26 – 100 in alphabetical order: Harshul Sanghi, global head, American Express Ventures

Harshul Sanghi has been heading up US-based payment processing firm American Express’s corporate venture capital (CVC) arm, American Express Ventures (also known as Amex Ventures), since August 2011.

Sanghi said: “Amex Ventures was started with one mission – to drive innovation within American Express by investing and partnering startups around the world. It is all about creating an ecosystem. You need entrepreneurs who believe they can change the world with their ideas. You need venture capitalists and advisers who can help fund the idea, and you need customers to validate the idea.”

Steve Squeri, chairman and chief executive of Amex, added: “You cannot win without an external perspective. You need to understand what is going on in the marketplace. Amex Ventures gives us an opportunity to learn and get that external perspective.”

Amex Ventures plays a central role in driving innovation for American Express. Since 2011, the unit has backed more than 60 startups developing technologies and products surrounding commerce, payments, fraud prevention, data analytics and security.

Amex Ventures invests in startups that can foster and enhance innovation across its parent organisation. The unit helps build partnerships between these entrepreneurs, and Amex and two-thirds its portfolio companies have commercial partnerships with different American Express business units.

In 2020, the unit has invested in behavioural biometrics technology provider BioCatch, financial automation platform developer Albert and trade-payment technology provider Tradeshift.

In addition, Amex Ventures exited back-office automation software provider Bill.com in December 2019 in an initial public offering above its range on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), with the unit having participated in its $50m series F round in 2015.

The fund was active in 2019, having participated in financing rounds for cross-border e-commerce tools provider Flow, data privacy platform developer Datagrail and artificial intelligence-equipped virtual agent developer Voca.ai.

The other deals Amex Ventures invested in that year were sales services platform developer Drum, identity verification services provider Trulioo, client management software developer Even Financial, mortgage financing provider Better.com and cybersecurity software developer Menlo Security.

Regarding Drum, Sanghi said at the time of the investment in September 2019: “Drum unlocks a three-sided marketplace connecting any business to the customers they want through an on-demand network of salespeople. This has the potential to dramatically accelerate new product introduction and customer acquisition for businesses.”

Sanghi is a veteran venture capitalist with over 25 years of operating experience in delivering financial returns and strategic value. He helped mobile device maker Motorola Mobility set up a CVC division dubbed Motorola Mobility Ventures in 2005 and had been managing director for the unit for nearly seven years before joining Amex Ventures.

He manages or sits on the boards of portfolio companies including digital money transfer service Abra, now NYSE-listed Bill.com, bulk grocery delivery service Boxed.com, financial management software provider Intacct (now part of enterprise software provider Sage Group), financial planning platform LearnVest (now part of insurer Northwestern Mutual), online insurance platform Next Insurance and retail analytics technology producer RetailNext, among others.

Sanghi holds a bachelor of commerce from University of Mumbai’s Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics, a bachelor of science in computer science from University of Oregon and an MBA from IMD Business School.

GCV Powerlist 2020 PDF