Neil Patel

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Corporate venture capital for early-stage startup funding and growth has been ramping up in the last decade or so. Large corporations and multinational companies are diverting money and resources to external ventures and startups. Entrepreneurs also benefit from expertise, funding, and other support.

These corporations aim to support new small businesses with disruptive and innovative ideas and operating techniques. They stand to earn rich profits from their investments and use them as a side income while also demonstrating responsibility.

Shareholders may welcome the opportunity to earn higher interest while supporting underrepresented founders and ESG-driven startups. In short, it’s a win-win situation for all the participants of these investment deals.

Read ahead for detailed information about how corporate venture capital (CVC) works. You’ll also learn more about the pros and cons of this funding source, which will help you design compelling pitches.

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The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks

Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) Transactions Are Growing Rapidly

Similar to conventional venture capital and other investment sources, the CVC market experiences its share of ebbs and flows. Corporate venture capital investments each quarter grew from $468M in the Q$ of 1998 to $6.2B in Q1 of 2000. However, these investments dropped to $848M in Q3 of 2001.

Despite the dramatic historical volatility, experts expect that the CVC market will demonstrate accelerated activity in 2024. In 2021, transactions worth $130.9B were executed worldwide, which is more than twice the amount traditional VCs invested. In the US alone, CVC investment was over $71B.

Statistics indicate that early-stage startups have attracted 66% of the corporate venture capital deals worldwide up until May 2024. In the US, 59% of funding deals have targeted early-stage businesses. Europe and Asia have diverted 73% and 66% of deals, respectively, to early-stage ventures.

Corporations have invested $15B in total funding in Q1 of 2024 to small and emerging startups, as the graph below shows. Interestingly, 47% of the deals were mega transactions worth $100M and above.

As a founder with an innovative concept that can capture the market, this is the capital source you’ll look at.

Corporate Venture Capital

Understanding Corporate Venture Capital

Corporate venture capital (CVC) is the funding large corporations offer directly to small, external, early-stage startups. However, the funding does not qualify as CVC if it is executed through third-party entities and the corporation provides the capital.

The investment has to be direct regardless of whether the corporation creates an investment product specifically to meet a particular objective. Further, the targeted startup should be an independent entity for an investment to qualify as a CVC.

The new venture should be a legally independent entity, distinct from the corporate investor’s core business, and have operational autonomy. If the parent company retains legal ownership, the capital is not CVC. Large corporations typically enter into such deals to back small, innovative ventures.

These investments are in the form of joint venture agreements where the investor acquires equity and stock. In addition to capital, the investor also provides strategic and management guidance and expertise in areas like marketing and sales. In some cases, a line of credit is an additional perk.

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Objectives of Corporate Venture Funds

As a founder exploring corporate venture capital for early-stage startup funding, you’ll start by exploring the investors’ objectives. While significant profits are high on their list of priorities, they may also have other goals for seeking investment options.

If you can align your needs with their goals, your fundraising efforts are likely to be more successful. You’ll start off by exploring the investor’s portfolio to understand their degree of involvement with their investments.

By entering into a partnership with an established company, you could get access to their production and manufacturing facilities. Other perks can include sharing their distribution channels and marketing campaigns.

Partnering with a well-known brand adds validation to your company, making it easier to attract buyers. You could also get credit lines from vendors and suppliers when sourcing inventory, not to mention assistance with advertising.

Strategic Investment for Mutually-Beneficial Synergies

Corporations may seek to invest in startups for strategic purposes such as raising their own sales and capturing new markets. If the new startup will purchase inventory and parts from the corporate investor, it’s a viable deal.

By investing in emerging startups, they can consolidate their positions in upcoming markets, expand their networks, and explore potential acquisitions. Investors may also want to expand their digital capabilities or acquire new technology at competitive rates.

Their end goal is potential synergies through partnerships. Once the startup is stable and generating profits, corporations can explore the option of an M&A deal. But, if the company is unsuccessful, they can exit the investment and minimize risk.

Acquiring New Technologies to Stay Competitive

Establishing and running in-house research and development divisions typically involves high spending. That’s because there’s typically no guarantee of returns or the timeline within which the R&D will yield results.

Larger corporations are typically hampered by their size, which makes them less agile.

Instead, these corporations invest in upcoming startups with innovative concepts. Offering capital to startups with tech innovations allows corporate investors to stay ahead of the curve. They get first access to the technology and prevent their competitors from gaining an edge.

The investors nurture the ventures with capital and know-how and purchase their products. In this way, they can leverage independent business networks to break into new markets and disruptive fields. And effectively partner with startups that can potentially become competitors.

Financial Returns and Profits

Some corporate investors may look for viable startups solely for the purpose of generating profits. However, unlike traditional venture capitalists, they may look for upcoming ventures within their vertical.

That’s because their industry-specific knowledge gives them an added edge when evaluating startups for investing. CVC investors know what to look for when examining technologies and MVPs, the startup’s balance sheet and financials, and other metrics.

These investors understand the startup’s potential better than other VCs, which is why they may be open to low interest. Funding smaller ventures also builds an additional revenue source beyond public markets. Once the startup is established and scaling, the possibility of high-value exits also rises.

If the startup grows to a point when it can go to IPO, the potential for ROI is even higher. This is why corporate venture capital for early-stage startups works well for investors.

