26 – 100 in alphabetical order: Sven Harmsen, director of external ventures, Nova by Saint-Gobain

Nova, Paris-listed glassmaker Saint-Gobain’s strategic investment arm, hired Sven Harmsen in April 2019 as director of external venturing, where he leads the unit’s North America team.

Harmsen is based in the US city of Boston and develops Nova’s growth strategy, establishing strategic alliances with entrepreneurs, incubators and institutional VC firms worldwide on behalf of Saint-Gobain’s business units, in addition to providing startups with funding.

Among Harmsen’s first assignments at Nova was overseeing InNovate 2019 Challenge, a startup accelerator scheme the unit ran from April to October 2019 with CertainTeed, Saint-Gobain’s building and construction subsidiary, and Greentown Labs, a US-based clean technology incubator, that strived to identify disruptive built environment technology developers.

Founded in 2006, Nova seeks startups developing technologies, services and products that align with Saint-Gobain’s focus on sustainability and well-being and offers the corporate’s resources and know-how to the entrepreneurs.

Harmsen told Global Corporate Venturing when he joined Nova: “I am excited to join one of the world’s most innovative companies that is driving cutting-edge solutions to the manufacturing and construction industry.

“The breadth of markets Saint-Gobain is covering is quite phenomenal and besides construction, Saint-Gobain actively sells products into industries as diverse as automotive, health or defence.

“In my role with Nova, we need to find the right balance between investing in pioneering startups and partnering with promising technology developers to prepare Saint-Gobain for the next wave of innovative products improving everyone’s well-being.”

Minas Apelian, vice-president of research and development (R&D), quality and external venturing at Saint-Gobain and CertainTeed, added at the time: “Sven’s experience leading global investment teams and developing strategic plans for portfolio companies will be valuable to our team as we work to expand our portfolio.

“The diversity of Sven’s background, as well as his deep knowledge of business development and strategic investment, will help to enhance our overarching strategy to ensure we create an optimised, efficient plan for our path forward.”

Before Nova, Harmsen came from M Ventures, the corporate venture capital (CVC) arm of Germany-headquartered pharmaceutical firm Merck Group formerly known as Merck Ventures, where he had been a US-based investment director for nearly three years setting up a global investment team.

His role at M Ventures involved Harmsen managing the unit’s performance materials portfolio, including metallisation technology provider Aveni, reflective display technology producer Clearink and sensor technology developer Peratech.

Harmsen began his CVC career at another Germany-listed company BASF, which is a chemicals producer that runs BASF Venture Capital (BVC). He joined BASF in 2006 and his 10-year-stint at the firm entailed setting up an office for BVC in the US east coast, backing and partnering strategically relevant startup companies.

In total, Harmsen has over 15 years of experience in R&D, business development and corporate venturing. He earned a PhD in natural sciences with a focus on chemistry from Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg in Germany, and he worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University.

GCV Powerlist 2020 PDF