GE Ventures was the canary in the coal mine last year.
Its effective disintegration after the corporate venturing unit’s parent, General Electric, was forced into cash conservation mode after troubles in its power business unit was a warning to others about how challenging it is to maintain innovation capacity through a rocky patch.
Others are now coming. DuPont Ventures and the broader corporate innovation team of the US-based industrials group DuPont de Nemours will be dissolved due to cost cutting measures at the end of the month, Global Corporate Venturing has learned.
This is a shame. Frank Klemens and his small ventures team, which included Maureen Rinkunas, had done a great job with limited resources in opening up a storied institution to external insights and opportunities.
As well as leaving these entrepreneurs somewhat in the wind, the longer-term damage to DuPont’s innovation capabilities could be severe.
Cash is king in a downturn. A glance at indebtedness of swathes of the global economy, particularly those in sectors likely to be hit hard by the coronavirus’ impact on discretionary spending, means perhaps a fifth of other CVCs could be vulnerable to DuPont Ventures’ fate. Unless, of course, they can shore up internal support to maintain capacity and then come out of the downturn stronger.
But a glimmer of hope remains even for the heavily-indebted and economically vulnerable. State bailouts and nationalisations that will likely follow as condition of rolling over or providing new loans could bring conditions to invest more in a responsible or green future.
The chronic misallocation of resources towards business as usual rather than funding a future people want to live in has been a hindrance to the forward-looking investors. Governments now have the energy to see this brighter future happen.
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