Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman is so serious about pushing HPE into the world of corporate venture investing, that she is personally involved with the program, reports Bloomberg’s Brian Womack.
HPE intends to invest $100 million in 2016, its second year of its program, which HPE calls “Pathfinder,” Lak Ananth, the program’s managing director told Womack.
And although the investment group currently employs 10 people, and expects to be at 15 later this year, this project is very much Whitman’s baby.
Startups have to pitch to the billionaire CEO personally at quarterly “coffees with Meg” before HPE signs off on deals.
She was, for instance, personally involved in HPE’s investment in Mesosphere, a hot cloud startup that reportedly turned down a $150 million acquisition offer from Microsoft. Instead it stayed independent and raised another $73.5 million led by this HP ventures unit, (raising about $122 million to date, with a reported valuation of over $1 billion).
HPE’s didn’t just throw money at Mesosphere, it’s also giving the startup access to the company’s enormous sales force and partner network, she says. This gives Mesosphere many of the benefits of being acquired by a bigger company, while allowing it to stay on its own.
Joining the club
It was, apparently, Whitman’s direct involvement that encouraged Mesosphere to go with HPE’s funding, CEO Florian Leibert told Womack, who describes Whitman as “really responsive.”
HPE isn’t exactly breaking new ground with its corporate venture arm. It’s pretty much the norm. Google Ventures has been at it forever, and Salesforce invests in startups at a manic pace. Others include Comcast, Cisco, Intel and SAP.
But startup investing is fairly new ground for Whitman. Although she’s had a storied career growing eBay, was a “strategic advisor” to VC Kleiner Perkins, and been on the boards of other startups like Zipcar, she’s not known for her angel investing.
She has no AngelList profile and Crunchbase only lists a single personal investment she’s made, into startup factory Expa, founded by Uber and StumbleUpon cofounder Garrett Camp.
Whitman isn’t looking for HPE to become a big VC and make a killing on its investments, though she doesn’t want to lose money. Instead, it’s a way for HPE in general, and Whitman in particular, to keep tabs on the startup world, and get a stake in hot technologies without having to acquire every company outright, she says.
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