Entries in corporate venture capital (2)


Accelerating the next billion

Many tech startups and their corporate venturing partners or incubators focus on hitting it big within the hot consumer markets – U.S., Europe and China – aiming to be the next Unicorn or the next big target. Google, on the other hand, is using its accelerator program, Launchpad, to tap into the preferences and pain points of its next target market – the next billion (emerging markets like India, Brazil and Indonesia, which house the next billion people that will be coming online). It’s no secret that Google sees great potential within emerging markets, and is pulling out all the stops to make sure it does it right.

Speaking to the Financial Times, entrepreneurs from emerging markets worldwide offer up a few of the lessons they’re teaching their mentor Google when it comes to making progress – and importantly, an impact – within this digitally evolving group of emerging market consumers who are often hindered by spotty internet connectivity and low-bandwidth.

For example, FT points out, many Western developers make the assumption that online billing features are needed, when in reality this group of consumers doesn’t have widespread access to credit cards. Or, as Jorge Abraham Soto Moreno, the co-founder and CTO of Miroculus points out, regional regulations that restrict certain functions of an app are often taken for granted by Western developers, such as Brazil’s restrictions to house health data on the cloud. Cultural preferences should be considered when developing technology for emerging market consumers, such as India’s and China’s preference for a “crowded style of user interface.”

Lessons aren’t one sided at Launchpad, with emerging market participants learning of the benefits certain Western developments offer, such as live chat features and the possibilities made available through artificial intelligence and machine learning. Ultimately, Google has tapped into an opportunity to better bridge intel from all areas of the world, helping drive greater success opportunities for emerging market startups, while also gleaning insights into what drives the next billion and their quest for digital.

-- Clara Shen


Fear of disruption, changes in demand driving corporate VCs?

A November article in the Economist looked at the drivers for the recent growth in corporate venture capital (CVC) activity, noting that a broad range of companies (from 7-Eleven and Boots to BMW and Citigroup) are making investments in startups. 

Setting up VC arms is a way to identify life-threatening changes to their business early, so that they can adapt or, better yet, get in on the act, says Ben Veghte of America’s National Venture Capital Association"

It's clear there has been a surge in this area: the number of CVC units worldwide has doubled to 1,100 over the past five years, and that 25 of the 30 firms making up the Dow Jones Industrial index have one. What's up for discussion and debate are the drivers for this growth. Some view the rising CVC activity as a bubble driven by available cash and a hot IPO market that is likely burst -- as previous CVC booms have done.

Others see new elements: a desire to make strategic investment in new companies that align with corporations' long-term strategies, and a fear that their current businesses could be disrupted by these same class of startups. And there is the lure of faster, less-expensive innovation that these small, agile companies could provide (compared to internal R&D).

What's your view -- will the trend continue? And what's the best purpose for corporate venture capital investments?

-- Segundo Saenz