Emerging Leaders Q&A – Marta Pinho, investment manager, Amadeus Ventures

1. First, just give us a quick overview of who you work for, what you do, and how long you have been doing it.

I joined the Amadeus Ventures team in October 2018.

Amadeus Ventures is the corporate venture capital (CVC) programme of Amadeus, one of the top ten travel technology companies in the world.

The Ventures unit was born in 2014, as a strategic vehicle to drive collaboration with the startup ecosystem, with the final goal of delivering next-generation technology that improves the travel experience of business and leisure travellers.

Through Ventures, Amadeus invested in 17 companies across the globe, having been an early investor in Cabify (Spain’s first unicorn), Yapta (recently acquired by Coupa) and others.

At Amadeus Ventures I am responsible for the entire investment deal flow, from new investment opportunities research to portfolio management in the Hospitality and Payments areas. I work closely with the business units (BUs) and we have developed a coordinated approach for their H2/3 strategy.

Additionally, I have led several initiatives with the goal to improve Amadeus ventures tools and processes, leveraging my previous experience in VC. I also represent Amadeus Ventures in external events, either as a speaker or jury member.

2. What attracted you to CVC?

Having worked in a financial VC company before, where I invested in early-stage companies in areas such as digital, energy and life sciences, followed by an experience in a Corporate M&A team, the chance to move to a CVC focused on the travel industry was a very tempting opportunity.

On one side it allows me to leverage my previous experience in VC, to find and close investments in innovative and growth areas, while benefiting from the knowledge that Amadeus acquired through 30+ years in the travel industry, as well as its extensive customer base, to provide startups with strategic value on top of funding. The fact that this CVC opportunity is in an industry I am truly passionate about, just made it even more irresistible.

3. What have been your greatest successes at your unit (investments/exits/projects/etc)?

In 2019, a few months after joining I closed my 1st investment at Amadeus, a minority investment in Volantio, a startup that helps airlines rebook flexible passengers on emptier flights. In 2020 I closed two investments in companies that are led by exceptional teams and strongly aligned with Amadeus vision of helping the travel industry to create frictionless experiences for travellers: Airside, a mobile identity solution to ease traveller flow and Journera, real-time data exchange for creating more seamless travel journeys, where we invested alongside some of the most reputed VC companies in the world.

4. What have been your biggest challenges?

Most of the challenges I have faced so far were intimately related to differences in speed and process between the startups and an established company such as Amadeus.

It is important, early on in the investment process to be transparent on processes and timeline and to properly manage expectations, avoiding misalignments and the frustration that can come from.

5. What is your main professional ambition for the future?

My role as an Investment Manager allows me to be exposed, on a daily basis, to brilliant entrepreneurs that work on the latest technologies to improve the way we travel.

This role assumes even greater importance during these unprecedented times, where innovation is key to overcome the challenges triggered by the pandemic.

My main professional ambition at this point in time is to combine the industry knowledge I am building on with my previous experience in the VC world, to create a portfolio of companies that can not only have a significant impact on Amadeus trajectory but also on the future of travel.

6. What do you think all CVCs could do better to make it a stronger industry?

My answer to this question is intimately related to my answer to question 4.

My interactions with investment managers at other CVCs, made me realize that the challenges that I mentioned above (differences in speed and processes between corporates and the startups) are a common topic in this industry.

I believe it is important for CVCs to find the right balance between autonomy and agility on one side, and close collaboration with the BUs, leveraging the company expertise and resources and increasing the engagement between the BUs and the startups, on the other side.

One of the actions we implemented this year, together with one of our BUs, was to assign a dedicated business developer within Amadeus organization to some of our portfolio companies, to help them accelerate the collaboration plan.

7. What are some of your corporate parent’s technology needs and corporate strategy amid the pandemic, as well as your CVC unit’s pain points?

Travel has been one of the most impacted sectors by the pandemic and obviously, both Amadeus and our portfolio companies have been facing unexpected challenges. As a CVC and a player in the travel industry, we do our best to support our portfolio companies during these difficult times. The impressive resilience and capacity to adapt shown by these teams have only increased the profound respect we have for these entrepreneurs.

At the same time, we see that the new needs created by this pandemic are accelerating existing trends and technologies, such as biometrics, touchless systems, personalization, etc., which will benefit companies that have been investing in innovation in these areas, such as Amadeus and some of our portfolio companies.

8. And, finally, for colour, what did you do prior to CVC or in your spare time?

Additionally to my CVC experience at Amadeus, I have five years of VC experience and three years of corporate M&A.

Prior to joining Amadeus, I worked as a Senior Manager at two leading digital marketplaces in Europe: Global Savings Group (Top10 in FT 1000 Europe’s Fastest-Growing Companies 2018), where I was responsible for the M&A workstream and AutoScout24 (leading automotive digital classifieds platform in Europe), where I was responsible for Consumer strategic projects (M&A and others). Before these two experiences, I was an investment manager at Portugal Ventures, a leading VC company in Portugal with €200m-plus under management, where I had the opportunity to support the growth of more than 20 startups as well as setting up and managing Portugal Ventures’ first international hub (in San Francisco Bay Area).