The top 25: John Doherty, Verizon Ventures

A good gauge for a venture capital investor is amount invested in companies. By that metric, John Doherty, senior vice-president at Verizon, the US-based communication provider, has led one of the country’s most successful and active venture firms.

In 2017, Verizon Ventures made 45 investments in 35 companies, which in total raised more than $450m. In 2016, Verizon Ventures (VZV) invested more than $75m in at least a dozen new deals and more than $50m to 18 follow-on rounds, indicating a step up in activity for the team as it looked earlier for deals.

As well as supporting other accelerators, Verizon Ventures launched its own MediaTech Venture Studio accelerator to co-develop pilots between the company’s product teams and startups.

Currently, more than 25 Verizon Ventures portfolio companies are actively working with Verizon’s business units through substantial collaboration and trials, commercial agreements, and partnerships. The parent company is increasingly looking to Doherty and VZV for its growth.

Last year, Verizon acquired one portfolio company (Skyward, for an undisclosed amount,) and two other venture-backed companies (Talligent and Niddel). In total, Verizon Ventures exited six companies in 2017, including Progress Software’s purchase of business app development platform Kinvey for $49m, and already this year has seen Robert Bosch acquire a ridesharing startup, SPLT. Last year InMotion Ventures, Jaguar Land Rover’s corporate venturing unit provided the rideshare startup’s second round of seed funding after the startup had raised $1.2m from Techstars, Verizon Ventures, and Wells Fargo.

But in a signal of how Doherty combines strategy and execution a good example was the opportunity presented when Verizon paid $4.4bn in its acquisition of internet pioneer AOL (and later, after acquiring Yahoo, merged the two to form Oath).

It has been a positive form of “acqui-hire” for John Doherty, head of Verizon Ventures (VZV) and a member of the GCV Powerlist 2017.

Doherty nominated Merav Rotem Naaman for the GCV Rising Stars 2018 not long after she had formally given up the managing director of Nautilus, AOL’s venture investments unit in Israel, title in June after the parent’s takeover had closed.

Rotem Naaman said: “We were incorporated after the acquisition but not as part of the acquisition… meaning it was not a necessity, as AOL/Yahoo was pretty much kept separate for the most part.

“It was more of a strategic decision made by VZ as both John Doherty and myself were aligned in the thinking that there is an incredible value to be made for VZ if it becomes a more active investor in Israel. And to do that I absolutely need a team on the ground.”

Now managing director at Verizon Ventures Israel, Rotem Naaman, whose colleagues at Nautilus, Roni Burrell, Anat Tamir and Gal Ringel, also moved over to VZV, said: “I am still the head of Nautilus for anything related to existing investments. We do not make new investment out of that fund but we still have nine active companies in our portfolio, and I am a board observer in a few of them.

“We been engaged with the Verizon Ventures team for a while post the acquisition but officially announced joining the team with the investment of Iguazio in May 2017.”

As well as the addition of the Verizon Ventures Israel team, there were seven additions to the firm’s investment and venture development teams.

There are now 19 VZV team members, of which 32% are women and 26% are non-white. At the director level, 50% are women.

VZV signed the open letter to the CVC community on the importance of diversity, and Doherty said: “Verizon Ventures is out in front of this one – we already have about a third of our team that are women and about 50% women or minorities. We take diversity seriously and it has been front and centre for years and will continue to be for Verizon.”

Doherty has been responsible for all corporate development activities related to the implementation of Verizon’s corporate strategy, including joint ventures, strategic investments, acquisitions, divestitures and venture investments, since the start of 2013.

Doherty has been with Verizon for over 20 years in various roles including as chief financial officer of Telecom Asia, Verizon International, Verizon Shared Services and the Verizon Enterprise group and also led the Investor relations efforts in his previous role.

And while numbers only tell part of the story, the data aligned to the qualitative story is impressive.