Q&A with Josh Berg, director, Magna Innovation Ventures

1. Please give us a quick overview of who you work for, what you do, and how long you have been doing it for, along with any corporate venture capital (CVC) appointments you may have held prior to your present one.

I am currently the director of Innovation Ventures at [Canada-headquartered automotive systems producer] Magna. In this capacity, I am responsible for all venture-related activities globally for Magna. This includes direct investments into startups, limited partner (LP) investments into venture capital funds and partnerships related to advanced research and development and innovation. Previously, I was an investment manager and partner at GM Ventures (GMV), [carmaker] General Motors’ CVC arm.

2. What attracted you to CVC?

I have a diverse professional background – litigation attorney, public policy, sales operations, global web operations and customer experience and strategy and operations. CVC allows me to use all of the skills and experiences that I have accumulated thus far in my career and to marry those experiences with my addiction to professional challenges, never-ending variety and profound respect for entrepreneurs.

3. What have been your greatest successes at your unit?

At GMV, I was the lead partner in a connected fleet startup [MapAnything]. Along with a direct investment, I negotiated two strategic commercial agreements between GM business units and the startup [including MapAnything Live]. This partnership yielded tremendous commercial results and the company was acquired by [enterprise software provider] Salesforce bringing a healthy return on GMV’s investment. GM and the startup continue to be partners today.

Since joining as director of Magna Innovation Ventures [in April 2019], I have established a comprehensive global venturing strategy which includes direct investments, LP investments into VCs and strategic partnerships.

4. What have been your biggest challenges?

Speed.

5. What is your main professional ambition for the future?

When founders are considering which CVC will bring the most value to their company, I want them to think of Magna Innovation Ventures. When other VCs or CEOs are considering who will bring the most value in a boardroom, I want them to think of Magna Innovation Ventures. In the future, when the automotive and transportation industry has undergone a complete evolution, with many companies having been disrupted, Magna will remain on top of the market. In short, my ambition is to build Magna Innovation Ventures into the most effective CVC group in the world.

6. What do you think all CVCs could do better to make it a stronger industry?

CVCs should structure their teams to operate more like financial VCs – this includes compensation, processes and workplace environment. Doing this would help solve the CVC retention issue, lead to better deals and alleviate the “dumb money” issues that many CVCs experience.

7. And, finally, for colour, what did you do prior to CVC or in your spare time?

I have backpacked in 28 countries. I love to meet people from different walks of life and to experience different cultures.