Traditionally, startups have looked to three primary sources for funding: venture capital firms (VCs), angel investors, and family offices. But in recent years, a fourth option has grown increasingly popular: corporate venture capital funds, or CVCs. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of CVCs grew more than six times to over 4,000, and these CVCs inked more than 2,000 deals worth $79 billion in the first half of 2021, surpassing all previous annual tallies.
These corporate investors offer not only funding, but also access to resources such as subsidiaries that can serve as market validators and customers, marketing and development support, and a credible existing brand. However, alongside this added value, CVCs can also come with some risk. To explore these tradeoffs, we collaborated with market intelligence company Global Corporate Venturing to conduct a quantitative in-depth analysis of the CVC landscape, as well as a series of qualitative interviews with both founders and CVC executives.
We found that of the 4,062 CVCs that invested between January 2020 and June 2021, more than half were doing so for the very first time, with just 48% having been in operation for at least two years at the time of investment. In other words, if you’re considering a CVC partner right now, there’s a decent chance that your potential investor has little to no experience making similar investments and supporting similar startups. And while more-experienced CVCs are likely to come with the resources and credibility that founders might expect, relative newcomers may struggle with even a basic understanding of venture norms.