The top 25: Martin Tschopp, CEO, Prosus Ventures

Martin Tschopp was appointed chief executive of Prosus Ventures, Amsterdam-listed consumer internet group Prosus’s corporate venture capital (CVC) arm formerly known as Naspers Ventures, in November after nearly four years as a chief operating officer at the unit.

Regarding the unit, Prosus CEO Bob van Dijk said: “Since its creation six years ago, the Prosus Ventures unit has become our engine for growth into new markets and new geographies. We have already seen two focus area, food and education, deliver such success they have been spun out into their own segments. We look forward to Ventures continuing to deliver in the years to come.”

In the past year, the unit invested in some 20 companies across 10 countries including Shipper and Bibit from Indonesia, SoloLearn in Armenia, Bykea in Pakistan, Klar in Mexico, in addition to Codecademy, Honor, Republic and Udemy in the United States.

Other deals included participation in rounds raised by India-based API Holdings (Pharmeasy), DeHaat, ElasticRun, Meesho and Urban Company as well as Netherlands-headquartered Bux and Dott, Brainly from Poland, DappRadar from Lithuania and Eruditus from Singapore.

While the world has become increasingly uncertain due to the pandemic in the past year, Tschopp and his team are confident in the unit’s operating structure which has been tested through recessions and many periods of turmoil.

He said: “The key is that we partner with businesses that are solving big societal needs with technology, in a uniquely local way. We think about where we can really make an impact and zero in on sectors of the economy where technology can lead to meaningful change in consumer behaviour and economics.

“We are more convinced than ever that our approach is a real differentiator. Looking back at the last decade, the company has built a strong, global footprint and in the year ahead and beyond, Ventures will ensure we have a continuous flow of future growth opportunities in the wings.

“We have seen our methodology and approach prove out well despite the uncertainty around covid, so you can expect to see us push on strongly in the next 12 months.”

When Prosus Ventures was launched, there was still some suspicion around corporate venturing and the value CVCs could bring to entrepreneurs when compared with traditional VCs, Tschopp added. “We have seen the market shift in the last six years and our value proposition – longer time horizons, a flexible engagement model, and real operational value add – has become ever more compelling. Obviously, we are hoping that trend continues!”

To enhance the quality of corporate venturing practice, Tschopp advised: “Be clear about the role the CVC investments play with regard to overall corporate strategy, and then be totally transparent about the role they want to play in their investments. Too often we hear stories of significant changes once the investment is made – and that is not good for anyone.

“For the global corporate venturing community as a whole, our role is about finding, nurturing and offering sustainable, long-term growth opportunities for exceptional entrepreneurs. Corporate venturing offers a unique opportunity for startups to partner for the long-term and learn from true operational experts, while startups offer corporate venturers, in return, a view into exciting innovations around the world. Both are an important part of the tech ecosystem and will help to continue to drive the type of innovation we have seen in the past decade, into the decade ahead.”

Tschopp has spent the past 18 years working in a variety of internet businesses around the world. Immediately prior to Prosus, he was CEO of Kiva.org, a non-profit organisation offering access to capital to underserved communities. Before that, he spent many years as an operator leading e-commerce businesses ranging in size from small classifieds startups to large marketplaces such as eBay Germany.

Tschopp began his professional career as a strategy consultant. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) and an MBA from Insead.