The top 25: Gen Tsuchikawa, CEO and CIO, Sony Innovation Fund and Innovation Growth Ventures

Gen Tsuchikawa is vice-president (VP) of corporate development for Japan-headquartered electronics producer Sony Corporation and chief executive and chief investment manager of its corporate venture capital (CVC) vehicles: Sony Innovation Fund (SIF) and Innovation Growth Ventures (IGV), with $285m under management.

Hiroki Totoki, representative corporate executive officer, senior executive vice-president and chief financial officer of Sony, said: “Over the last 15 years, Gen has embodied Sony’s ongoing commitment to innovation, an attribute which runs throughout our company’s DNA.

“He has driven a wide range of strategic initiatives, spanning the spectrum of Sony’s diverse businesses worldwide. Under Gen’s leadership, SIF has grown from its founding in 2016 into an established venture firm while promoting open innovation throughout Sony.

“Now with over 60 investments, Gen and his global team provide tremendous value to entrepreneurs across the globe and have expanded our vision and reach by spearheading the newly launched IGV, in partnership with Daiwa Capital Holdings.

“From CVC activities and IGV to countless business development initiatives, Gen and the SIF team are incubating the next generation of technologies and startups while bringing Sony closer to the world’s creators.”

Sony has made roughly 35 investments through SIF in the past year and additionally launched the $150m IGV in June 2019. IGV was formed in partnership with Daiwa Capital, brokerage Daiwa Securities’ investment banking subsidiary, to expand Sony’s commitment to investing in industries including artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, mobility, IoT (the internet of things), entertainment, medtech, fintech and sportstech from mid to late stage.

The funds expanded investments into new countries and regions such as India and Canada as well as continued expansion throughout Europe including in Sweden and Italy.

Sony acquired AI technology developer Cogitai in 2019 – which it had backed three years before – and Tsuchikawa was appointed to lead this mergers and acquisitions (M&A) transaction, supporting the Sony AI teams and Sony Corporate America’s corporate development department.

Regarding the plans going forward, Tsuchikawa said: “Our primary goal for both the SIF and IGV funds is to support the growth of startup companies through our investments and promote open innovation through collaborations between portfolio companies, third parties and renowned research institutions to further the advancement of technology and society as a whole.

“IGV represents a distinctive form of venture, where we can fully leverage the expertise, capabilities and highly renowned technological resources of Sony through SIF, as well as Daiwa’s wealth of investment and asset management expertise.

“While SIF primarily invests in seed or early-stage startups, IGV has enabled us to broaden our investments to middle and late-stage startups.”

Corporate venturing is a fast-growing industry, but it is still young in the venture investing world. “There is quite a lot of room for growth in everything from fund size and deal size to reputation and the role CVCs take in investments,” he argued.

“There is still education to be done about how CVCs are positioned in the landscape, for example, correcting the idea that most CVC investments lead to an acquisition. As CVCs continue to mature, we also believe there is more of an opportunity to take the lead on investments, which has historically not been the case.

“Overall, we believe that CVC has proven its value to both corporations and the entrepreneur community in the last decade and look forward to seeing how the industry continues to evolve.”

Collaboration with co-investors, internal business units or entrepreneurs is essential, Tsuchikawa said. “We encourage the entire CVC community to think about how we can further collaboration efforts in both new and existing ways all in the spirit of innovation.”

Tsuchikawa joined Sony in 2004 as senior VP of corporate development and treasury for its US electronics operations, having had more than 30 years of investment and M&A experience across industries including banking, wealth management and enterprise.

GCV Powerlist 2020 PDF