A powerful player

The Corporate Network is a well-connected community with the goal of involving corporates with startups and facilitating valuable connections. A powerful player in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area’s tech and startup ecosystem, the Corporate Network hosts a series of half-yearly well-received events for innovation managers that include speakers and info about a specific topic, plus a networking opportunity with a group of selected startups.

Epicenter Amsterdam

The most recent event took place during Amsterdam Capital Week on 25 September at Epicenter Amsterdam, a new space where established corporations and smaller companies with vetted business models can meet to build new businesses – a perfect fit for the Corporate Network’s collaborative spirit. Housed in an impressive, hyper-sustainable building, Epicenter provides an innovative environment for people with similar business mindsets and an interest in digital growth.

Corporate Venture Capital

The topic for the September 2018 event was corporate venture capital (or CVC – the practice of directly investing corporate funds into promising external startups), and the Corporate Network had invited the corporates’ CVC fund managers alongside their innovation managers. About 60 representatives attended and were joined by 13 startups for drinks afterwards.

The rise of CVC programmes

Short opening speeches by Corporate Network Lead Eline Vliegen and Douwe Dirks, Head of Sales at Epicenter Amsterdam – who stressed the importance of disruption and described the collaborative idea behind Epicenter – kicked off proceedings. Nina Tellegen, Director at the Amsterdam Economic Board, and Antti Rantanen, co-founder & head of European operations for Avanto Ventures were up next, talking about the reasons for the recent success of CVC programmes in Europe and how they are invigorating the venture landscape. Technological developments are helping to speed up the traditionally slow process of direct investing, they said, which makes them important for the startup ecosystem – particularly in Europe, which traditionally has had problems creating scale-ups.

The secrets of successful CVC programmes

This was followed by the first interactive panel, titled ‘What makes a successful CVC programme?’, which saw MHP’s Tanja Kufner, investor Itxaso del Palacio and KPN’s Herman Kienhuis deliberate how a company’s investment strategy changes when its company strategy changes. In response to the titular question, keywords were learning from mistakes, agreeing on clear strategies and setting the financial goal prior to the strategic goal. Tips for finding the right startup to partner with included looking for startups that provide tech-driven solutions, getting information from other VCs as well as from academia, networking at conferences and building relationships with founders.

The startups’ point of view

After the first panel, it was time for Dennis Tan’s keynote about the startup view of CVCs. The founder and CEO of visual analytics startup Dashmote talked about how, while startups often dismiss the CVC option or don’t view it as a separate option from traditional VCs, it was high time for them to start looking at the rapidly growing CVC system as a serious option. He continued by giving advice on how to increase chances of success for CVCs. These included educating founders, having a clear strategy and aligning the CVC’s expectations with the startups.

Competition vs collaboration

The second panel asked how corporates can compete against traditional investors in the trending technology landscape. It featured Marie Weijler of Princip.al, Thijs Gitmans of the Mainport Innovation Fund II, and Yme Bosma of Eneco. The answer here, again, is having good relationships: both with startups and with traditional VCs.

Networking drinks

The second panel concluded the event, and it was time for a drink and a mingle. The startups that attended the networking event were:

We can’t wait to see the collaborations that will follow the event! If you’d like to be part of the Amsterdam Economic Board’s Corporate Network, be connected to startup liaisons, innovation managers and other stakeholders, get access to emerging technologies and stay up to date with startup events, head over to corporatenetwork.nl or send an email to Eline Vliegen.