Keep in mind that storytelling is everything in fundraising. In this regard, for a winning pitch deck to help you here, take a look at the template created by Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.

Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

Criteria for Getting Corporate Venture Capital

When corporations assess startups as potential candidates for investing, their criteria differ from those of conventional venture capitalists. Typically, their goal is to select startups that align with their goals from a futuristic perspective.

These corporate investors focus on features like a robust MVP with a strong product-market fit that operates within their industry. They may also look for ventures that fall in with their core business structure. And preferably with a culture that can integrate with their own in case of an M&A deal.

Here are some of the other criteria for corporate venture capital for early-stage startup funding.

  • Startups that can demonstrate a product-market fit, have an established customer base, have sales and revenues, and have actual traction can attract CVC. This investment is best suited for ventures that show potential for rapid growth. Corporate investors tend to avoid pre-revenue businesses.
  • If your pitch deck depicts a robust skill set and strong management team, that’s a good plus. CVC investors focus on the founding teams and their track records with leading ventures to success and growth.
  • Your startup’s culture and operational styles should align with the investors’ since they’ll want to make you an acquisition offer.
  • Corporate investors are open to accepting an equity stake ranging from 10% to 30%. Instead of large stakes and ownership, they are more about building relationships and providing support. They are content to allow the founders to run the company according to their visions.
  • When evaluating your financials and metrics, they’ll want assurance that you can deliver rich returns. CVC investors will require 20% returns + IRR over a vesting period of 5 to 7 years.
  • Corporations investing in startups may offer follow-on capital and participate in subsequent funding rounds. They may be open to expanding their ownership as your startup scales. However, their decisions are also driven by the continued value your company delivers. And if they see long-term benefits in the partnership.
  • Corporate venturing, as CVC is also called, is more for early-stage, later-stage, and Series A through Series C-stage companies.
  • Your pitch deck must demonstrate strategic partnering value to the investor with disruptive technology and innovative ideas.

Advantages of Corporate Venture Capital for Early-Stage Startup Funding

Given the choice between VCs and CVCs, you’ll want to understand the benefits of the latter in detail. Here’s some information you might find helpful.

  • As mentioned earlier, corporate investors don’t require a high amount of equity. As a result, you won’t have to worry about early dilution in exchange for capital. Accessing corporate venture capital for early-stage startup funding has the advantage of providing a rich infusion of cash. You can use this money to accelerate the company quickly. Accepting VC money typically involves ceding board seats and decision-making rights, which you can avoid.
  • Partnering with an established brand with corporate venture capital gives your company instant recognition and market presence. The investor brand is also committed to your success and will likely advertise the partnership. This hype gives you access to a ready customer base and allows you to leverage existing distribution channels to sell your products. You’ll enter the market with a launchpad to catapult you to success.
  • Entering into a partnership with an existing, well-known brand gives your company validation. Your company’s reputation and credibility will get an instant boost that can prove to be highly beneficial. The endorsement from a corporate giant helps you attract top-notch skills and talent along with capital from other investors.
  • Larger corporations have an established infrastructure and extensive network of customers, investors, and other stakeholders that you can use. Founders also get guidance with aspects like marketing, distribution, customer support, operational strategies, R&D, and HR resources.
  • When corporations invest in startups, their end goal is usually an acquisition in the future. If your company aligns with its culture and business roadmap, you have a ready exit strategy.


Corporate venture capital is only one of the sources of funding you can approach. If you’re looking for more information about the types of investors for startups and how to connect with them, check out this video I have created.

Downsides of Corporate Venture Capital for Early-Stage Startup Funding

As with any other funding source, corporate venture capital does come with its share of downsides. If you’re considering accepting CVC, explore the potential risks and find workarounds. Here’s what you need to know.

  • As a rule, CVC investors tend to maintain a backseat and let the startup operate independently. However, they may request board seats and try to influence product designs and other strategic decisions. This can happen particularly in cases where the investor has strategic interests or intends to acquire the startup eventually. Secure your autonomy and independent decision-making by setting ground rules about governance rights early on during the negotiations.
  • If you’re developing IP and IA, you could risk losing business secrets to the corporate investor. A conflict of interest can arise when a larger corporation develops products using your IP and competes with your company. Secure your IP with robust terms and conditions and carefully demarcate data and information exchange.
  • As part of the investment terms, the corporation may require you to get approvals before making decisions. This process can quickly become complex and tedious, hampering your ability to accelerate growth and innovation. Be wary of the controls the investor requires.
  • Although CVCs come with a vesting period of 5 to 7 years, their exit protocols can become cumbersome. You may also feel the pressure to sell your startup prematurely or at prices that don’t make sense to you. Clarify the probability of an M&A deal and its terms when entering into the investment agreement.

To Summarize

Corporate venture capital for early-stage startup funding can prove to be a viable solution. It works well for small businesses working in the same vertical as larger corporations. You can access the many benefits that can help you accelerate growth.

However, weigh the pros and cons carefully and make sure the investor aligns with your mission and vision. Ensure that you have adequate autonomy to build and operate the company with minimal interference and secure your interests.

You may find our free library of business templates interesting as well. There, you will find every single template you will need when building and scaling your business completely for free. See it here.


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Neil Patel

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want help with your fundraising or acquisition, just book a call

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