26 – 100 in alphabetical order: Suzanna Chiu, head, Amadeus Ventures

Suzanna Chiu heads up Amadeus Ventures, the corporate venturing unit of Spain-based travel software and technology services provider Amadeus IT Group.

Based in Madrid, where the parent firm is headquartered, Chiu started as senior manager of strategic planning in 2012, until she was appointed to head of ventures in 2014 where she now manages a team of four.

In the past year, Chiu has sharpened Amadeus Ventures’ investment focus into end-to-end traveller journey and how the unit can address that transversal theme from different business units’ perspectives.

She added: “On the investment side, we made four investments in 2019 that addresses various parts of end traveller journey – based in Israel, the US, France working on topics like data monetisation, airline yield management, corporate travel and VAT refund.”

“We have exited our very first investment with positive results,” said Chiu, referring to travel price-tracking software developer Yapta which was bought by business expenditure management platform Coupa Software in January 2020.

She also enabled two-tiered governance structure and process improvement agreed with senior sponsors to increase deal execution agility.

“In 2019, we revised our investment rationale and criteria with the executive committee of Amadeus which is our governing body. We agreed to create a new investment category dedicated to high growth startups in the travel industry that we may want to acquire in the future if everything works out as planned. Even though we have not got the first portfolio acquisition yet, this is a positive step forward towards that direction,” she said.

Furthermore, Chiu noted: “At Amadeus, we have a commercial unit called strategic growth business (SGB) which looks after a portfolio of growth businesses for Amadeus. [Our unit] works very closely with SGB in developing our investment thesis together to identify growth opportunities [with dedicated resources].

“At the same time, we have run very successful commercial relationships with some of our portfolio startups. The best example would be Volantio, a startup in the airline space. Not only did they enjoy insider access to our airline customers – already two successful joint sales – they also benefited from closer technology collaboration with Amadeus’ solutions and guidance from an industry expert who acts as their board observer.”

Regarding the plans for the rest of the year, Chiu said: “All plans for 2020 is being re-written right now due to the exceptional situation we are in. We have closed two investments at the beginning of the year, on identity management [Airside] and travel experience platform [Refundit] which will remain to be important topics for the years to come.

“Moving forward, to bridge through the current uncertain times, we are working on a customer referral platform that we call the Startup Universe. It is a database of curated startups in the travel industry which we would recommend to our customers.  This would increase the number of startups we work with, collect more feedback from customers in terms of what concept and technology they will prioritise, foster more contacts and collaboration between startups and corporations and make more of these concepts into reality.”

Amadeus will also expand its deal-making in the Asia-Pacific region and is formally seeking investment opportunities in the region.

As for the ways the corporate venturing industry can improve, Chiu remarked: “One of the, if not the most significant challenge, of CVC is to demonstrate quantifiable benefits to the mother corporation, on top of the financial returns we generate. We have been sharing best practices over the years through organisations like GCV, which is extremely helpful. We can all benefit from more success cases and positive proof points on how minority investments can achieve strategic goals that move the needle for the headquarter.”

GCV Powerlist 2020 PDF