THE MIRROR OF MEDIA

Meet Marco Marinucci, co-founder and lead partner at HELLA Ventures


HELLA Ventures is the corporate venture capital arm of the German automotive part supplier

Venture capital used to be a cottage industry, with very few investing in tomorrow’s products and services. Oh, how times have changed! While there are more startups than ever, there’s also more money chasing them. In this series, we look at the new (or relatively new) VCs in the early stages: seed and Series A.

But just who are these funds and venture capitalists that run them? What kinds of investments do they like making, and how do they see themselves in the VC landscape?

We’re highlighting key members of the community to find out.

Marco Marinucci is the co-founder and lead Partner of HELLA Ventures.

Founded in 2015, HELLA Ventures is a multi-stage venture capital fund focused on mobility, deep tech, and industrial manufacturing investments. Over the last four months, three of HELLA Ventures’ portfolio companies (AEye, Oculii, and Wejo, collectively valued at nearly $3 billion at the time of the transactions) have either held an IPO or been acquired.

Marinucci was also an early investor in companies including eMotorWerks (acquired by Enel), Ridecell, Light Field Lab, Drishti, BreezoMeter and actnano. He is currently a non-voting/observing Board of Directors member for actnano, Ridecell, Brighter.AI and Excelfore.

Prior to HELLA Ventures, Marinucci ran automotive business development and manufacturing programs in Germany and Detroit. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University Stuttgart, an MBA in Global Business from the University of Hamburg (HFH) and completed the coursework for a Ph.D. in Business & Management from the University of Gloucestershire.

Marco Marinucci: We are a multi-stage mobility venture firm that has one LP, which is the automotive supplier HELLA, which has been around for over 120 years. Where we fit in, the firm has been around for over six years now, we have about 20 portfolio companies, and our specialties, of course, are mobility and transportation, but topics that are adjacent to mobility, like manufacturing, for example, logistics, but also tangential, deep tech topics. For example, we invested in a company that’s in the holographic space where you can use elements of the technology in the mobility space.  

Our philosophy is that, for the first years, we basically started in the Valley with the understanding that we were, effectively, a newcomer to the game. We were absolutely unknown, nobody knew who we were, and there was no right for us to expect any great access to investments or to deals. So, we believed that we needed to bring something to the table that’s unique. Many single LP or corporate VCs say that they want to bring value to the table, whatever that means; the way we do it as a rule is we’re trying to bring specific business units together with the startup before we make those investments. We want the business unit executives to commit to a collaboration with this company on a very high level, so no major details are required at that stage, but with a clear story about what the benefit is for HELLA to work with this company, and what the benefit is for this company to work with HELLA. Once we have that story, that’s our trigger point to also do an investment. Typically, in the last few years, we looked for top tier funded companies where we could follow-on their Series A, Series B, Series C, because we believe that being new around the block it would be awkward if somebody wanted us to lead the round. There are plenty of companies that wanted us to lead the round, and I’m glad we didn’t. We basically just followed the lead of the Kleiner Perkins and Lightspeeds of this world. 

We are 100% financially driven as well on the financial side, so we are not purely strategic. We’re right in the middle. So, the team is financially incentivized like every normal VC, but with a slight trick that allows us to co-invest versus competing with financials. That’s who we are and where we are in the ecosystem.

VN: It’s always an interesting question for corporate VCs to find out what the relationship is between them and the company. Some are totally autonomous, they can make whatever investments they want, but it sounds like HELLA is pretty involved in your investment strategy, that there has to be alignment before you make an investment.

MM: HELLA has not been involved in picking the investment strategy, in what to invest in, in what stage to invest in, or what areas to invest in, but I know what they want and what they want is technology access. So, they don’t really care about intelligence, it’s not tangible enough for the management team at HELLA; what they want is really technology access and, actually, they’re pioneers in believing that the pace of innovation goes before owning everything that you industrialize. I think that’s becoming more and more true in the automotive industry. So, basically, with minority investments, positioning yourself close to top tier companies can give you a pace of innovation that others don’t have, without necessarily owning that asset. 

I basically think about this as, “Yeah, we could be much more disconnected from HELLA but who’s gonna win from that?” It’s a fact that there’s not a ton of disruption actually happening in the tier one automotive supplier industry, unless you’re producing parts for internal combustion, let’s say. But the pace of innovation coming from Silicon Valley accelerated over the last decade. If you’re not part of that, you’re out of the loop of innovation today. And so, that’s why we thought, “well, we should be actually close to the business unit because most deep tech companies that we find want access to that business unit and, through that business unit, access to the market. So, why should we leave them out of the equation?”

