As Head of Corporate Venturing at Martian & Machine, I wear many hats but my main goal is to build great, new companies or as we call it, adventures, with our corporate partners. I work closely with our diverse team of venture architects, engineers, designers, and marketing and salespeople to bring ideas to reality. This means solving daily challenges in meetings, guiding projects, and working towards our goals and vision for our ventures.
It’s an exciting role where I can combine strategic and creative thinking with hands-on work that just has to be done day by day. I also participate in discussions, provide guidance for ongoing projects, and influence the future of our venturing initiatives.
I kickstart my day by reading industry and startup news with a good old cup of coffee! Once I'm up to date, I participate in various work meetings with my team. We intentionally call them 'work meetings' because I disdain meetings where you discuss things and then leave with homework. In our meetings, we strive to solve daily challenges and fine-tune our approach to become more rapid and efficient.
On some days, I engage with business partners, discussing further collaboration and exchanging perspectives. But, most of my time is spent supporting my team and being there for them whenever they need a boost or a bit of encouragement.
I often take on the role of interim COO in our ventures, and that’s when my day acquires a different turn. I plunge headfirst into operational matters, working more closely with the team to drive growth. In these scenarios, no two days are alike, and that's what keeps me fired up.
Corporate venture building should be well included into the corporation's innovation initiatives, along with other initiatives such as corporate venture capital (CVC), venture client model, or intrapreneurship activities.
But, things can get quite different from your usual corporate culture. That's why having a C-Level attention board becomes even more crucial for a successful ride. When done right, CVB becomes a real game-changer, pumping up the innovation strategy and opening up a whole bunch of paths to long-term success.
• It allows corporations to explore numerous new market opportunities and efficiencies within existing systems. There's considerable potential to create new profit streams when ventures are built slightly outside of the core business, potentially safeguarding the future or even establishing market leadership in a new sector.
• It accelerates the overall pace of innovation. By employing a 'greenfield' approach (a strategy relying on a completely fresh start), many internal barriers and bureaucratic hurdles can be avoided. This enables companies to experiment with new ideas, business models, and cutting-edge technologies without being constrained by rigid operational processes.
• Corporations building ventures attract more external talent precisely because they challenge the status quo and foster a different mindset
• It provides an unparalleled learning experience for the corporation's internal teams. The 'learning by doing' approach may be one of the most cost-effective and exciting methods for internal development and education.
• In this setting, workers change their thinking, become more loyal, and acquire practical skills beyond regular project management.
Repeatability, efficiency, and fast decisions driven by real market data are our pillars. One-hit wonders may be tempting, but we understand the importance and prefer building ventures with repeatable processes and business models. We have a hands-on, entrepreneurial mindset that incorporates the power of data-driven decision-making from the get-go.
As Jeff Bezos said:
You need to maximize the number of experiments you can do per given unit of time. If you can figure out how to conduct an experiment, you can make more bets. So the key, really, is reducing the cost of the experiments.
And this is exactly what we mean with repeatability - at M&M we are great at creating an environment where we can test 4-5 ideas live on the market together with our partners. This reduces the costs of validating ideas and increases the likelihood of making data-driven decisions. As a result, it improves the chances of betting on the right things.
Many traditional corporate venture approaches rely too much on a business mindset, but what we have is a strong foundation rooted in tech and startup DNA. This means we understand the importance of speed and efficiency.
We will always try to achieve product-market fit before building an organization with a lot of overhead. Especially at the start, we try to be as lean as possible, and not waste time or money on unimportant things. The main priorities at this stage are the product/service and how it is distributed.
At M&M we follow a simple rule:
2. Product and distribution only
Everything else comes later.
To achieve this, we place a high value on learning, experimentation, and cost-effective validation using real market data. By going into the market fast and generating live data from the start, we gather valuable insights that shape our decision-making process. We minimize risks and maximize the potential for long-term growth and success.
There are a couple of things:
1. Embrace the "now or never" mindset
Corporate venturing is all about seizing the opportunities that exist in the present moment. Don't delay or wait for the perfect conditions.
2. Be efficient and repeatable
Develop processes and frameworks for efficient and repeatable work. Establish clear stages for ideation, validation, and scaling to iterate quickly and learn. Encourage early failure and necessary adjustments.
3. Embrace a result-driven mindset
Treat ventures as experiments and evaluate based on results. If underperformance or failure occurs, don't view it emotionally. Be willing to shut down and pivot to new opportunities.
4. Implement strategic shortcuts
Implement strategic shortcuts to kickstart venture-building in corporations. Streamline decision-making, create agile processes, and empower cross-functional teams. Remove bureaucracy and foster entrepreneurial thinking to accelerate innovation and drive results.
5. Align with CEO agenda
Ensure corporate venturing practices support the CEO’s agenda while delivering tangible results that support their vision. Be aware that the agenda might be slightly different for CEOs of big corporations compared to family-owned, mid-sized companies.
The time for investing in corporate venturing was never better. The economic downturn in the startup industry leads to fewer investment rounds. As a result, there are fewer well-funded startups that are now less able to challenge corporate startup initiatives. Corporations that start executing startups right now will have an even better competitive edge than before. I am excited to help even more corporations, especially in the blue-collar industry, to create and run startups that will become market leaders in the future. Let’s start building 🚀