This recent Forbes article from Ben Gordon and Andrea Vandersall highlights the accelerated pace of corporate venture capital activity over the last several years. One issue that could benefit from some further research is how corporate VCs effectiveness is impacted by their investment strategy. Some are purely focused on generating a traditional financial return, while others invest to gain strategic advantage and measure the success of their investments by metrics other than financial returns. My anecdotal sense is that the more successful corporate VCs are focused on the financial returns of their investments and have not let competitive or strategic value influence their investment decisions. That said – these financially oriented corporate VCs seem to be gaining strategic benefits as a byproduct of building a strong venture portfolio.
This rapid adoption of new technologies has resulted in massive disruption to the status quo of industry leaders—in a short period of time—from competitors that aren’t on incumbents’ radar. As a result, companies are finding that competition is tougher and staying relevant is harder. Given the speed with which incumbents are being challenged, they’re being forced to find new ways to invest in emerging technologies and companies that can help them keep up with and beat their competition. In recent years, they’ve begun to pursue direct investments and fund investments in order to stay in the game.