VN: So, you invest in mobility and automotive, as you said, but are there verticals within that space that you’re specifically interested in? And if so, what’s exciting about those?

MM: ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) is, of course, very exciting, but we look at all the companies that have technology that enables new business models, and enables extracting a ton of value from autonomous driving. So, we believe sensor companies can be great if they enable something that creates a ton of value. If it’s just another sensor that is just a little bit better than what already exists, and a little bit cheaper, we believe that’s great, we also connect them with our business units, but it’s really hard often to extract the value. Similarly for the EV space; we believe that, for example, charging platforms can make a ton of sense, or remote cloud solutions for battery management systems to optimize battery charging. But we believe that now also there are parts to simply batteries. I mean, new battery solutions could make sense but it’s a hot and very, very dangerous topic. In the course of being a young corporate VC, we wanted to stay away from things that can be absolutely one or zero. 

VN: What’s the big macro trend you’re betting on?

MM: There’s multiple macro trends; the one big trend that we see is full stack companies, basically the Rivians of this world. Actually, if you look at cap tables, I don’t think there was a single traditional venture capital company that invested in Rivian, it was a ton of corporate VCs and then crossover funds it took over at some point. So, there’s a ton of opportunity in full stack and consumer facing. For example, we are working with a company right now that does automated sensor calibration; after you replace your windshield, for example, your camera needs to be calibrated and today it’s a very complicated process that takes like two hours for a technician. So, those full stacks are interesting. And then the other thing that is interesting is we just did an investment in an advanced materials company. So, I believe that advanced materials, like nanocoatings, for example, have a better shot at extracting value versus, again, just things that are built out of components where it’s very well understood how much they cost. 

VN: So you are doing primarily B2B investing? It sounds like B2C is maybe a newer thing for you. Is that accurate?

MM: Yeah, B2C is more rare, so it’s mainly B2B, that’s correct. We do have a B2C investment in a company called BreezoMeter, which provides air quality on every iPhone in the United States and a few more countries, and Light Field Lab, which is a holographic company. They will be consumer facing at some point, but in the first goal it’s also B2B. So, most are definitely B2B companies.

VN: Do you have a fund that you invest out of? It’s not always clear if corporate VC have a dedicated fund.

MM: When you say fund, what do you mean by that?

VN: I mean, is there a certain amount of capital allocated to you? Do you have a vehicle that you invest out of?

MM: Yes. So, HELLA Ventures, LLC is a separate vehicle. We have a capital commitment every year and we invest from that vehicle. 

The reason why I was asking what you mean by a “fund” is because I have an opinion on single LP structures: they’re not any different, in my opinion, than any other separate LLC or even off the balance sheet. So, the structure is very similar; we try to optimize it for one LP but it can be scaled to multiple LPs at any point in time.

VN: What is the size of your current fund and how many investments do you typically make in a year?

MM: We are a $120 million fund that makes three to four new investments per year, with a sweet spot of $3 to $5 million for the initial check. We follow-on, of course, if the company is doing well; if the company isn’t doing well, but we still believe in the company, we would also follow-on, we’ve done that many times. We go all the way to pipe investments of our own companies if they decide to go public, but we start with Series A, Series B, sometimes Series C.

MM: That’s an interesting question. In deep tech, that’s difficult actually, it’s really difficult. Product market fit can be potentially proven at Series B, but you still have no revenue because at Series A you proved the technology, at Series B you proved the customer traction and the product market fit, but now you have to actually acquire projects and then sell it to an OEM. That can take a year, and then R&D takes another three to four years, so it can take another four years or so five years until you actually see revenue starting to ramp up.

Every deal is different, and that’s why I’m dancing around the question a little bit; often in deep tech, with the Series B, especially if it’s B2B, it’s hard to say, “you have to have $10 million in revenue, you have to have $15 million in revenue,” because that revenue that they have, typically, is NRE revenue. And so, we typically look into, what does this NRE revenue turn into? How much committed business was acquired, or are they projected to acquire? And then, it depends on how big the market is; let’s say the market is really, really big, with not that many players, we’ll be more lenient. In the nanocoating space, a company we just invested in has over $200 million in already booked business. And so, we look into those details and see, is it a healthy business? Is there a product market fit?

VN: At that point, do you want them to already have a product?

