The Top 10: #9 Michael Lohnert, managing director, Boeing HorizonX Ventures
Michael Lohnert has been leading the investments team of Boeing HorizonX Ventures (HXV), the corporate venturing arm of aerospace technology producer Boeing, under senior managing director Brian Schettler. His group is responsible for global engagement and accelerators, pipeline and pipeline strategy, investing, portfolio management and portfolio acceleration.
Prior to HXV, Lohnert did private equity investing for about five years, and he still conducts angel investing personally. In addition to these investing roles, he has formulated corporate-level strategy for over a decade which included business strategy and also acquisition and partnership strategy.
HXV was launched in April of 2018 and Lohnert was one of the founding members where he led the development of the deal processes and philosophies of the group where he led the development of the deal processes and philosophies of the HXV team.
A CVC unit, when structured properly, has the best of all worlds according to Lohnert, who said: “You get to gain a deep understanding of the business strategies and key focus areas of the corporation. Then you get to go out and talk to innovative companies to understand their business, their technology and their teams. It is then your job to connect the dots and create those mutually beneficial, win-win opportunities for your corporation and the startup.”
HXV’s greatest success is the reputation built in the market as a leading aerospace investor. Lohnert added: “We like to say we are more VC [than] CVC, and it is that mindset that we bring to our relationship. We strive to act more like entrepreneurs when we engage with startups while being good actors within the VC ecosystem.”
Lohnert believes acting more institutional VC is key to CVCs’ improvement. “Bring the best of the corporation, but recognise that you are investing in a startup exactly because they are not the corporation. I think CVCs have gotten better over the last few years as they have become more professionalised, but there is still room for improvement.”
Upholding rapid deal tempo while maintaining investing standards is another achievement accomplished by HXV, Lohnert said. “We are averaging about an investment a month whether a new investment, follow-on or supporting other business units. We have been able to highlight to the corporation how we can be a unique skill set to leverage beyond just making venture capital investments. That being said, with less than a dozen teammates on the investing team, we have invested in approximately 25 startups which as impressed even well-established financial venture investors.”
Scaling to handle all of the opportunities which HXV is finding in the market, both from the unit’s own networks and those from Boeing’s colleagues has proven to be challenging, Lohnert noted. “It is clear that there has been pent-up demand for the toolset that HXV brings to Boeing and the aerospace startup ecosystem.”
Going forward, Lohnert, whose career background has been diverse – having held roles from corporate treasury, foreign currency trading desk, private equity, corporate strategy, M&A, to being on boards of organisations including angel investor group Pasadena Angels –, wants to drive HXV’s reputation to be a household name like other CVC peers that are equally as respected by the startup community and also the VC community.