Mach49’s Corporate Investing Managing Partner Kevin Ye is a talented industry expert and trusted advisor. His corporate investing work spans the entire corporate venture capital (CVC) lifecycle, from the design of new funds and processes to deal scouting, negotiating, closing, and post-investment value-add. Since joining us in 2020, Kevin has worked closely with a diverse group of the world’s largest corporations like TDK, Vale, Gundersen Health System, Goodyear, Xerox, and Halliburton. He’s helped develop blueprints to drive successful dealmaking, establish deep relationships with both investor and founder communities, and become reputable long-term players within venture capital. We sat down with Kevin to learn more about what it’s like being a Partner in Mach49’s Corporate Investing Practice.
What’s exciting about being a part of Mach49?
If I had to boil it down to the top two things, I think the first one is the people I get to work alongside every day. Looking across my career I can easily say Mach49 has assembled the most intelligent (and humble) people that I am privileged to call my colleagues. There is a spirit of easy and enthusiastic collaboration here that belies their successful careers and track records, where we have former General Partners of very successful funds and former CEOs all being eager and willing to share their experiences in a constructive way to help the rest of the company, with little to no ego in the mix. It’s a rare thing to find!
Whenever I am exploring a new deal or sector with a client fund, nine times out of ten I can simply ping my colleagues on Slack and I’ll get quick access to three bonafide experts in that space who will give me a crash course on what I need to know. It's an engaging and humbling experience to be working with people as pedigreed as this, and it also advances my own learnings and shapes my own career trajectory, which I really value and appreciate.
The second thing is that I've always been excited by the challenge of not necessarily following someone else's playbook or method. The great thing about corporate innovation — especially when it comes to corporate venture investing — is that the space can still be viewed as the “Wild Wild West.” Everyone is experimenting and trying something different, everyone is adapting to unique circumstances, and there is no single playbook that everyone agrees on. This presents an opportunity for my team to be the ones to define the gold standard for an industry where the thought leaders are still emerging.
And so for me, it's the excitement, the rush, and the challenge of defining something new that I know will have a major impact. I believe that if we can define how best to drive innovation, how best to propel successful corporate investing, and how best to fuel startup acquisitions by the largest companies on the planet, we can have a positive effect on our business and catapult every single sector in the future.
How are you enjoying the role?
Oh, I love it. It feels like my time here has been much longer than it actually has been, in a very good way. I've been here for a little over two years but it feels more like ten, and that’s because we've accomplished so much, my brain instinctively assumes it’s been longer! For example, I joined Mach49 when we only had 40-50 people and we’ve now more than tripled in size. On my team, it was just myself and Paul Holland working with three CVC funds the first year the world went into lockdown, and now, two years later, our team is over 15 people and we’ve helped support over 30 different organizations in their dealmaking journeys.
What guidance do you have for future corporate venture capitalists?
At the end of the day, to be successful working with startups and engaging with the innovation ecosystem, it all comes down to reputation. And every little thing you do, especially at the very beginning of your journey, is very, very critical. That's why, for the majority of our clients, it’s so important that we start off with good design. We do everything we can to help design a successful CVC fund identity and strategy, but more importantly, we help design their processes in a way that prioritizes their ability to maintain a good reputation with the broader ecosystem rather than do something that satisfies all the stakeholders inside their organization.
It’s such a common thing to see CVCs that are pushed to go out to market too early, and they realize quickly that they weren’t prepared to handle the tsunami of follow-up and relationship cultivation that is required in this industry. And it’s also common to see CVCs launched where the processes are entirely geared towards internal stakeholder appeasement, and these funds end up moving too slow, or they ask for non-industry terms, and boom, their reputation is instantly destroyed. It’s very hard to come back from that once the damage is done, and a lot of people don't realize that. It’s much better to take the time to come out the gate with the right support systems in place than go back and try and repair them after the fact, and it’s important to think about the design choices (and compromises) you make in a way that balances near-term convenience against your future reputation.
Can you share some of the big wins and company successes that you and your team have accomplished at Mach49?
I’m happy to say that we have lots of those, and it’s all thanks to the stellar team we’ve been fortunate enough to build around us. For our side of the business, while we've only really been out in the market formally for the last two to three years, we’ve gotten the opportunity to work with over 30 corporations that have all come to us recognizing that the areas of startup scouting, evaluation, and deal making were gap areas where they really needed support. As part of that, we've done a lot of corporate development strategy work, and we've done a lot of partnering and open innovation work, but our bread and butter continues to be our recognized leadership in corporate venture capital. The number keeps growing every month, but at last count we had been part of the setup for over 15 new and emerging corporate venture capital funds in the last few years, and we’re excited about continuing to grow both the size and number of these players.
For example, one of our more well-known clients and friends is TDK Ventures, whose successful fund activities have been featured in Forbes and The Generalist. Another early partner — whose journey I’m proud to have been a part of from their very first hire — is Goodyear Ventures, who, within just two years, has made 12 investments. And we have many others, across geographies and sectors, that we’re excited about like Xerox Ventures, Vale Ventures, and even funds for two different hospital systems in the United States.
Our team does great work outside of CVC as well. Just to mention one stellar example, we helped set up the accelerator program at Halliburton and created Halliburton Labs, which I consider to be one of the few (and best) accelerators dedicated to advancing cleantech in the world — they are out there leveraging the power, expertise, and brand of Halliburton to help founders bring about the energy transition, an absolutely critical initiative for our planet and society.
Kevin’s unique talent and vast experience has contributed to the many successes of our CVC clients and the Mach49 team is incredibly proud to work with him. If you’re interested in learning more about our corporate investing practice or joining Kevin’s team, reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or browse our current openings at mach49.com/careers.