MM: It always depends. Let’s say for a Series A, if it’s a great prototype that you built, maybe, but, ideally, we always say there needs to be some type of proof that there’s product market fit and in automotive that can be that a customer wants to really, really buy this product for this price. We use pretty much every single channel that we can find, meaning, for example, our own sales department at HELLA, to cross check with customers if they’re really interested in this product. We’re doing due diligence on a company in Switzerland, where we have exactly that case; Tesla’s interested, Daimler is interested, and so we want to understand, what does “interested” mean? Is it somebody in an advanced engineering department saying, “wow, that’s cool technology”? Or have they run through the purchasing department people and is there a consensus that they want to buy this product for this price? If we can answer that with “yes,” well, then the rest is easy because then, with HELLA, it’s easier to bring it to market.

VN: In the automotive space there are limited customers, perhaps, for these technologies. There’s not that many big car companies; there’s the Big Three in America, or maybe it’s the Big Four now with Tesla. So, you have to really find out if those four companies are interested in this product. Is that how it works? 

MM: That’s kind of how it works. You’ll be at the Big Three in Germany, you’ll be at the Japanese companies, the Korean companies, and the beauty is most of them have locations also in Silicon Valley. We, of course, like to talk to each other and so it’s relatively easy and quick to find out how big the traction is. The thing is, if the traction isn’t real, then that’s a huge problem because, as you said, there’s not an unlimited amount of customers that you can pivot into for a radar sensor.

VN: We talked a bit about product and market, and the third thing VCs always say is important to them is the team. When the founders and entrepreneurs come to you, what do you want to see from them to make you want to invest?

MM: The founders go above everything. Again, every deal is different, and for every company it depends a little bit on different things, but a few things I think about founders are, number one, do I feel intellectually attracted to that person? Do I want to, ideally, work for that person? Do I find what they’re selling interesting? Do I believe the story? If they get me, they will also, hopefully, get other talent. The two most important things a CEO and founder needs to be able to do is fundraise and attract talent and to do that you need to be able to tell the right story and be believable. That goes over execution skills; execution skills you can hire, but if you can’t fundraise or can’t tell good stories to attract talent, that’s really hard.

VN: So, basically, you could have the best product on the market but if you can’t sell it, then it doesn’t really mean anything.

MM: That is correct. There are four types of founders; of course, you can’t put people into four boxes, but it’s basically just two criterias: can he or she fundraise, and can he or she execute? A good executor and a good fundraiser is number one. Number two is a good fundraiser and bad executor. Number three is good executor but bad fundraiser, and then, lastly, is somebody who doesn’t do either well. It turns out that somebody who is good at fundraising but not great at executing, they always manage to sell the company for a decent price. It might not become a multi-billion dollar company, but at least you get your money back or you get a small multiple.

As a corporate VC, we need to think a little bit differently than a financial because, ultimately, for us, two things matter financially: number one, the way I think about it is not losing money, because it’s always a tricky situation with what the corporate can explain. And number two, have an incentive structure that is attractive for professionals to work for us instead of working, let’s say, for a financial. All the rules that financial VCs have, they make a ton of sense for them, but when you think about a corporate VC, I mean, ultimately, if the bonus check of our principals is as big as it would be if he or she was at a top tier firm, why does it really matter what numbers actually lead to that? 

VN: I want to ask you a little bit about valuations and round sizes. Especially the last couple of years they’ve been going through the roof, in a lot of different spaces. There was some fear maybe early on in the pandemic that they wouldn’t be able to deploy their funding, but the last two years were record breaking years in that sense, so that really didn’t happen. So, what do you see happening? Were the automotive and mobility spaces affected by COVID and how do you see venture funding in general trending? 

MM: Let me unpack that. So, first of all, one thing we saw in 2021 is not a lot of people founded new companies, and that’s understandable because, where does the typical first time founder come from? Typically, a top tech company. You’re at Google, you’re 35, and you’re thinking of starting your own company; you’re not going to do that in the middle of a pandemic, you’re going to wait until and see how things pan out and then start a company and not give up your great job. So, there was less founding of new companies. And, then on top of that, a lot of seed and Series A companies actually went belly up because they couldn’t fundraise in the first months. So, there’s a reduced number of companies. And then, obviously, by printing a ton of money on the macro level, you funded a ton of money into new venture funds that need to deploy that money. You also funneled a ton of money into SPACs. You’re funneling all this money to people directly, it ends up with pension funds, maybe, and then pension funds deployed again in vehicles like venture capital. Effectively, you have a massive amount of cash and not so many companies. And so, now you’re seeing crazy things like pre-empting rounds. The last few years we were talking about crazy valuations, now we’re talking about founders being approached by VCs basically saying, “Hey, can I invest?” “Well, we aren’t fundraising.” “What if I give you a great valuation? I need to deploy this capital.” So, let’s see how successful they are going to be, because a lot of this capital is being deployed at very high valuations.

