shows, so do other methods of trying to support entrepreneurs.
This year – beyond the macro-economic and tactical challenges in ventures – has been about, as Gaurav Tewari at SAP Ventures puts it, “reframing the argument” that corporate venturers bring unwanted “baggage” to one about how they can be better for entrepreneurs and their partners.
VC-dominated trade bodies can end up focusing on how corporate-sponsored investment units can be relatively slow, with aims beyond pure financial returns or looking for so-called “hairy” terms, such as right of first refusal to buy, that suit the parent potentially more than the entrepreneurs.
These are indeed issues to be discussed and for entrepreneurs and others to be aware of, but winning in venture capital means finding the few good and lucky entrepreneurs and getting the best terms ahead of rivals.
For VCs, framing the argument of why they are “smart” and corporations are “dumb” is also self-serving as it increases the cost and difficulty for potential corporate venturers wanting to join a round.
Our analysis on page 11 of the magazine of which VCs have most regularly partnered corporate peers shows up how the best VCs, such as Kleiner Perkins Caufield& Byers, Sequoia and Greylock, seem to want them in their rounds – albeit on their terms of smaller holdings, higher valuations, and later on if they can get away with it.
In next month’s issue we will be looking at the outlook for 2013 and in particular from our survey the big issues likely to come up next year and how corporate venturing units can redefine success and failure both for internal incubation and external entrepreneur.
Let me know your thoughts on this topic as they will also help shape the discussion topics for our third annual Global Corporate Venturing Symposium and Awards during the week of May 20 in London, UK, to celebrate all the challenges and successes of a growing, thriving industry.
Thank you for all the help and support in subscribing, reading and attending our vaious websites, ezines, magazines, webinars and events this past year, too, and enjoy the holiday season over the next few weeks.
Most read stories on www.GlobalCorporateVenturing.com last month
1 2012s Powerlist 100
2 BCG report find venturing longevity
3 Powerlist: Mark Read
4 Powerlist: Girish Nadkarni
5 Powerlist: Tracy Isacke
6 Lynch “takes gun to venture knife fight
7 Powerlist paints portrait of industry
8 Powerlist: Arvind Sodhani
9 Powerlist: Charles Searle
10 Google catapults into top 10
Most read on www.GlobalCorporateVenturing.com in 2012
Partminer divests business to IHS
Gaule’s Question Time: DSM Ventures and Licensing
BCG Report finds venturing longevity
Lynch ‘takes gun to venture knife fight’
Powerlist: Mark Read, WPP
Alternative investments: impact investing
The Big Deal: Bang & Olufsen and Sparkle Roll
2011 fundraising reaches record
The Big Deal: Two utilities team up at Topell
Powerlist: Girish Nadkarni, ABB
2011: a year in perspective
Chrysalix Set targets outside investors
Feature: consumer sector
Case study: Facebook
Powerlist: Ralf Schnell: Siemens
Powerlist: Tracy Isacke
First Quarter Corporate Exits boom
Intel launches connected car fund