Goodyear’s Approach to Venture Building: Q&A with New Ventures Director Erin Spring

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company is an American multinational tire manufacturing company founded in 1898 and based in Akron, Ohio. In its continued drive for meaningful growth across their 123-year old business, Goodyear makes future-proofing a priority and is fueling the future of mobility by partnering and investing in seed-to-growth-stage startups in emerging mobility technology, as well as investing in their own digitally oriented start-ups including ventures AndGo and Goodyear SightLine.

Goodyear has been growing its corporate venture capital arm, Goodyear Ventures, to drive the future of mobility. Recent portfolio additions include Gatik, which focuses on middle-mile logistics with its fleet of autonomous trucks, and Starship Technologies, which revolutionizes last-mile deliveries using robots. We sat down with Erin Spring, Senior Director of New Ventures at Goodyear, to learn more about their approach to corporate investing and venture building.  

How do you source your ideas?

Ideas come from many different sources. First and foremost you have to have a good understanding of where the market’s going and where you want to look. Coming up with ideas is the easy part, but then you need to execute and that starts with understanding the problem you are solving and if it's big enough to matter. The best way to do that is by sitting down with customers and not just asking questions, but sitting back and observing them, figuring out their pain points and the process around it. That’s where a lot of the inspiration comes from.

How do you staff your ventures?

I think that when you look at talent for your incubator, being able to have that healthy combination of internal and external experts is key. For example, one person in our innovation lab has 20 years of tire R&D experience. It's amazing how he can quickly provide insight into our venture and how it will tie back to Goodyear. Having a combination of people on the inside with the right knowledge and mindset while bringing in new skillsets is best practice.

What happens to these internal ventures, are they spun back into the business?

We have to keep in mind that we are starting these businesses from scratch and looking at potentially integrating them into a multi-billion-dollar business unit.  It can be challenging to allocate resources and attention to the new venture versus the large businesses they are focused on today. It’s important to understand that, and it’s just a necessary step in the process of training the mothership. We’ve handed new ventures over too early in the past and not seen the acceleration we were hoping for, so it’s a fine balance between keeping initiatives separate while leveraging some of the core assets and capabilities of the mothership.

What metrics do you use to define success?

It depends on the team and what metrics you use to measure achievement. We have certain metrics around our CVC, we’re not just looking at ROI, we’re looking at what we’re learning in terms of strategy. For our incubators, we track how many new concepts we’re prototyping with customers and how quickly we’re moving through that process. When we’re accelerating a new venture, we are measuring market traction through customer adoption and as it grows looking at the path to profitability. Overall, it’s keeping track of learning and pace of development.

Contact us at growth@mach49.com to learn more about Mach49’s work with Goodyear and the many corporate venturing clients we support.

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