The rest of the 100 (in alphabetical order by company): Paolo Bavaj, Henkel
Another of the handful to have shifted from GCV Rising Stars to the main Powerlist this year, Paolo Bavaj is head of corporate venturing for Henkel Adhesive Technologies, a business unit of Germany-based industrials group Henkel, which he joined as corporate director of strategy and business development in December 2010. It is a role where it seems like he has found what he is looking for.
In April 2013, he became head of new business development, with responsibility for identifying and evaluating innovation opportunities through strategic foresight management, scouting, startup screening, venturing and incubation.
Although Henkel made its first startup investment in March 2014, it only publicly communicated in November 2016 that Henkel was committed to invest €150m until the end of 2020 into startups and VC funds.
Bavaj said: “We did fantastic investments in Copprint and NBD Nanotechnologies, where we could link the investment strongly with the operating business. This will end up in two excellent success stories revolutionising markets. with the brilliant technology of a startup and the strong power of a large corporate.”
The investment in US-based advanced materials startup NBD Nano’s series B round closed in November and at the time Bavaj said: “Based on its robust technology platform, NBD Nano has demonstrated the ability to provide cost-effective surface solutions with unique and durable performances for a large variety of applications and on many different substrates.”
And the closing at the end of last year of the investment in Israel-based Copprint, which produces conductive copper inks for a variety of printed electronics applications, could replace silver-based ink methods and to enable new cost sensitive applications, according to Bavaj, who is on the board of the portfolio company.
For all its deals he makes sure it is not a case of being with or without the entrepreneur. He added for his Rising Stars profile: “We are not investing into startups for the sake of investing into startups. Our investments always support our new business development approach. During the build-up of our 3D printing business, we are working with several startups, but with all of them differently.
“We started that with an intern in March 2013 and today we have 100 dedicated people working on 3D printing. We are building here a more than €100m ($120m) new business for Henkel and startups play an important role. While working with them, this collaboration certainly also helps them to scale faster and bigger.”
And Bavaj, while admitting people can move in mysterious ways, is looking for more of these types of opportunities as his aims are “building several new €100m businesses like our 3D printing business as a true serial intrapreneur.
“Another ambition is to drive digitisation in a materials business by having people understand that there are several digital business models, which need advanced materials as enablers.”
And the collaborations thrown up is interesting for the self-declared people lover, who said: “I really like to meet, talk and mentor the huge amount of fascinating, great and highly-skilled people working in the top startups. I also like a lot the technologies they are working on and having a peek into the future through our venturing activities.
“I am convinced that the combination of a company like Henkel and a startup is extremely powerful if we get this right.”
And the benefits extend beyond the immediate financial and business gains. Bavaj said: “For Henkel the setup of the CVC unit is already a significant success as this is a major cultural shift for a 141-year-old company. I am extremely happy about that shift and that the shift happened without (mentally) losing people.”
However, he admitted the biggest challenge was the mindset change in Henkel. He said: “We had to overcome the mindset of ‘we develop everything ourselves’. It took nine months to overcome that and we are still not finished. We work every day on measures to accelerate that mindset shift by letting Henkel people meeting real startups and getting impressed by their focus, skills and energy.”
It is a mindset Bavaj well understands. After his PhD in chemical engineering at RWTH Aachen, Germany, he joined Celanese Chemicals in 1996, where he worked in operations, new business development and led then a global research and development (R&D) and new business development team, gained experience as area sales manager in the US, and ran the Celanese emulsions textile and engineered fabrics business in Europe as well as its global glass fibre business.
For someone who loves “travelling to sunny spots with people I like and love” and a “fanatic” of band U2, therefore, it can seem as if every day is a Beautiful Day.
Apologies to readers for the sometimes forced references to other U2 song titles in this profile – do let me know which ones you caught at email@example.com