Here’s how big companies are looking to invest in Houston startups
As times and technologies change, large companies need to be able to adopt innovative techniques now more than ever. For some companies, that means making a strategic hire, investing in startups, or making acquisitions.
Three panelists with experience in corporate ventures took the stage at the inaugural HX Capital Summit to discuss their best advice for startups looking for investment from large companies.
The panel consisted of Roy Johnston, partner at The League of Worthwhile Ventures; Tom Luby, head of Jlabs; Andrea Course, venture principal at Schlumberger Technical Investments; and moderator Rashad Kurbanov, CEO of Houston-based iownit capital and markets.
The topic of conversation was how corporations work with startups. For Schlumberger, Course says, it's less about acquiring companies and more about investing in technologies those startups are working on.
"When Schlumberger does invest, we like to have a pilot and invest in properties we can grow," Course says. "Our intent is not to go out and buy a startup company, but to grow the technology and then become customers."
Schlumberger has a lot to offer a budding company, namely resources, infrastructure, assets, and a global footprint, Course says.
Previous to his position at The League, Johnston was the director in the venture capital arm of Waste Management, Inc. He says he saw a similar resources-based investment strategy.
"Waste Management might have been more hesitant to write a check, but they were very generous with their assets," Johnston says.
The company could make connections for the startups and provide other support for entrepreneurs in the early stages of starting a company. However, when it came to monetary investments, Johnston says, it was a different story.
"Where I think Waste Management comes in is later on — more of an acquirer than an investor," Johnston says.
When it comes to the types of startups big companies are looking to work with, industry isn't a big issue. Johnson & Johnson, for instance, has an open mind, Luby says.
"It's not an easy fit to say a specific area where J&J fits — if you look at the profile of things we do, we have a no-strings-attached incubation hub next door," he says.
Schlumberger similarly looks outward to spark innovation inward — mostly, Course says, because it's so challenging to think outside the box when you're working everyday inside the box.
"We mostly invest in companies outside of oil and gas, but that we see the potential of bringing used in our industry," Course says.
Houston, has a surplus of diversity — both industry and population, Johnston says. This will be a huge asset of the city, he says, since Houston is on the edge of another revolution for digitization.
"The businesses that are going to be built are going to need people who have a diverse understanding of problems," Johnston says. "That's where I think Houston's diversity is an enormous benefit to us."