A study of Nokia’s venturing program revealed eight important lessons that can help companies benefit from their investments in new ventures.
Launching new ventures outside a corporation’s core business is risky and failure-prone — yet often perceived as vital to innovation and organic growth. Can investing in new ventures add value to a company despite the risks? To explore that question, the authors conducted an in-depth study of corporate venturing at Nokia Corp. between 1998 and 2002; the study included two years of dissertation research by one of the authors.
The research yielded a number of lessons about corporate venturing. For example, Nokia discovered that looking at the success or failure of an individual project as a business was the wrong way to evaluate the effectiveness of the venturing program. Whether or not they succeeded as businesses, Nokia’s corporate ventures often added important capabilities to the core business, such as familiarity with a new customer segment for the company. In fact, seemingly unrelated investments sometimes led to technologies that later benefited the company’s core business. The authors conclude that, to extract value from corporate ventures, companies must use different management practices than in their established businesses, structure new ventures so that they don’t face pressure to deliver immediate results, and emphasize learning. Although 70% of Nokia’s corporate venturing investments during the period studied were either discontinued or completely divested, the capabilities and technologies developed nonetheless played an important role in helping the company’s core businesses respond to change.