Intellectual Capital Exchange: Advancing corporate venture success

By Shaw Lively

There is no one way to operate a corporate venture program inside a large, complex, global organization…. And as soon as things get figured out, the world (internal or external) changes, requiring adaptation and evolution.

Since 2011, ICEX (Intellectual Capital Exchange) has enabled strategic investors to share their experience learned from the school of hard knocks, and discuss approaches to overcome barriers to success.

Members fund the knowledge exchange community to ensure their discussions are private and the topics are theirs alone with no external influences. They meet in person three times a year to exchange lessons learned and build trusted relationships.

Trends and Learnings

While specific practices and strategies shared are confidential to the members, several broad learnings have emerged from conversations over the last few years:

  1. CV does not (and can’t exist) on an island. Renewed corporate emphasis on innovation has brought CV more directly into the internal innovation ecosystem (and sometimes organization). This has created new leadership opportunities for CV professionals, and brought new challenges of collaboration.
  2.  CV professionals spend as much time working the internal dynamics as they do scouting and making investments. It is challenging work and a frequent point of failure both for individuals and for programs.
  3. Quantifying strategic value is a negotiation, not a calculation.
  4. Success does not equate to Survival.  Even the most venerable, highly experienced programs can be adversely affected by management and organization changes, and the emergence of new “antibodies”.  CV must “always be selling”.

Focus on Roles and Development

As an intensive, ongoing learning community, members have placed a great deal of focus on the various roles in CV programs, sharing best practices and joint problem solving. Entire meetings have been devoted to:

  • Business Analyst – A shared practices “playbook” for the business analyst role. Primary takeaway is explicitly including key, go to people who support CV deal completion and reporting.
  • The CFO in a CV unit – Many don’t have a full CFO role so partner with corporate finance. Differences observed across companies vary from basic reporting and transaction support to a more strategic advisory partnership.
  • Executive Change Management – Leaders shared strategies to reactively Pivot the unit in the face of corporate change, or Evolve their unit proactively to adapt to new environmental factors.
  • Investment Managers and the Art of sourcing deals. Much of the discussion revolved around cultivating essential relationships. Examples included externally through hosting an industry showcase event for financial VCs, and internally through targeting the “5 Fingers” of business relationships with communication strategies for each.
  • Portfolio Management specifically the Downside of a Deal. Members described approaches for managing Zombie companies “Founderitis”, and accounting irregularities.

History

Two forces aligned to create the ICEX Corporate Venturing private exchange in 2011. The Merck Global Health Innovation team approached ICEX about starting a new group for CV professionals. This aligned with a series of conversations at the Feb. 2011 CV&I Conference where a number of participants expressed desire for more in depth and extended exchange than a conference format provides. Merck, Chevron, Waste Management, 3M and AT&T became founding members, followed by Coca Cola, Motorola Solutions, Hyundai, and Lockheed. Now in 2015, 14 companies are members, funding a year long, intensive knowledge exchange to help each other improve program results and sustain their contributions to company innovation and competitiveness.

Corporate Venture professionals in active strategic investment roles are invited to attend a meeting at no fee and no obligation, to evaluate the potential membership. Should a company wish to establish a corporate membership, there is a tiered membership fee. For more information visit www.ICEX.com or contact slively@icex.com.

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