The win-win of corporate venturing

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Reinart Belpaire
Reinart Belpaire

On April 20, Scaleup Vlaanderen organized its annual inspiration session, which this time focused on corporate venturing. In this blog post you will discover the practical cases that experts shared that day.

The first example of corporate venturing dates back to the early 20th century. The large American chemical and plastics company DuPont decided to invest in a young, fledgling car manufacturer named General Motors. 

Thanks to the investment, DuPont was able to expand the market for its own products, and at the same time, General Motors gained access to the necessary resources to develop a synthetic fabric for car upholstery. A win-win that resonates to this day, as both companies are still global giants.

Corporate venturing is not a new phenomenon, but what stands out is the speed at which it has increased over the past ten years. More and more companies want to reap the benefits of the entrepreneurial vision, drive for innovation and rapid adaptability of startups and scaleups. Mattias Vanderoost (VP New Business and Ventures at Telenet), Jonas Van Hove (Program Manager at Digi-Tags), and Alexander Carpentier (CEO at Twintag) can attest to this.

Telenet & Doccle

As Belgium's largest telecom and entertainment player, how do you ensure that you continue to grow and remain at the forefront of innovation? At Telenet, the answer seems to lie in corporate venturing as well. According to Mattias Vanderoost, VP New Business and Ventures at Telenet, this has helped the company grow strongly outside the traditional telecom and cable television industry.

"Thanks to corporate venturing, we have been able to expand our ecosystem and significantly increase our media and entertainment offerings. For example, we acquired SBS and took a majority stake in production house Caviar. In addition, we have built several partnerships in focus areas with growth potential. A good example of this is our partnership with The Park, a company that offers virtual reality experiences. Previously we had little experience with this technology, but we have now built up VR expertise and have 6 branches of The Park across Belgium. This allows us to continuously explore new business opportunities."

While Telenet has seen no shortage of profit figures, financial growth is not the only driver for choosing a corporate venturing strategy. Optimizing operations and distribution also plays a major role. This is where Doccle comes into play. Doccle is a digital administration platform with 2.5 million users that helps consumers manage their administrative tasks more efficiently. 

"Doccle securely stores all administration in a personal digital vault. Through the platform, you can also make payments, arrange direct debits, sign contracts and much more. It offers a solution to the problems that businesses and consumers often face with administration, namely a sense of insecurity and a lack of organization."

Currently, Telenet owns 50% of Doccle's shares, with the remaining 50% owned by FinTech company Isabel Group. However, the story of Doccle began in 2014 as a corporate venturing initiative.

"Together with Acerta and CM, we founded the independent startup Doccle in 2014. Despite being three different organizations, we all had the same problem: managing administration in a secure and user-friendly way. This is how Doccle came about. Thanks to corporate venturing and the cooperative model, Doccle was able to grow quickly and focus on digital innovation. By combining the expertise and knowledge of the three organizations, not only was Doccle's development accelerated, but we were also able to offer a better solution for administration management to our customers more quickly. In short, a win-win situation."

Vinçotte & Twintag

Vinçotte & Twintag also ventured into corporate venturing, proving that great things can come from collaboration between start-ups and corporates. Vinçotte is Belgium's largest accredited inspection, control and certification company. Twintag is a startup software platform specializing in creating unique universal product identification codes, similar to a fingerprint.

The expertise of both companies proved to complement each other nicely during the development of Digi-Tags, physical labels that provide access to all data of a specific device or machine with a QR code.

"In today's hyper-competitive market, companies must constantly innovate to stay ahead of the competition," says Jonas Van Hove, Program Manager of Digi-Tags at Vinçotte. "Corporate venturing comes into play here: partnering with external 'star players' or digital innovators who can quickly implement new technologies and strategies to drive business growth. This is how we ended up with Twintag for the development of Digi-Tags."

What were the most notable learning moments in corporate venturing for both companies? "The focus should not just be on speed," says Alexander Carpentier, CEO at Twintag. "Companies need to carefully select their external partners and agree on a shared revenue model and sharing of risks and successes. In addition, senior management involvement is essential to manage internal political dynamics. Finally, a common identity between the large company and the startup is important to ensure that everyone is aligned and working on the same goals."


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