China and India – bright spots in Corporate Venture Capital recovery

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Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) has seen a steady rise for the last few years. Between 2011 and 2016 the number of large corporates establishing their own Venture Capital capability nearly tripled. Last year CVCs participated in about 40% of VC deals that happened in Asia. With major global events such as Brexit and Trump dampening investor appetite in VC funds, CVC deal volumes saw a global dip of 2% last year. However, there are data points indicating its likely to take off in a big way this year.

The CVC world has had challenges due to the compensation structure for the Partners and lack of nimble decision making capabilities. Partners at CVCs have traditionally not been compensated as well as a Partner in an independent VC fund. Also, if the VC arm of a Corporate cannot make independent decisions in quick time, it affects both the startups and the corporates. Sometimes CVCs lose good deals due to their lack of agility, but often they hurt startups by making them wait for investment decisions, and turn them down after a few months of due diligence.

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The brighter side of the deal is that, once the deal has gone through, the Corporate can be a massive launchpad for the startup. And for this very reason, Startups seem to be more forgiving of the red tape and the bureaucracy that they have to go through to get the deal closed.

That said, there is no denying that CVCs have evolved their models over the last few years, and are here to stay. In Asia, Softbank announced the launch of their $100 Billion fund, with $25 Billion of their skin in the game and Apple contributing $1 Billion, the fund has seen good traction since launch. The other big announcements were Baidu’s $3 Billion fund and Samsung’s $1 Billion fund.

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CVCs in India had a good year 2016, until Q4, where only 4 deals were closed. However the general trend last year was that the deal count went up, but the size of the deals came down compared to 2015. This is in contrast to most other top VC ecosystems in US, China and Europe where capital was moving towards more matured (growth stage) firms. VCs in India preferred smaller sized deals in early stage firms, resulting in a higher deal count. The only other region that had had CVC investments go up in the first half of last year was UK, but there was a slow down in H2 2016 post Brexit.

China on the other hand, had a slowdown in CVC investments last year after a strong 2015. This trend is expected to change because, between China and the US there were about 53 new CVCs that were launched last year. They are expected to get more active this year. Also, many VCs and CVCs are eyeing China for Fintech deals in a big way since the start of 2017.

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If CVCs in India perform anywhere close to what they did in Q1 and Q2 2016 and if the new CVCs in China start deploying, we are likely to see a CVC recovery. With VC investments shrinking globally over the last eight years, and CVC’s slice of the VC pie at an all time high (17%), the recovery of CVC might just be what the VC industry needs.


Arunkumar Krishnakumar is a Fintech thought leader and an investor. 

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