Beneath the Buzz: What are Venture Studios and Builders, and How Do They Work with Corporates?

May 4, 2022

Companies seeking to generate new growth have always had “build, buy, or partner” options.

The “build” option — setting up a team or internal entity intended to be nimble like a startup, but also tap company resources when necessary — has dominated corporate innovation strategy for years.

On the surface, that kind of highly-desirable “innovation ambidexterity” seems like it is theoretically possible, and many large companies have invested significant people, time, and money into pursuing it.

Below the surface, however, seasoned corporate innovators understand that such ambidexterity is extremely hard to achieve for a whole host of “antibody-related” reasons.

Indeed, there are few examples of companies that have been able to organically build “the next big thing” if that “next big thing” looks and feels too different from their core businesses. Frequently, there just isn’t enough funding or time or the right people or the right incentives and too much bureaucracy and red tape and “decisions by committee” to allow them to develop transformational startup concepts (e.g., digital “unicorns”) like true, entrepreneur-led startups.

Ambidexterity is extremely hard to achieve for a whole host of ‘antibody-related’ reasons.

The last several years have seen the rise to prominence of “venture studios”, independent entities that seek to build startups with or without corporate partners. The ones that work with corporate partners bring together entrepreneurs, and the resources those entrepreneurs need, to create new ventures targeting opportunities that those partners have identified.

A growing number of big company leaders like the idea of hiring a firm like this to help them develop that elusive “next big thing” beyond the reach of those corporate antibodies.

But it’s a confusing landscape. There are hundreds of organizations of different shapes, sizes, and capabilities that call themselves venture studios, or say that they offer venture building capabilities and services. To complicate matters further, some big companies have even started rebranding their internal corporate innovation labs as “venture studios.” It is a buzzworthy term, to say the least.

A Deeper Dive into Venture Builders and Venture Studios

At InnoLead, we are launching an initiative to help corporate executives get beneath the buzz and better understand which providers of venture creation services may be relevant to them. We are starting by creating an industry segmentation with a particular focus on organizations that build new ventures for big companies – and we are calling those either venture builders or venture studios. (See below.)

Later this year, we will publish a report containing deeper-dives into what different providers offer; who they work with; and what sets their respective models apart. A series of webcasts and in-person events will follow, featuring leaders from the different providers sharing their views on what sets venture creation up for success, and corporate executives sharing their experiences and advice.

If you’d like to stay apprised about future reports, webcasts, and in-person on this topic, let us know!

Understanding the Players

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(Featured image by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash.)

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