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Venture capitalist founder of Touchdown Ventures & DFJ Frontier, USC & UCLA adjunct professor, father of twins, Philly sports Phan, Forbes contributor
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You may have heard the idiom that the camel is what would result if a horse were designed by a committee. Corporate investment committees are often what results when a committee is designed by a committee. Like the camel, investment committees — also known as “ICs” in the world of corporate innovation — can feature lumpiness, poor temperament, and even spitting.

The corporate IC plays a crucial role in the external innovation deal process, however. Depending on the purview of the committee, this can include transaction approvals for multiple types of investments: (1) acquisitions, (2) business development deals, (3) funding…

Image: Aimee Blase

How should venture capitalists and corporate innovators assess Din Djarin, the protagonist of The Mandalorian? He’s introduced as a bounty hunter, a mercenary vocation in the Star Wars mythos that has been reserved primarily for villains.

I think one of the most interesting aspects of Jon Favreau’s show is how Din Djarin wrestles with the orthodoxy of his Mandalorian beliefs. His insistence on honor makes the character an appealing hero, and his character’s growth is demonstrated by when he chooses to be flexible versus when he holds fast to the rules he believes.

Although “This is the way” emerged as…

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I’ve been lucky to be given a lot of responsibility in my venture capital career. In the early 2000s, I was entrusted by the largest pension fund in the United States, CalPERS, to become a founding General Partner in a seed stage venture capital firm.

Joncarlo Mark, the founder of Upwelling Capital Group, was formerly a Senior Portfolio Manager in the Alternative Investment Management group at CalPERS, where he was responsible for the investment in my fund. From 2007 to 2010, he also served as chair of the Institutional Limited Partners Association (ILPA), whose 300 member organizations oversaw over $1…

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The norms in venture capital have changed a lot since I started in the business in the early 1990s: in those days, syndicates were typically smaller, and any investment by a professional venture firm usually was accompanied by a formal role on the startup’s board of directors.

30 years later: round sizes are larger, syndicates have more participants, entrepreneurs wield more power; and as a result, it’s not abnormal for professional venture capitalists to assume a relatively passive role in managing private company investments.

Although I’m a vocal proponent of actively managing venture investments, there is some merit to a…

Merging lanes? Make sure everyone is ready. Image: Touchdown Ventures

I’ve personally participated in the creation of more than a dozen corporate venture capital (CVC) programs. In most of the examples I’ve seen, these efforts are championed by corporate development professionals who understand the need to bring external innovation inside the corporation. That typically means that experienced M&A executives are expanding their purview to include minority investments.

As a result, it’s natural to view investing and acquisitions as part of a continuum that ranges from partial control to full control. I believe there’s some validity to this thinking.

On the other hand, venture capital investing is very different from M&A…

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Venture capital firms come in all shapes, sizes, and cultures. One organization with which I’m familiar started in the early 2000s and was known for celebrating each time it completed a new investment. The firm would throw a lavish, self-congratulatory party for each new startup added to the portfolio. Not surprisingly, this investment firm is no longer in business.

In my opinion, this is because making an investment is the easiest part of the venture capital job. Anyone can find a startup and write a check. Generating a return by growing and exiting an investment is the tough part. …

Image used with permission from Victor Varnado

As 2021 begins, it’s difficult not to acknowledge the precarious state of American society: the Covid-19 pandemic continues to grip our country, high unemployment signals underlying challenges to the economy, and our nation remains bitterly divided following a closely contested presidential election. Amidst this backdrop, we continue to grapple with many cultural issues reignited last year, most notably racial equality.

As Alex Nwaka and I wrote in the spring, Touchdown’s team believes that racism and human rights’ abuses are antithetical to our values, as individuals and as a firm. To that end, our entire company has committed to contributing responsibly…

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As I’ve previously written, entrepreneurship and venture capital can be more challenging during a downturn, but startups that make it through can emerge in a position of strength. While investment capital typically becomes tighter during a recession, startups generally have less competition. As a result, more enduring companies may potentially be founded at times like these according to research from the Kauffman Foundation. It remains to be seen how the current recession will play out in the venture capital ecosystem.

While a recessionary period often brings stress between founders and investors, one of the most challenging aspects of managing through…

Image: Ahmed H. Moustafa for Shutterstock

During the past few weeks, we have been reaching out to our friends in the black community to listen, engage, and understand how to start the process of being supportive.

Although we concede that we are not experts on racial equality, we do not believe there is a middle ground on this issue. Racism and human rights abuses are wrong, and we do not think it requires courage to say so. Our challenge is what to do next, so that these are not empty words, but the beginning of sustained action that leads to a more inclusive future.

Seeing our…

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C-suite executives often struggle to make sense out of the variety of innovation options at their disposal. Should the corporation build internally, launch an incubator, partner with an accelerator, start a venture fund, expand an M&A program, or engage in more than one of these activities? The choices can appear complex and overwhelming, even when reduced to basic options like “build, buy, partner, or invest.”

Among these paths, the greatest confusion can come from how to manage external innovation options. For the most part, this means learning how to work with startups. …

Scott Lenet

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