Matthew Ridley, investment principal, International Airlines Group, is one of our top Emerging Leaders for 2024.

Matthew Ridley did not follow a typical route into corporate venturing, reflecting the increasingly varied ways that CVC professional enter the sector.

Ridley started out working for the UK Government Foreign Office. From there he joined a new fund set up by a hedge fund manager to invest in intelligence and security, cyber and artificial intelligence.

Ridley discovered the world of corporate venturing when he attended GCV event where he found he had a lot in common with CVC professionals who encountered the same challenges as he did working in technology investment.

He joined International Airlines Group, the parent company of British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling, after doing consulting work for the launch of Hangar 51, its corporate accelerator. He founded the investment team, which he has led for the past seven years.

Hangar 51 has a team of three full-time investment professionals. Ridley plans to grow the unit significantly during 2024.

He has overseen some important pivots, the main one being a focus on sustainability. “Sustainability is a big challenge if you are an airline. It is increasingly a consideration when people fly. I made the choice to start thinking about how Hangar 51 can accelerate the technologies that can meaningfully decarbonise air travel,” says Ridley. The venture unit made the first investment of any airline in hydrogen-powered aircraft (ZeroAvia) and made investments in sustainable aviation fuel.

Ridley says hiring people with the right personality traits to join corporate venturing is more important than hiring people with typical careers in investing. Having a vision and being a diplomat are important parts of the job, he says.

“Your most important attribute in corporate venture capital is having the ability to understand how a technology or business model can disrupt the corporate, and being able to communicate that opportunity in a way that brings people with you.”

See the full list of GCV Emerging Leaders for 2024 here.