Jori Clijmans is a partner of XLR8, a Belgium based accelerator of B2B technology and enterprise startups. He is the co-founder of the Belgium-based venture studio 0smosis, which created and spun off multiple venture-backed startups in collaboration with corporate partners. Jori has a deep innovation and product consulting background and is uniquely positioned to speak to the challenges of corporate venture building and how to think about setting up innovation capabilities that deliver enterprise outcomes.
Jori’s LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/joriclijmans
Key highlights of the episode:
- What’s different between venture building in Asia and Europe
- Ways to eliminate corporate startup risk as early as possible in the process
- The importance of bringing the CEO early on to de-risk the venture after concept validation
- Building a quality label, CEO pool and VC network, as a VB
- The challenges of an investment-first VB vs consulting-first studio model
- How classic consulting services and corporate VB may merge in the future
- Building stakeholder alignment with consulting-for-equity models
- Tips for working with VCs as a VB
- The challenge of studio focus and separating internal resources for own ventures vs client ventures
Listen to the Podcast
Q: What is the history of venture builders in Belgium and more broadly in Europe, as you see it? Is Europe really not as developed as Asia, and if so, why?
The concentration of venture builders in Europe is lower, for two reasons. Firstly, the access to early-stage funding is just lower. In Europe, we are historically more prudent in adopting new models and investing in new ideas. Compared to Asia and the USA, we have a disadvantage to pre-seed funding.
The second reason is that the European landscape is more scattered despite there being the European Union. There are many different languages and cultures, so launching a B2C is much more expensive and difficult in Europe as your marketing budget needs to be higher. Those B2C corporates who are there in the B2C markets are based in Germany, France, or UK, and economically smaller European countries don’t have a lot of B2C companies or startups.
Do you think that the venture-building model can be applied to B2B as well?
Yes, definitely. Most venture builders, which are active in Europe, are more active in B2B venture building. The problem is that if your B2C percentage is lower, that means that the opportunities and the impact are lower, even though B2B is a valuable market.
What business models have you seen in the Benelux countries or generally European market that you really liked?
There are different variations in B2B and B2C. The question is which part of the value chain you support, e.g., concept validation, early-stage launch, scaling, and whether you have a focus on a specific industry like financial services, etc. In Europe, the majority of venture studios that are investment-based focus on a specific niche, because the majority are on B2B. The industry knowledge, the network, the contacts – these are the key things.
You also see quite a lot of venture capitalists that are focused on a set of very specific industries. One of the factors of success is building relations with the VC network, whereas for a standalone startup, raising capital is time intensive. For a venture studio, it’s much easier, because the network is there, the relationships are there, so you can build a quality label.
If you had a billboard for anyone that is trying to build the next corporate venture building service, what would it say on the billboard?
Stand up for your ideas. People hire you in the corporate venture-building context for your experience, for your value. You need to stand up for your ideas and push through that value, although it’s much more comfortable and human to adapt to the customer. But in this context, the more you adapt to the customer, the more your value will disappear step by step.
In 10-15 years from now, how do you think corporate venturing and venture building will evolve?
Currently, you have venture building and consulting. In venture building, you create a product and you get paid for the product, and in classical consulting, you pay for advice, slides and reports. I believe that in 10-15 years those two will have merged together and there won’t be a lot of companies anymore that are willing to pay for just advice, they will also want implementation. If you combine vision, advice, and implementation, you are doing corporate venturing.
Currently, there are many venture-building studios in the world, and they are all working on the recipe of what makes a successful startup, and with time, it will become common knowledge. There will be a need for a new differentiator, and that will be the experience of having done it before and having a network with crucial stakeholders.
Do you think that productizing elements of the venture-building ecosystem and value creation are within reach in the coming years?
Definitely, but not all of them. More and more companies will become modular. I’m still amazed at how many companies still have HR departments, financial departments – all doing the same thing which can be industrialized easily. It’s the same with venture building: a lot of functions can be centralized and automated, and therefore productized. At the level of network making, a big part of it is trust, which is built by human interaction. It is a subjective matter of which partner you will collaborate with; it will never be a fully rational decision.
When you look at the U.S. market, what are the models that are really inspired by as a venture builder, and why?
It’s independent of geography, but I am really interested in the model of consulting for equity. For me, it will be the step that consulting will take towards corporate venture because once you do consulting for equity, you are in it for the long-term value you create. The ways some companies already shape consulting for equity from a practical and legal point of view is very interesting. There are challenges too: you are a supplier, and the client is higher in the hierarchy, but once you deliver consulting for equity, you need to find a way of collaboration in which the supplied can influence or make a decision because of the amount they are paid will depend on the impact, not only the time and effort they invest. I really look forward to seeing how people come up with a successful way of structuring this.