The other thing that also fundamentally changed on the other end of the spectrum is retail investors that came into the market; pre-COVID, I think we were at about 11% and now we are at about 25 to 30% retail investors. Many of them, so far, have been looking either for hype or for simpler things, like index funds and ETFs. Basically, what I’m trying to say is the winners have been winning even more because of index fund investments, and then hype, making a quick buck with short squeezes with SPACs, with warrants, also had a ton of traction. So, for mobility itself, it’s a little bit like an art: it’s relatively easy for most people to understand that the product is. With a new EV company, you don’t have to be a virologist like in biotech, where you need to have a PhD in biotech to understand what you’re talking about. It’s a new electric car company, it looks cool, maybe it’s the next Tesla, so let’s invest in it. That is an element that is going to go away so quickly, because people like to gamble, ultimately.

VN: You were saying there weren’t too many companies founded in 2020 and I was thinking, “Well, unless you’re a healthcare company,” because there were a lot of those. Obviously, that space exploded. I’m wondering, was mobility and automotive affected negatively because people weren’t driving as much during the pandemic and people weren’t buying cars? 

MM: I would say, not really. We luckily didn’t feel it. Luckily, HELLA was always very careful with capital preservation, so we were to continue to invest during the pandemic. Some others needed to stop, but the financials, I mean, they raised their funds, cash was there. 

What we did see, though, is an acceleration in backspace with mobility companies. Long term, where that’s going to lead, I’m not sure, but if you look at biotech, for example, it’s pretty common to IPO early, before clinical trials actually, and then use that cash to go through clinical trials. That could ultimately be something, maybe not through SPACs, because the incentive structures with SPACs are potentially a little bit distorted, but early IPOs, having the public market be more involved, could actually be a really great story or a great vehicle for mobility companies that need more time than most VCs can actually afford. Often, they need more cash once things start looking promising; you just need billions and billions of dollars to build a car. So, that’s actually a very positive notion that also trickles down, all the way to the beginning. Basically, when Elon funded the Series A of Tesla, that was just sheer craziness. No VC would have touched that because, what’s your pitch? You’re building a new car company, and it’s going to take 20 years? Even if you would have said it’s going to be a $10 billion company, people would have still said, “that’s insane. Why are you doing that?” Now, somebody comes and says, “I’m starting a new car company,” that’s a whole different ball game since there’s all these other avenues for venture capital to be returned, way before the company is producing vehicles.

VN: I hadn’t really heard that mobility was taking advantage of SPACs as much. You heard about healthcare a lot more. So, do you feel like there will be, in the next few years, mobility companies starting to do IPOs and going public? Is that close to happening?

MM: In the last 12 months, I would say there were somewhere between 35 to 70 mobility companies that had a SPAC. Seven lidar companies, one radar company, three or four charging companies, and EV company, Fisker. A lot of good companies. One of the prominent ones was Nikola; you might have heard of them: yesterday, there was a SEC announcement that Nikola was paying $125 million or so for fraud allegations. Ultimately, there were many mobility companies because of this funding gap where there’s no revenue, you need a ton of money, and, in the past, nobody was really willing to take that risk. Now, a lot of things combined, including more retail, a flood of cash, and then also the success of Tesla, are driving a lot of this awareness about mobility. Bringing all that together has changed a little bit the dynamic in later stage investing for mobility companies.

VN: Venture is a two-way street, where investors also have to pitch themselves. How do you differentiate your fund to entrepreneurs?

