Q&A with Gonzalo Soriano, senior investment analyst, AC Ventures

Héctor Shibata, director of investments and portfolio of ACV, the corporate venture capital (CVC) unit of Mexico-listed beverage distributor Arca Continental, said of Gonzalo Soriano, a senior investment analyst at the unit: “Gonzalo’s addition to AC Ventures became relevant to broaden our scope of opportunities and to increase the strategic value we return to Arca Continental.

“His proactive mindset for finding new investment opportunities and his bold attitude to generate strategic relationships have been a key element for our entry strategy into the Brazilian and Israeli ecosystems. He is always keen to keep looking for emerging pain points across the different business units of the corporate, and connect with technological solutions. He has proven to be a motivated, challenge-seeking and ambitious team member assisting the fund to thrive.”

1. First, just give us a quick overview of who you work for, what you do, and how long you have been doing it.

AC Ventures is a CVC sponsored by Arca Continental, the third-largest bottler and distributor for Coca Cola Company in the world, with operations in the US, Mexico, Peru, Argentina and Ecuador. We invest globally in early-stage startups within the retailtech, industry 4.0 and fintech verticals mostly, although we also look for opportunities in snacks, healthy food and the value chain of plastics and water. Additionally, we act as a limited partner in other VC funds globally.

Since I joined AC’s CVC unit in 2019, my efforts have been channelled into finding value-added technologies that can help drive the strategic innovation initiatives of the company, participating within the entire investment process; including the deal sourcing, pre-screening analysis and due diligence execution of potential investment opportunities; as well as building the bridge between multiple startups and the corporate’s business units based on their more pressing necessities. Additionally, I have participated in the strategy of entering into new markets, leading the mapping and analysis of the Brazilian and Israeli VC ecosystems, establishing and managing strong relationships with global general partners (GPs).

2. What attracted you to CVC?

I strongly believe in the benefits that innovation and technology will bring to the future of societies around the globe, and I like to see CVC as the vehicle to help these ideas scale into real, impactful and prosperous businesses; by merging the novel and energetic mindsets of emerging founders, with the experience, network and scope that corporates have built throughout the years; and by establishing strategic partnerships, becoming the wheel and the fuel to drive growth and development in different industries.

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

Leading the entrance into new markets, by executing an extensive mapping and analysis of the VC ecosystems in Brazil and Israel. My efforts were key to identifying more than 300 VC funds between both geographies, having supported the first approach with the administrators of 150 funds, helping organise face-to-face meetings with 60 of them and currently actively managing the relationship with more than 30 of them. As a result of this work, the Investment Committee approved the investment in two VC funds, one in Brazil and the other in Israel.

Collaborating in the editorial draft and writing of articles for AC Ventures’ monthly newsletter, with more than 50 publications across several topics of VC investing, entrepreneurship, and corporate innovation; and co-hosting a monthly webinar, with six of them realised so far, covering relevant topics for the entire VC ecosystem and having GPs and startups founders from United States, Israel, Brazil, Argentina, Turkey, Philippines, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Nigeria as guests.

Supporting the entrepreneurship and VC ecosystem by acting as judge, mentor and speaker in industry events, among which I would highlight my participation in the CMN, Centro de Competitividad de México, ASEM, Hult Prize Foundation, Mind the Bridge, MassChallenge, Village Capital and Instituto de Emprendimiento Eugenio Garza Lagüera (Monterrey Tech Institute).

4. What have been your biggest challenges?

Most startups are still uncertain on how nurturing collaboration and partnerships with the corporate might bring them an added value beyond a commercial agreement, but rather at a level of strengthening structural or operational capabilities, knowledge and network. From the corporate side, we still find resistance from some business units to integrate and permeate an innovation culture within their teams, hence we have intensified efforts to evangelise those areas of the company and to make the correct matchmaking with startups that really solve their necessities, and in some cases, we have seen a good response from these business units.

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

Continue to establish strategic relationships and alliances with key players on the ecosystem, in order to increase the chances to build an outperforming portfolio and generate a robust track record to facilitate the fundraising of a VC fund of my own in the future. Also, I would like to become a well-known angel investor.

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

Boost the awareness of the importance of CVC in different industry events, research papers and overall conversations with people within the market, and collaborate jointly by nurturing co-investment opportunities, sharing more pipeline, providing relevant introductions and enhancing the opportunities for corporates to connect with similar CVCs in other geographies.

7. What are some of your corporate parent’s technology needs and corporate strategy amid the pandemic, as well as your CVC unit’s pain points?

During the pandemic, Arca Continental has seen its most pressing needs in technologies that enable D2C e-commerce and that enhance omnichannel capabilities towards its clients, as well as solutions that enable frictionless vending and contactless payments. At the CVC unit, we constantly struggle with the limited bandwidth our team has, in order to act as the building blocks of innovation inside the company; additional to the fact that as a relatively new CVC, we have had to establish relationships and create a reputation from scratch within the VC and CVC ecosystems.

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

Prior to CVC, I did my bachelor’s in finance from Monterrey Tech Institute (ITESM) and I also completed a finance certificate from Sauder Business School at University of British Columbia.