The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently noted the increasing importance of the corporate venture capitalists in the innovation ecosystem. WSJ base their conclusion on a recent Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report that describes the change in corporate venture capital.
I have seen three of the four cycles in the BCG report and I agree that this cycle is different because of the critical role of innovation in large companies. Innovation has become essential for large corporations and corporate venture is a significant tool to manage innovation. As the BCG report notes in conclusion:
Considering the benefits that venture investing offers when best practices are employed, the real question is whether corporations can afford not to join the game.
The BCG report focuses on the return of corporate venture capital, but another critical trend is the rise of Chief Innovation Officers (such as Debby Hopkins at CitiBank and Marie Quintero-Johnson of Coca Cola). These executives coordinate their company’s innovation strategy using tools from corporate venture to internal piloting, internal research and development, collaborations and mergers and acquisitions. The role of the Chief Innovation Officer was described in a very perceptive analysis by James Mawson in the September 2012 edition of Global Corporate Venturing.