MM: Our advantage was we always had to pitch ourselves because nobody knew us. We actually never really had to change what we were saying or doing because in the past we had to pitch ourselves as well. Effectively, I was 100% serious about what I said at the beginning: we could have chosen to say, like others, “we’re a pure financial VC,” but then why should someone take money from us? We could have also said, “we’re purely strategic and we’re cuddle you to death.” Some people do that, without naming names, but what we decided to do is look for great deals, we’ll negotiate pretty hard, and get the best deal possible but we also maintain our promise we go to market together. In the radar space, or the lidar space, or any other space, we have the executive VP of the division sign an MOU, which is often just one or two pages, and it just says what we’ll do together, what’s the timeline, who’s responsible, and then the EVP needs to sign, the CEO of the company signs it. It’s non-binding but this happens in front of the CEO of the company, and it creates some commitment. And then it’s a lot of work on our side, from our team, to keep everything together so the collaboration works, because startups and corporate, as you can imagine, don’t really speak the same language, so it’s a lot of hand holding.

The easiest shortcut now is when we meet a new founder, we tell them, “go speak to the CEO of this company or the CFO of that company that we invested in,” and ask them if we delivered what we promised or not. That’s the value, and if we can’t find the value then we try to stay away, simply because we say, “you don’t really need us. It’s going to be difficult internally to get conviction. It’s not meant to be. There’s enough opportunity for us out there that we can find companies with a really good story, where both partners benefit from each other.” 

VN: It sounds like what you’re saying is you straddle the line between being a financial investor and a strategic investor. You offer both, basically.

MM: Basically, yes. So, once we’re invested, because everyone’s bonus also depends on it, we’re maximally incentivized to work as hard and to do as much as we can to make the exit successful, so we’ll introduce them to everyone in the mobility space. We have specific executives that have behind closed doors, one-on-ones with the CEO, so that if things are going wrong they can escalate in a quiet way, and things can be brought back on track. So, we work very hard to make the collaboration successful and we believe that deep tech needs corporates because deep tech investing means somebody needs to boost something off, and that’s too expensive for most companies. So, why not have somebody do that who has been doing that for many years and has the equipment, the knowledge, and the engineers?

VN: There are many venture funds out there today, how do you differentiate yourself to limited partners?

MM: We are in the process of figuring out what the next step is to keep growing. One of the limited things that we have with our model is the portfolio; the portfolio of HELLA limits what we can do. HELLA is now merging with a company called Faurecia, which is already going to provide way more products and way more opportunity.

The other thing we do for LPs is we also tout the financial piece. In the last four and half years of our investing activity, we have produced a net IRR of 61%, and TVPI of 2.4 net, so those are pretty good results and they are achieved because we have a few advantages picking those companies. Mobility is a complex industry and we have a business unit that can help us with due diligence, and we have a business unit that can help us to go to market. Those are all pretty unfair advantages when compared to most VCs. So, as long as we can ensure that the decisions are made by the VC, independently, of course in alignment with the corporate, why wouldn’t a financial LP be interested in such returns? So, that’s how we think about it and then expanding to multiple LPs, ultimately the return matters and the return is pretty attractive. 

VN: What are some of the investments you’ve made that you’re super excited about? Why did you want to invest in those companies? 

MM: One company that just got sold to Ambarella, a publicly traded semiconductor company, is called Oculii, which was run by Steven Hong as founder and CEO, and actually his father was co-founder and CTO. What really gave us conviction is Steven is an amazing salesman, super intelligent, and also knows radar better than most people. So, he’s super technical, charismatic, knows how to tell stories, he’s well connected; I would work for him at any point in time. Most of our companies have a very collaborative and inclusive type of culture, not a cutthroat, internal competition type of culture; that’s something I personally just don’t like and I stay away from them. 

Steven understood that there were many radar companies out there, there were many lidar companies out there; the radar companies were building new radar sensors, basically from the ground up. New chips, new antennas, completely new design, pretty expensive. The lidar companies were building lidar, which is inherently expensive. So, what he did is he developed an algorithm to improve existing radar technology resolution by over 100x; up to 1000x, depending on the set up. When you take what they built, and add it to existing radar sensors that HELLA is producing today, like 10 million sensors a year, you can make radar sensor resolution go from 7 to 10 degree resolution down to 0.1, and in the next evolution it can even be 0.01. That’s like a lidar type of resolution, except we’re talking about a sensor that costs $50 or $60. That’s really disruptive and we thought, “You know what? We already have manufacturing and supply chain for the radar chips we’re using. We already have all of that. But this is just changing software.” So, it fit together so well. And then having a founder who knows how to raise money, what else do you need? It’s a perfect example of the model that we have; Oculii never wanted to produce their own sensors, they wanted a partner that uses them. There’s no value in learning how to do automotive-grade quality and supply chain, these are all things that are already invented and already out there. So, that was a perfect fit. 

