Many entrepreneurs looking to raise funding for their businesses first think of traditional venture capitalists or angel investors. They would be wise, though, to add corporate VCs to the mix they’re considering. My company, SundaySky, has raised three rounds of funding and is fortunate enough to work with two corporate investors along with several traditional VCs. Here’s why:
1. Strategic partnerships: A strength of one of our corporate VCs, Comcast Ventures, is its ability to act as a strategic investor from a financial perspective as well as open up to us the wealth of resources of Comcast Corporation. We have seen untold value in the form of introductions to prospective clients, partners and even other investor groups. As you would expect, the firm measures success based on the return of its portfolio companies, so it aligns closely with the growth interests of our executive team and the rest of our board.
2. Intra-introductions: Discussions with corporate VCs can provide valuable introductions to their other business units within the parent company. We’ve had discussions with some corporate investors that would only invest if we first became a vendor of theirs. We approached them not for the money but to gain access to their relevant business units through the venture arm to help grow our customer base. This approach, which we have taken multiple times, involves going into each meeting with the main goal of securing business and a secondary goal of securing investment.
I should note that while the venture arm can connect you with a company’s other business units, it’s still your job to convince the company to use your product or service. Don’t expect an investment to generate automatic revenue from the business units of a corporate investor.
3. Industry insights: Corporate VCs – particularly those in your category of business – can provide strategic market-based advice. They have years of specific experience in their respective fields and industries, and they are generally eager to work with you to scale your business. If you sell into their industries, that knowledge is invaluable. One of the biggest values we receive from our corporate investors is their ability to provide insight into the industry landscape and overarching data trends throughout the market. A corporate VC’s awareness about your market can make all the difference in how you develop your product or vision and your ability to increase market penetration.
As with any VC, not every corporate investor is going to want to take a risk on your company, and you shouldn’t accept an investment from just any investor. There are several considerations you should evaluate before working with a corporate VC.
For example, some corporate VCs are willing to invest in companies that don’t sell to the parent company – just as any other VC would. Other corporate venture arms stipulate that you have to sell to their business units and then, and only then, will they invest in your company. Others have different stipulations, such as having some type of synergy between businesses or fitting within the venture arm’s investment focus. You should also think about the investment amount a corporate VC will make – some are less focused on equity, while others will only lead a round.
What’s most important is to collaborate with investors that will ensure the relationship brings value to both parties. Corporate venture capital funds continue to rise. With the likes of Google Ventures, AOL Ventures, and Citi Ventures among hundreds of others in the game, it’s an exciting playing field.
Shmulik Weller is cofounder and CEO of SundaySky. He previously served in a number of executive positions at Veon, an Israeli startup acquired by Philips’ MP4Net Group, and he served his mandatory military service in an elite intelligence unit of the Israel Defense Forces and was awarded the prestigious Israel Defense Award for innovative software projects.
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