The European corporate venturing scene is suddenly hot property as evidenced by the bodies crammed into CMS Cameron McKenna’s office on February 15. The breakfast seminar, co-hosted with First Stage Capital, was titled “Corporate Venturers friend or foe?” Friend if you believe Christian Hackett of Enron Broadband Ventures. He kicked off by referring to a recent survey produced by London Business School which concluded that companies with both corporate venture capitalists and financial venture capitalists performed significantly better on IPO than those that just have financial venture capitalist backing.
The checkered past of corporate venturing and the varying degrees of willingness within corporations to embrace its many forms were up for discussion. Norman Fiore of Reuters Greenhouse Fund, the company’s technology focused investment vehicle which has had some headlining successes in its portfolio, referred to 1991 when a Reuters employee who was based in Palo Alto found his way into the Reuters board meeting. He impressed on the assembled group, with the force of his fist on the table, that the Internet was going to be really big and Reuters needed to embrace it or die a corporate death. So impressed was the board that the employee in question had his contract of employment severed the following day.
Anecdotes aside, the message was that corporate venturing at least among the panel members firms is here to stay. Hackett pointed out that for most it was not a core business with Enron, as a $60 billion market cap company, having committed just $200 million to its fund. In answer to whether corporate venturers will disappear, as in the past, when the going gets tough Fiore noted that he wouldn’t be sorry to see some that are muddying the waters disappear.
Questions from the floor indicated that some in the VC, incubator and accelerator community are winning significant business from corporates keen to venture but realising they are entering the unknown are paying handsomely for advice.
In addition to Christian Hackett of Enron Broadband Ventures and Norman Fiore of Reuters Greenhouse Fund, the panel consisted of Perre Suhrcke of Deutsche Bank e-Ventures and Dr Simon Murdoch of Episode Partners.
And this week IdeasHub’s corporate services division has announced a partnership with Nomura International’s Principal Finance Group to create a new B2B exchange company and broadband infrastructure business servicing the leisure retail industry. IdeasHub’s corporate services division develops and implements new business concepts that leverage the existing assets of their corporate partners with the goal of creating new high-value profit-generating businesses. This is the division’s first partnership.