Another company we just invested in is called Actnano, out of Boston. They do nanocoatings; on every printed circuit board, if they need to be water resistant, or resistant or humidity, you’ll see a form of coating. Basically, it’s a paste or a gel that runs through an oven for somewhere between 30 to 120 minutes and then hardens and becomes almost like plastic, so water can’t penetrate the electric circuit board, or at least that area. The issue with that is, number one, it wastes a ton of energy heating up an oven to hundreds of degrees to harden this form of coating and, number two, you can’t coat over antennas or connectors, and you can’t rework anything if you figure out later there was a mistake. So, they invented this new coating, which is spray-on. It dries immediately, it doesn’t need any heat, it’s cheaper, and it’s better for the employees at the manufacturing line.

The founder is amazing and built this company from scratch; it’s his first company after coming from manufacturing, and running manufacturing for multiple global semiconductor players. He raised his first $8 million basically by himself, without having raised money before, from friends and family, lawyers, doctors. I’m sure now the story sounds cool and nice and easy but I’m sure he faced a lot of rejection. If you can power through that and then motivate people, for example, he’s not a scientist but sitting in Boston he attracted all of these MIT PhDs and figured out how to keep them happy. That’s pretty astonishing to make that happen. Plus, pre-Series B they delivered over three million PCBs with their coating in cars in 2021, and have a backlog of over $200 million in revenue. So, BMW came in; another very, very large German automotive venture, which is not announced yet, came in as well; and so did TDK. 

VN: What are some lessons you learned? Maybe something that you’ve found surprising about being a VC.

MM: I was on the other side, so I was doing program management and basically selling and acquiring projects for OEMs for six years before that, in Germany and then the U.S. Back then I knew, if someone talked to me and liked me, they liked me because they liked me. That changes quickly when you become a VC and the more senior you become the worse it gets. The thing is, when you start doing these jobs, nobody comes to you and says, “Congratulations, now you’ve got to pay attention because people might be friends with you for other reasons.” But it just happens slowly. The good thing is, if you’ve been something else than a VC before, you know that this person would not have talked to you in the past. I tend to try to remember those things. Some people are pretty smart so it’s very, very difficult to spot sometimes.

The other thing that I’ve learned is always assume if good things are happening to you, if a founder wants money from you, and they want it only from you, or if a deal seems too good to be true then often it is too good to be true. Basically, constantly stay humble and ask yourself, “why is this happening to me? Why do they want us? Something must be wrong.” It sounds very trivial but think about who works in VC; those are mainly people who have been killing it. They did well in school and then they went to a great college and they did banking or something. So, they were always doing well and so they’re used to people trying to work with them or be close to them. But once you’re a VC, it’s a little different; typically, if people are really pushing, they want you to lead a round or they want you to do X, Y, or Z, and they’re pretty smart, most founders, they know what the right things are to say, the biggest lesson learned is to assume that somebody’s after you and there’s a catch somewhere, you just have to find it.  

VN: What excites you the most about your position as a VC? 

MM: I’m naturally intellectually curious. My girlfriend always says it’s so boring to watch TV in the evening with me because I’m just watching documentaries on YouTube, and they’re pretty boring ones, like physics lectures or something like that. But, it’s just fascinating to learn new things from some of the smartest people on the planet. That’s just something that gives me the chills over and over again, talking to new founders.

The other thing that’s really interesting is that there’s never a boring day. Every time you think you’re killing it, everything is going great, there’s somebody who’s going to try to ruin the party, in some way, shape or form. It’s this constant up and down but it’s also a thrill, so it’s never boring. There’s always more you can go and the random things that happen, like meeting new people at event, it’s constant penetration of your brain, which is absolutely fantastic.  

VN: Is there anything else that you think I should know about you or the firm or your thoughts about the venture industry in general?

MM: One thing that is important to me is, when I started working as a corporate VC we constantly tried to fight against the reputation that corporate VCs have. The reputation of being only strategic or being too far away or people who don’t know what they’re doing. I think that’s changing, and you see large corporates like Microsoft and Amazon bringing top tier talent to the corporate VC space, with great incentive structures, but with very similar programs where they leverage that they have with the corporation to get better deals, or to get into deals. I think it’s changing the dynamic. Look at Sapphire Ventures, they did a phenomenal job spinning out of SAP and becoming this independent fund with a similar focus area. It’s important for people to hear that not all CVCs are the same and that could even become an interesting asset class for financial investors going forward. 



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