After years of hesitation, corporations are entering the world of venture capitalism. Their contributions are increasing steadily with the number of active corporate investors tripling from 2011 to 2016. In fact, 75 of the Fortune 100 companies are now participating in venture capital investing. These businesses come from all different sectors. Corporate venture capital (CVC) branches have been established in companies from Google and Qualcomm to Johnson & Johnson.
This is an attractive opportunity for large corporations, as they can supply this CVC funding in order to support the development of advanced technologies for use in their operations, or to help build a strong company for their portfolio with hopes that it may be acquired. For example, Intel Capital’s portfolio company Virtustream, an enterprise cloud business, was able to test and improve its product within the already established business. Once proven, the technology was ultimately acquired for over $1 billion.
High risk, high reward
Although there have been major success stories, corporations still need to be prudent when choosing investment opportunities. Until this recent shift in CVC spending, companies have been hesitant to enter such a risky arena. Historically, companies have invested in startups only to see them miss their mark or fail altogether.
If you’re looking to attract large corporate investors, you will need to make a powerful case that shows exactly why you are the right fit for their company. To help you construct this, here are four elements your pitch should include:
1. SWOT Analysis
Completing a SWOT analysis is a valuable exercise for any entrepreneur, but it is especially important when seeking funding. This tool requires you to step back and determine the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing your business.
Assessing the internal factors of your business — the strengths and weaknesses — will help you realize in-house issues that you may not have realized before. For example, you may have a strong, innovative product, but a weak organizational structure. The same is true of examining the external factors affecting your business. Is there an opportunity for you to claim a large share in an upcoming market, but a considerable amount of regulation that could threaten your progress?
It can be easy to focus on the positive aspects of your business potential, seeing only the strengths in your product offering and the opportunities for it in the market. However, the weaknesses and threats you will need to overcome are equally important to understand, and a SWOT analysis forces you to consider every aspect of your business. All of these factors affecting your company’s viability are all substantial signals to investors.
2. Competitive Analysis
A highly competitive market may be one of the threats you identify in your business’ SWOT analysis. If so, you must next dive into the details of those competitors. Getting a clear picture of your place in the crowd can give you a competitive advantage. Awareness of your competition can help you make smarter decisions and develop a stronger differentiation strategy.
Conversely, if there are very few or no competitors in your field, it may also be a sign. You must determine whether that sign indicates an opening to grab market share or a warning of poor timing for your launch. Researching previous attempts to introduce a similar product could yield important insights into the market.
3. Patent Landscape
Intellectual property management is one of the most important elements of a modern business plan. The patent application process is lengthy and expensive, so choosing whether or not a patent is the right type of IP protection for your product is not a decision to take lightly.
On one hand, if your invention is uniquely innovative and you can point to an element of its functionality, there could be significant rewards for patenting your design. On the other hand, if your process or design is better guarded as a trade secret, the patent may not be such an attractive asset.
Whether or not you decide to pursue patenting your offering, it can be very valuable to consult legal counsel as to whether there are any infringements on any other patents. Especially if you are developing a pharmaceutical or biotech product, you may consider getting a Freedom to Operate analysis. This type of protection is a legal opinion that works to mitigate the risks involved in releasing a new product and will stand out to corporate investors.
You may have completed all the elements of your pitch, but if your results are not objective, they may be dismissed as biased. Contracting an external review team to evaluate your invention will not only help you better understand your business’ potential, but will help to satisfy the high expectations of corporate venture capital investors. Providing opinions from third-party analysts within your proposal is a vote of confidence.
These reviews are often available at affordable rates and with a fast turnaround when working with an experienced review agency. This investment in an outside perspective could go a long way in convincing skeptical investors.
Spell out your value proposition
Large corporations can dramatically impact the course of a smaller business through their investment, and the best outcomes are founded on mutual benefit and goals. When you’re pursuing a venture capital deal with a corporate investor, make sure you can answer the question: “What does investing in our business stand to benefit a given company?”
Once you have detailed the ideal partnership, you will be better able to demonstrate your value proposal and more likely to secure a deal.