The Top 25: #13 Zach Bratun Glennon, Gradient Ventures

Zachary Bratun-Glennon has been a partner at Gradient Ventures, search engine provider Google’s early-stage artificial intelligence-focused corporate venturing fund, since December 2017, although he has been working there since the fund was launched in July that year.

Anna Patterson, head of Gradient, said: “Zach Bratun-Glennon is a Rising Star. He has been a tech founder and worked in corporate development at Google prior to Gradient, where he has been helping us for almost 18 months. He is a patient company builder. Very impressive.”

He joined Google, part of the conglomerate Alphabet, in corporate development two years earlier, in July 2015, after an investment banking career as an analyst at Deutsche Bank. In Google’s corporate development team, he led acquisitions and strategic investments with a focus on Google’s cloud, advertising and commerce businesses.

At Gradient, Bratun-Glennon said he had “focused on vertical and enterprise software companies with machine learning core to the value proposition”. His initial deals included visual search and analysis platform Zorroa, for which Gradient led a $7m round, and AllyO, an artificial intelligence (AI) recruiter which he described as “some small part in delivering on the potential of AI to enhance the lives of billions of people across the globe”.

He added: “I was drawn to this work because of the opportunity it presented to encourage innovation, commercialise cutting-edge technologies and build early-stage companies. I do not look at it as VC, CVC or investing – I look at it as building new ideas with great people.

“My greatest successes in Gradient was building the Startup Rotation Program from the ground up. We deploy excellent engineering and product talent to work with our startups and accelerate their development. It is the first program of its kind, to my knowledge, and I think it is a big differentiator and benefit to our portfolio.”

But he admits to challenges, such as finding the time, cutting through the noise to find the signal, being strategic rather than reactive and “always managing for the long term”.

He said all CVCs could do more to make a stronger industry by investing for “innovation and disruption instead of based on commercial relationships and defensive strategies” and “partner other CVCs wisely, to provide the most value to the startup”.

Bratun-Glennon started his career at an energy trading hedge fund, managing trading algorithms as a quant and data scientist. His entrepreneurial efforts include co-founding a social media startup, as well as advising startups on fundraising and legal issues. He received his juris doctor degree from University of California Los Angeles’ School of Law, and his MBA from the UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. He received a degree in computer science and applied mathematics from University of Virginia.