26 – 100 in alphabetical order: Ben Wright, managing director, 3M Ventures

Ben Wright leads 3M Ventures, the corporate venture capital (CVC) arm of US-headquartered technology platforms developer 3M, as managing director.

He joined the unit in April 2017 having spent over a decade at 3M in various roles spanning from business strategy, corporate development to mergers and acquisitions.

Regarding 3M Ventures’ performance this past year, Wright said: “2019 was 3M Ventures’ best year on record by all strategic and financial metrics we track.

“Last year, we drove over 30 collaboration projects across our portfolio. Examples include a joint development that led to sales of a commercial product, technical development the combined 3M’s technology strengths with the startup and cross-selling opportunities between 3M and our portfolio companies.

“These collaborations resulted in sales for 3M and sales for our portfolio companies. We were excited to have two exits last year, including a successful acquisition and an initial public offering.”

The exits in question were digital respiratory therapeutics developer Propeller Health which was acquired by connected medical devices provider ResMed and healthcare data analytics software provider Health Catalyst that went public on the Nasdaq Global Select Market.

He continued: “We also closed eight investments in disruptive companies strategically aligned with 3M – safety and industrial, transportation and electronics, healthcare, and consumer. I am proud of our team’s success in 2019.”

Regarding the plans in the remainder of 2020, Wright said thanks to 3M Ventures’ recent success, the group is planning to expand in the near future.

The team expanded by three people this past year and includes GCV Emerging Leader Dan Ateya and Rising Star Erik Paisley.

Maintaining continuity through organisational changes outside the CVC unit remained a challenge, according to Wright, who added: “Prioritising startup investment areas of focus given 3M’s breadth of technology and segments is both challenging and exciting.”

Wright believes the collaboration among CVCs is remarkable, noting that it makes the industry stronger. However, one aspect CVCs could do better is diversity, he said.

“We should improve diversity within our own ranks, but we also have the ability to lead the way for the rest of the tech industry,” Wright suggested. “We can influence our startups to promote diversity in their leadership teams and boards.

“Last year, we made a point to drive diversity and successfully invested in one women-led startup. It is a start, but we need to do more.

“One thing we have done to promote diversity in CVC is a program called 3M Fellows that we launched with the University of Minnesota (UMN). The program selects high potential diverse candidates within 3M to coach startups, but also learn about venture capital for a six-month period.

“My hope with this program is that we not only help the UMN startup ecosystem, but we help train and bring on board future diverse candidates to CVC.

“I also lead a group at 3M called Men As Advocates, which supports the 3M Women’s Leadership Forum. The purpose of Men As Advocates is to get men engaged in advocating for women in the workplace. I would like to see us do more of these types of things in the CVC industry because I truly believe it will make us all stronger.”

Prior to joining 3M, Wright had experience working on the leadership team of a startup. Before that, he had spent eight years in the US Army as an attack helicopter pilot. During his time in the army, he gained leadership experience and led separate organisations to deployments in Bosnia and Iraq.

GCV Powerlist 2020 PDF