Pär Lange joined Swisscom more than 10 years ago to set up Swisscom Ventures together with Dominique Megrét, who was head of corporate strategy at the time.
As one of three investment directors, Lange jointly oversees all corporate venture capital (CVC) investment activities in the group “as well as continuously working on improving our offer to startups and increasing value creation for Swisscom”.
His results have been impressive in this period. In nominating Lange, Megrét said: “He had a series of positive exits recently with Lemoptix, sold to Intel [in 2015], Simplivity, sold to HP [at the start of 2017 for $650m], Vilant Systems, sold to Turck [in October], Beqom, secondary sale to Goldman Sachs [as part of a $35m round in July] and is currently in the M&A process for another trade sale.”
Other sales of companies where Lange had had a board role include mobile recording company Cognia, which was sold in August to Smarsh, while Lange stepped off the board, as an observer, of Quantenna Communications in October 2016 after its $107m flotation on the Nasdaq stock exchange that month.
Lange’s remaining board roles include KeyLemon, whose authentication technology for voice recognition of Swiss-German dialects was integrated in the Swisscom TV 2.0 UHD set-top box after its Swisscom-backed A round in 2013; Switzerland-based photonics chip parts developer ActLight; brands manager Global IP Action in which Swisscom has a majority stake; and after a mid-2016 round in 6Connect, whose ProVision had the year before become a part of Swisscom’s infrastructure automation strategy.
Thinking back over its deals, however, Lange said: “I think Swisscom Ventures itself is my biggest success. While many other CVCs have been victims of reorganisations and strategy changes, we have managed to develop and improve our model continuously over the last 10 years without any disruption.
“The fact that we have brought strategic value to Swisscom in combination with having a portfolio with good returns has been key to our success.
“Being part of this development from the beginning and having the opportunity of shaping our unit into what it is today, I count as my greatest success.
“Getting started with a CVC unit can always be challenging and so was also the case for Swisscom Ventures. The biggest challenge was in the early years to create an efficient decision and management process that was agile enough to capture the attractive investment opportunities at the same time being in line with corporate policies and regulation.
“It is important that CVCs thinks deeply about the reason for their existence so they can create a detailed plan on how to bring value to all stakeholders. That will increase operational efficiency as well as making it easier for third-parties to interact with the CVC. I have seen cases where CVCs bring confusion and frustration to both co-investors and start-ups due to lack of understanding its purpose. By improving on these points, CVCs should be able to strengthen their position as preferred investors in attractive startups.”
And Lange is still keen to change. “I would like to develop our CVC model further to possibly include more stakeholders, ranging from corporations with aligned strategic interest as well as pure financial investors. I think that have the potential to create more long-term value, both strategically and financially.”
Originally, Lange had spent a few months at Swisscom at the end of the 1990s during the dot.com days before leaving to co-found a mobile operator in Sweden, Miranet, backed by investors including Investor AB and Carlyle Group before being subsequently sold to France Telecom in late 2004. He was then a co-founder of an investment advisory firm helping international funds investing in the Nordics during the early part of the 2000s.
Following an MBA from Insead as well as an MSc in electrical engineering from Linköping Institute of Technology, Lange started his career designing radio and microwave solutions, initially for defence application but later as part of the Ericsson GSM radio design team. During his time with Ericsson, he also spent three years in Tokyo conducting sales of Japan’s earliest mobile infrastructure.
Lange said that, apart from trying to spend as much time as possible with my family, in order to keep me fit, body and mind I try to run couple of marathons every year.
And while innovation can sometimes feel like a long race, it is one Lange seems to be winning.
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