Q&A with Tarik Galijasevic, managing director, ASV

Tarik Galijasevic serves as managing director for Allstate Strategic Ventures (ASV), US-based insurer Allstate’s corporate venture capital (CVC) arm.

Suren Gupta, executive vice-president of Allstate Technology and Strategic Ventures, said: “Allstate Strategic Ventures is an important part of Allstate’s innovation strategy. Our team has connected Allstate’s business units with promising startups, which has led to some key partnerships that created value for Allstate. I am proud of the team’s global recognition and their leadership in the Chicago corporate venture capital community.”

1. Any highlights from the past year?

The past year was a terrific one for ASV. We closed on a number of new strategically relevant investments as we continue to build a portfolio that I am very proud of. ASV has received many notable recognitions in the past year.

In 2019 and 2020, I was recognised in GCV’s Powerlist as one of the top 100 leaders of corporate venturing. And earlier this year, Jack Statza was named as a Rising Star by GCV. We have been actively building a name for ourselves by demonstrating thought-leadership and helping grow the vision of active CVC collaboration that should ultimately lead to outsized investment and business returns.

I have been recognised for public leadership positions and contributions to growing the CVC ecosystem in Chicago. I am also very proud of the work I have done with our portfolio companies, not only by helping CEOs become better leaders and operators but also by heavily contributing to capital raising and exit strategy efforts.

I have been actively working on building strong relationships with ASV business partners over the past five years that yielded strong results in 2019. ASV is meaningfully engaged with 14 major business units allowing it to actively and efficiently test new opportunities and technologies while providing valuable feedback to the startups. I have led very concentrated efforts to streamline the procurement processes for proofs of concepts (POCs) from months to weeks and added a programme manager that directly monitors all of the ASV POCs with potential investments and strategic partners, as well as the engagements of all ASV portfolio companies with the Allstate business units.

In addition, we have doubled the size of the team over the past year to prepare us to accelerate our efforts going forward. New hires included Reese Schroeder, former head of Motorola and Tyson Ventures. The current team brings a diverse set of skills to the table ranging from VC investing to investment banking, consulting and technology.

2. What are the plans for the year ahead?

We will continue to work very closely with our portfolio companies to ensure they have appropriate levels of support and we are staying closer than ever to business partners working with them.

We continue to build our investment pipeline as we believe that CVCs can bring extra value to the startups during this tumultuous time that will hopefully lead to outsized returns long-term. We are hosting virtual, focused demo days for each one of our business units allowing us to continue to build our innovation efforts at Allstate.

From the investment standpoint, we will continue to look to invest in startups that align with our strategic objectives and meet our investment and business returns thresholds. We are well-positioned to accelerate our efforts in this regard.

ASV would like to continue to be recognised as a thought-leader in Chicago. ASV has hosted a series of dinners for the Chicago and [the US] midwest VC community where organisations can come together and collaborate. We hope to host again those events soon.

3. Could you mention some milestones achieved at your unit so far?

In five years of our existence, we have made significant contributions to Allstate’s strategic initiatives and innovation efforts. Our most public example of those efforts is the acquisition of SquareTrade which was led by the Strategic Ventures team. At the time, this was the largest insurtech exit in history at $1.4bn.

We have doubled the size of the team in 2019 and have been gaining traction internally from business units and leaders. We continue to look to broaden and strengthen the impact of our portfolio on Allstate’s business priorities.

This growth in Allstate brand value has also yielded significant benefits when it comes to attracting top talent as we have recently been able to hire Reese Schroeder, who is a recipient of GCV’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his work leading Motorola Ventures. Just prior to joining ASV, Reese co-founded Tyson Ventures.

The Strategic Ventures team received additional recognition at the GCVI Summit this January with our senior associate, Jack Statza, being recognised amongst GCV’s top 50 Rising Stars award.

4. Please mention some pain points and opportunities you have encountered in corporate venturing.

There is no shortage of great technology and great ideas out there. Technology advancements have made it much easier and cheaper to start companies these days.

The challenge for us, as well as many other corporates, is how to efficiently evaluate different opportunities and determine which startups have the best approach, the strongest team, most advanced technology and will be the best fit with our business. As we evaluate hundreds of potential investment opportunities, it is very important for us to align not only with the founders that have big aspirations but also with the founders who know how to execute on their ideas and work with large corporate clients like us.

COVID-19 certainly creates near-term challenges for all of us in the venture capital business, but we are finding ways to continue to get things done. For example, we bring a lot of startups into the enterprise through our Demo Days with the business teams, which are now virtual.

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

CVCs should work with leadership to build a strong understanding and appetite for innovation. Innovative leadership is important for a corporate VC unit to be successful. It allows the CVC to build strong relationships with their business units whose subject matter expertise can then help evaluate investment opportunities as well as guarantee more streamlined engagement post-investment.

In addition, CVCs should look to work together. Although different corporates have different problems, underlying technology helps solve those problems. For example, in the mobility space, OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers, Rental Car providers and Insurance companies all want their ultimate customers to be safe on the road and should be actively exploring those types of technologies together. Also, CVCs can help open opportunities for each other’s respective portfolio companies by “opening right doors” within their own corporation and ensuring that those portfolio companies get a fair and quick opportunity to demonstrate value to the internal partners

In terms of working with startups, we need to continue to demonstrate the value we bring to the companies we invest in. Today, more than ever, startups can benefit from efficient and honest interaction with corporates, allowing them to better understand what they will need to do to stay viable and successful not only in the short-term but long-term as well. I believe that the collaborative approach will make ASV the investor of choice with startups and across the investment community.

6. For colour, what did you do prior to CVC or in your spare time? 

I started my career at JPMorgan’s investment bank, where I focused on private equity, mergers and acquisitions and capital raises in the transportation and consumer goods sectors. Over the course of my career, I have executed more than 40 transactions, surpassing $30bn.

I currently focus on venture capital investments of strategic interest to Allstate. I serve on the board of directors of numerous startups and actively mentor startups in Chicagoland as well as in the broader Insurtech space.

I am a native of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, I moved to the Chicago area in 1995 to continue my education. I hold an MBA with concentrations in entrepreneurship, finance and international business from the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Stuart School of Business and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

In my spare time, I enjoy travelling, reading, skiing and spending time with my wife and two children.