The rest of the 100 (in alphabetical order by company): Reese Schroeder, Tyson Ventures
Reese Schroeder is no stranger to GCV nominations. In fact, he stands as what one may call a cornerstone of the CVC industry, with 15 years’ experience in it.
As managing director for Motorola Solutions Venture Capital, a position to which he was appointed in 2004 and which he held for over 13 years, Schroeder was nominated to GCV’s Powerlist for five consecutive years between 2012 and 2017.
In 2016, all his nominations culminated in a Lifetime Achievement Award attributed by GCV on the basis of “his outstanding, enduring success at the helm of Motorola Solutions Venture Capital, but also in recognition of his invaluable support of the wider venturing ecosystem”.
Last year though, and after almost 28 years spent within the Motorola corporation, Schroeder made a significant move into a new venture, becoming managing director at Tyson Foods’ freshly formed corporate venture capital unit, Tyson Ventures, where he was put forward by his peers as a GCV Rising Star again.
Schroeder, for his part, identified two driving reasons for joining Tyson: first, the chance to be part of an entirely new project, and, second, that of being able to discover a whole new sector of activity.
He said for the Rising Stars profile: “I was very happy in my role at Motorola, and I think they were still very happy with me. But the Tyson opportunity came along, and it was an honour for me to be part of the founding team of a corporate venture group. It was also an occasion to enter a totally different world, moving on from 20 years in the communications industry to foodtech, which I found very intriguing.”
Established in 2016 by Tyson Foods, one of the world’s largest meat providers, Tyson Ventures was launched with an initial investment capacity of $150m aimed to support “companies developing breakthrough technologies, business models and products to sustainably feed a growing world population,” the corporation announced at the time.
More specifically, the firm identified two key investment areas: sustainability, and “the internet of food” – referring to technologies using big data, drones, robotics and consumer information to enhance performance throughout the food chain.
In October 2016, Tyson Ventures made its very first investment, acquiring a 5% stake in vegan food producer Beyond Meat, which had reportedly received $17m in funding from other investors including General Mills the previous year.
In an interview published in April, Schroeder said: “As an individual, under sustainability, we talk about alternate proteins. I knew a lot about plant-based vegetarian burgers. I had been eating them as part of my diet for three years. But, for example, cultured meats like Memphis Meats, one of our portfolio companies, is something I knew nothing about until I joined Tyson. It is really interesting and exciting, as an investor and an individual.
The other thing that excites me is the connected kitchen. I have always been a gadget guy. I was known at Motorola as the gadget guy. It is amazing how many different kitchen gadgets there are out there. We have invested in Tovala, a company that has created a smart oven. The oven has three cooking methods – broil, convection and steam. There is a barcode that you scan, push the button, and it goes through those cooking cycles and cooks a perfect meal in 15 to 20 minutes.
Assessing his experience at Tyson Ventures so far, he said: “It has been a great learning process, and I now know 10 times more about food and foodtech than I did prior to joining. So there’s been a lot to take in, but I also have not felt totally uprooted. Certain things have felt familiar in the sense that a lot of VCs and CVCs I was used to dealing with are still the same, but simply investing in another sector.
“A lot of parallels can also be drawn between foodtech and tech at large, with similar technologies being used for different applications.
“We have taken the approach that we will overcommunicate, if anything. We have fairly regular meetings with the three heads of our businesses. Tyson Foods has three business units – fresh meats and international under Noel White, prepared foods under Sally Grimes, and poultry under Doug Ramsey. Those three have a seat on the investment committee on a rotating basis. We are really going out of our way to make sure that everything we do is communicated and understood, all the way up the chain to our CEO, Tom Hayes.”
Outside the world of CVC, the MD mostly describes himself as a family man and an animal lover, with two puppies at home and a collection of fish tanks.