26 – 100 in alphabetical order: Karen Elisabeth Ohm Heskja, investment manager, DNB Ventures

Karen Elisabeth Ohm Heskja is an investment manager at DNB Ventures, the corporate venture capital (CVC) subsidiary of Norway-based financial services firm DNB Group.

Tor Arne Hansen, head of investments and mergers and acquisitions, said: “DNB Ventures is clearly an important lever in the bank’s digital transformation. Sharing complementary resources between the bank and the startup creates common benefits, and this is why we put a lot of effort into DNB Ventures. Our ventures arm does a fantastic job, and have over the last couple of years positioned DNB as a very attractive fintech investor in the Nordic space.”

DNB Ventures was launched in September 2017. Ohm Heskja said: “In 2018, I led our first investments, now five in total. 2019 was about the ownership role as a value creator for the portfolio companies as well as for the mother company, corporate governance and expanding the team.

Regarding the plans for this year, some changes had to be made in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, she said. “2020 has certainly started differently than we had anticipated with the coronavirus. Hence our plans have had to change. Now the focus is to support the portfolio companies and look for exciting opportunities in the market.

“We have also initiated a work to better align the build, partner and buy strategy in the company that we will finalise this year. This I believe will be an important step to increase the value of our CVC arm for the mother company.”

Ohm Heskja added that she built a solid reputation and awareness of DNB Ventures on a Nordic level among companies, investors and ecosystem players, having led and co-invested funding rounds with VC and CVC peers.

She also strengthened the ecosystem for startup and growth companies in Norway and took a leadership role in establishing a CVC network in the country in a time when the CVC establishments have grown rapidly. This has facilitated the exchanging of practices, sharing lessons learned among the members.

“I would like to see a clearer build, partner and buy strategy that clearly defines when and how to be most impactful with the CVC arm versus the other tools such as M&A and partnership,” Ohm Heskja added.

“In Norway, the amounts the CVC industry is allocating to startup and growth companies are now nearing equal levels to those of the VC industry. That is an opportunity for the CVC industry.”

Furthermore, anchoring and collaborating with the business side is a challenge but also an opportunity if done right, she said.

For the CVC industry to succeed, more diverse corporate venturing teams would be needed to drive diversity in the portfolio, according to Ohm Heskja, who added the teams must also be agile and balance the value creation for the portfolio with the value creation in mind for the corporate parent.

Before joining the corporate venturing world, Ohm Heskja had been a country manager at a Norwegian company called Gateway College in Mexico for five years and expanded the operations to Cuba, having also had an assignment with the Norwegian emergency force in the United Nations’ World Food Program in North Korea.

GCV Powerlist 2020 PDF